Barbara Kafka's Simplest Roast Chicken

By • May 18, 2012 75 Comments

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Author Notes: Barbara Kafka's basic formula for roasting chickens in the high-heat method is about ten minutes to the pound for a chicken at room temperature, untrussed. Feel free to adapt this recipe up or down for larger or smaller birds using this rule (up to 7 pounds). Kafka urges us to have fun: "This is not astrophysics." Try stuffing instead with herbs, shallots, a quartered small onion, celery leaves, or juice or blood orange wedges. Recipe adapted from Adapted from Roasting: A Simple Art (William Morrow, 1995)Genius Recipes

Serves 2-4

  • 5- to 6-pound chicken at room temperature, wing tips removed
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 4 whole garlic cloves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup chicken stock, water, fruit juice, or wine for optional deglazing
  1. Place rack on second level from bottom of oven. Heat oven to 500°F (or for convection, reduce to 450°F).
  2. Remove the fat from the tail and crop end of the chicken. Freeze the neck and giblets for stock. Reserve chicken livers for another use.
  3. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the lemon, garlic, and butter, if using. Season the cavity and skin with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the chicken in a 12 x 8 x 1 1/2-inch roasting pan breast side up. Put in the oven legs first and roast 50 to 60 minutes, or until the juices run clear. After the first 10 minutes, move the chicken with a wooden spoon or spatula to keep it from sticking.
  5. Remove the chicken to a platter by placing a large wooden spoon into the tail end and balancing the chicken with a kitchen spoon pressed against the crop end. As you lift the chicken, carefully tilt it over the roasting pan so that all the juices run out and into the pan.
  6. Optional: Pour off or spoon out excess fat from the roasting pan and put the roasting pan on top of the stove. Add the stock or other liquid and bring the contents of the pan to a boil, while scraping the bottom vigorously with a wooden spoon. Let reduce by half. Serve the sauce over the chicken or, for crisp skin, in a sauceboat.

More Great Recipes: Chicken|Entrees

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Comments (75) Questions (2)

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21 days ago Claire Hoyt

Totally great chicken! I will admid, I just couldn't believe it didn't need to be buttered/oiled on the outside so I DID stray there, and butter the bird, but followed the rest of the instructions and the bird was brilliant. I've been following a recipe from Americas Test Kitchen for years, with no reason to stray. I also brine religously. But, had a bird in the fridge that needed to be eaten tonight, so here we are, and boy am I glad:)

Someone tell me, is it really supposed to cook unoiled on the outside? I just kept thinking I was missing something in the directions, or that that was missing from the directions:)

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about 1 month ago marymary

Finally made this tonight and LOVE IT. Only difference - used Lime in place of lemon and added dried Rosemary and Thyme, and a drizzle of olive oil. I've never had a chicken with crispier skin. I roasted a 5.77 pound chicken for an hour and made the gravy, as well. AWESOME. As a side, I roasted beets, finger potatoes and brussel sprouts in balsamic vinegar - first time to cook and eat fresh beets. Never knew what I was missing - beets are tasty! The kitchen does smell smoky, but it was totally worth it. I will make this again. Thanks!

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about 1 month ago marymary

I also transferred the onion and garlic from the cavity to my roasted vegetables and used some in the gravy, as well. Threw out the celery and lime.

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4 months ago dawn reinard

I am going to try this tonight and am very excited! !

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5 months ago Fallon Evenson

Crispiest skin I have ever gotten on a chicken! Delicious, thank you. I added rosemary to the cavity and enjoyed it with mashed cauliflower and oven crisped red potatoes.

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5 months ago Virginia Bacon

The skin was so crispy and delicious I could barely stop myself from tearing into it before actually putting it on a plate for dinner (one wing may have been sacrificed). What a great technique!

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5 months ago robin lewis

ok, while you're confessing i will too: i made this a couple weeks ago. i ate most of of the skin before i sliced and plated the chicken... 8^) yum. going to make this again this weekend too.

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5 months ago Nicole Fortenberry

I make this simple chicken recipe a lot. I roast it in a large skillet then make a simple gravy on the stove top while the chicken is resting. It comes out perfect every time. I love experimenting with new flavor profiles. Last week I had some left over gremolata from Minimally Invasive's delicious Short Rib Ragu (https://food52.com/recipes...) and used it as rub under the skin of the chicken. Amazing.

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5 months ago Peggy

Excellent Roast Chicken! Followed recipe other than adding fresh thyme and sage sprigs to cavity. Boiled the left over juice with broth plus added everything from chicken cavity (lemon,garlic,thyme and sage sprigs). Was a bit too salty so added 1/2 cup of water and continued to reduce while chicken rested. WAS THE BOMB! Thank you Barbara!

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8 months ago Riveroaks

If you have a problem with the chicken For good fortune in the New Year, a plate of black-eyed peas is considered auspicious, especially in the American South. Believe it or don’t. For many, consuming this frugal dish on the first day of the year is said to augur wealth.

Of course, there’s a back story.

Sephardic Jews were evidently eating black-eyed peas for good luck on Rosh Hashana centuries ago, and the custom eventually traveled with them to America. (We think of beans as purely New World, along with tomatoes, chiles and potatoes, but legumes like field peas, chickpeas and lentils have been Old World staples since biblical times.)

Black-eyed peas also arrived in Florida and the Caribbean, carried by African slaves. Just as African seasoning influenced Creole cooking, so black-eyed peas became part of the wider culture.

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Ultimately, the Civil War played a part in the spread of the black-eyed pea throughout the South. The ravages of war and the scarcity of food changed the region’s diet. Dried beans and corn, formerly considered the food of the poor (or animal fodder), became the food of the entire population, and I expect most people felt lucky to have it.

