The Best Roast Chicken with Garlic and Herb Pan Sauce

By • October 2, 2013 • 58 Comments



Author Notes: Adapted from Sharp Knives, Boiling Oil by Kim Foster.Merrill Stubbs

Serves 4

  • One 3 to 4 pound chicken, preferably organic or free-range, brought to room temperature
  • Kosher salt (and pepper if you'd like)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 large sprigs of thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  1. Heat the oven to 480 degrees F. Pat the chicken dry inside and out (if you want an extra crispy skin, leave the raw chicken in the fridge uncovered overnight after you've patted it dry and then bring it to room temperature).
  2. Put the chicken on a board or a large platter and generously season the inside of the bird with salt and pepper if you're using it. Drizzle a little olive oil in the cavity as well.
  3. Drizzle the rest of the oil over the chicken, and rub it all over so that it's evenly coated. Salt the chicken well all over, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies.
  4. Transfer the chicken to a cast iron pan or a heavy roasting pan just big enough to hold it and put it in the oven. Don't open the door for at least 45 minutes, when you can start to test it for doneness. (The chicken is cooked when you pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a sharp knife, and the juices run clear.) Let the chicken rest on a carving board while you make the pan sauce.
  5. To make the sauce, put the roasting pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the butter to the drippings in the pan, and once it melts add the thyme and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, for about a minute.
  6. Add the wine to the pan and scrape up all the brown bits with a wooden spoon, stirring them into the sauce. Let the wine cook down for one to two minutes.
  7. Add a cup of boiling water, stir well, and let the sauce reduce for about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary (if you've salted your chicken enough, this probably won't be necessary).
  8. Cut the chicken into pieces and serve with the warm pan sauce in a bowl nearby for dipping.
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Comments (58) Questions (0)

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5 months ago Booker

what is the difference in Kosher salt and pink Himalayan salt? Can Himalayan salt be used in place of Kosher salt and maintain the same level of quality and flavor?

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6 months ago carol s weinstein karlin

maybe this will help with the mess: cover the chicken very loosely with foil for the first 15 minutes, and maybe lower the temp about 20 degrees.

the result might be less smoke - i have asthma and sympathize, and love really good roasted chicken.

of course, using a kosher chicken means no brining!

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6 months ago Turbeville Green

Covering it will cause the skin to steam. I recommend only cooking this high with a clean oven and pour off the fat. I've made dozens of chickens at 475F and smoke is rarely an issue.

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6 months ago carol s weinstein karlin

well, if you only cover it for 15 to 20 minutes, it won't steam, but it will help the cooking process along with a bit less mess. you will still get a great skin!

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6 months ago BurghKitchen

I love roast chicken and I used this method EXCEPT I cook it vertical on my ceramic roaster. Never a soggy side, crispy skin all around and such a juicy bird. My rule of thumb has always been 15 minutes/pound plus 15 minutes for the cook at 350. No need to smoke you out of house and home to get a crispy skin.

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7 months ago Zootertoot

Made this for dinner...skipped the Olive oil and used butter. Rubbed about 3TBS butter mixed with thyme under the skin and a bit over the top, salted it and chucked it in a cast iron pan with some russet spuds cut into spears. There was some smoke, but I turned down the heat after 35 minutes, and cooked for an extra 15-20 mins. Was delish! Oh, and I tucked 2 small lemons (cut in halves) inside for flavor & moistened.

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7 months ago Plunkett Cooks

This chicken was good, but it smoked out my entire house! Would not make this again, however; the sauce recipe was nice and I will make this again. My first disappointment with a recipe from food52

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7 months ago Turbeville Green

I just made this sauce for dinner to serve with Zuni roast chicken, basically the same recipe roasted at 450-475F with a 3 day dry brine. It's A-mazing! I also made gravy and it wasn't touched. This sauce will definitely be showing up on the table pretty often. Thanks! So simple, classic and delicious.

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7 months ago burns Wattie

a 3 day brine! What do you find is the difference between an hour/a day/3 days??

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7 months ago Turbeville Green

A universe. I was skeptical too but the Zuni chicken method is the best roast chicken I've ever had. Here's a link to the recipe which is usually served with an equally delicious bread salad. It's a dry brine - 3/4 tsp per lb of chicken on the skin, let sit uncovered in the fridge for 1 to 3 days but I try to do at least 2 days.

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7 months ago burns Wattie

It looks like some people are having this turn out excellently and some are having a splatter fest in the oven. I wonder what is happening? I wonder if the splatterfests are using chicken where perhaps the skin is not fully intact??? Have any of you splatterfest experiencers done any forensics on what might have happened? The Zuni method described elsewhere also makes note of visually monitoring the bird and turning the oven down if it gets too intense.

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7 months ago Carol Berger

World's messiest chicken recipe! Do NOT make this recipes if you or someone in your house has COPD. Made it last night. Then cleaned oven. Today I'm still airing out the entire house.

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8 months ago Eileen

I made this tonight for Sunday supper. I had 4.75 pound organic chicken. It roasted for 50 minutes in a cast iron pan and it came out perfectly. Very juicy with crisp skin. Instead of water I used organic chicken stock. Served with brown rice and roasted butternut squash. Everyone loved it. The pan sauce made it! Lovely recipe. Thanks for sharing.

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8 months ago BurgeoningBaker

I enjoyed this chicken but it covered my oven in grease and fat. Any way to prevent that from happening?

Ashley

8 months ago Ashley Marie

This is just what happens when you cook chickens like this. When I cook a small chicken using the Zuni method - with no added fat - I still get fat spatterings in my oven. Honestly, the most you can do is line whatever you can with aluminum foil, which still won't prevent what's coming off the very top of the bird. You can even line the rack the bird is on with aluminum foil, and have it come up in a kind of square "U" shape around the sides of your oven to help a little. I usually just go ahead and run the self-clean function on my oven for two hours or while we're sleeping that night if it's really bad.

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8 months ago BurgeoningBaker

You don't worry about it catching fire?

Ashley

8 months ago Ashley Marie

Nope. Maybe I should but I don't... It hasn't happened yet.

Alice

9 months ago Alice Gardner

This is a prime example of how simple is best. I tried this with just a bone in breast and it was superb. Next time I have company, I just might have to pull out this recipe. Thank you, Merril!

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9 months ago Kate J. Weiner, Sole Proprietor

I've now made this recipe twice. The result is absolutely first-rate and I'