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Black-eyed peas cook much like any other dried bean. An overnight soak in cold water helps them cook faster. Simmered with onion and a meaty ham bone (other options are salt pork, bacon, pigs feet, hog jowl and ham hock), they can be prepared quite simply, with just salt and pepper. But they may also be made highly seasoned with hot pepper and spices; some cooks add tomato.

I find the New Year’s custom especially attractive, as I’m a certifiable bean booster and would gladly dig into a bowl of black-eyed peas anytime. They have an exquisite texture and aroma like no other legume.

Adding cooked greens (the color of money) is said to make them even luckier.

Freshly baked cornbread (the color of gold) is the perfect accompaniment. Stir in some steamed rice and you can call it Hoppin’ John, though purists will say the rice and beans should be cooked in the same pot. It’s still a lucky dish, either way.

Aside from being outrageously tasty, black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day may also help a hangover. But I like the good-luck factor, and encourage guests to have at least a taste. It couldn’t hurt, right?

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over 1 year ago SpaCook

I have to make a very large dinner and ideally need to roast two chickens at once--is this a terrible idea, or should it work provided they don't touch?

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over 1 year ago Trena Heinrich

SpaCook - I roast 2 chickens a lot and it works perfectly!

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over 1 year ago Ashley Marie

I used a 4.6lb chicken and it needed 75 minutes, not 50-60, but mine wasn't brought to room temp. In addition to the lemon, garlic and butter, I also stuffed the cavity with some thyme and a little onion. Made the pan sauce with the drippings and 1/2 cup homemade chicken stock, 1/2 cup extra dry vermouth. Everything was delicious - But my bird didn't look like the bird in the picture. The skin was crisp, especially on the breast and the upper part of the thighs, but the rest - while brown - wasn't super crisp. Easy, no-fuss recipe.

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over 1 year ago WhatsEating

This was incredibly simple and delicious. The high heat as well as not rubbing butter on the skin are out of my comfort zone but yielded perfectly cooked white and dark meat and golden brown, crisp skin. Next time I'll try it without the optional butter in the cavity, just for experimentation's sake.

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over 1 year ago robin lewis

does this recipe recommend the 2nd lowest rack position because the chicken is supposed to be farther away from or closer to the heat source? (i have a separate broiler oven underneath my regular oven, so the heat source is below the regular oven.)

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over 1 year ago MRubenzahl

This is a good technique but I can't agree with "50 to 60 minutes, or until the juices run clear." Instant read thermometer is a must, in my opinion. Remove from the oven when an instant-read thermometer reads 155 degrees F in the thickest part of the breast. The thickest portion of the thigh should be 10-15 degrees higher. Rest for 10-20 minutes and the temperatures should rise another 10 degrees.

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over 1 year ago pattyrat

I love this recipe, it is now in regular rotation at my house. So easy. I roast it in a cast iron skillet and have added potatoes and carrots to the pan to cook along with the chicken - very good. I have also placed a separate pan of vegetables in the oven along with the chicken to roast - a fantastic, simple, delicious dinner.

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over 1 year ago Don Roszel

I've roasted lots of chickens in my day, usually via the Julia Childs technique of basting every 10 minutes or so. this recipe was as good as hers and a lot easier (no basting). I put a greased cast iron skillet in the oven while it was heating, and then put the chicken in the hot skillet to roast. Used a ThermaPen temperature probe where the thigh and the breast meet. All I can say is, "wow!" Crispy skin, tasty and tender meat.

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over 1 year ago Carlynn Houghton

This was delicious, but it did spatter the oven quite a bit. I covered it with tin foil for part of the cooking time because of this, and then needed to cook it for ten minutes longer.

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over 1 year ago MRubenzahl

Might find that reducing oven temperature just 25-50° makes a big difference. In other splattery applications I have found it helps and doesn't hurt the roasting or browning a lot,

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almost 2 years ago Golab

I've never roasted a chicken before, this recipe was my first time! thank you so much! I do have a question however: the breast was already well cooked and drying but the bottom/drumsticks were still not cooked. How do we make sure that it is cooked evenly?

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almost 2 years ago Fresh

I did not have this problem. Did you put the chicken on the rack indicatd by the recipe? This ensure the breast is further from the heat than the bottom of the chicken?

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almost 2 years ago mschrank

I'm guessing you might have taken the chicken straight from the fridge and then put it in the oven? If so, next time try letting it sit at room temp for 30-40 minutes before it goes in the oven.

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over 1 year ago MRubenzahl

Agree with mschrank's suggestion. In addition, make sure the legs are loose (not trussed) so the heat can get into the thigh area. But if the legs are not done, do this: Remove from oven when the breasts are at 155. Remove legs and move the rest to a platter to rest (you want a 10-20 minute rest anyway). Put legs back in pan until they reach temp (another 10 minutes, probably).

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almost 2 years ago BabyKakes

This chicken was absolutely delicious!!! Fanned and faved!!! Just one NEGATIVE comment, if you (commenters) aren't going to follow the recipe EXACTLY, then why are you posting about the finished product not being like you hoped. If you tried/followed the recipe and it didn't work out, that' what I want to know about. Sharing new recipes, flipping the bird to breast down, adding rosemary are not part of BK's recipe. BK's chicken recipe came out fabulous as is! Will make this at least once a week and then maybe, maybe, maybe for variations try different seasonings.

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almost 2 years ago Fresh

I've made lots of roast chicken recipes over the last 30 years, and this was a hit at our house. Keep a window or door open if, like us, your kitchen is not adequately ventilated. Wonderfully moist chicken!

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almost 2 years ago PRST

No need to turn the bird breast down in the roasting pan, the breast meat always comes out juicy. The high heat and fast cooking time is the key.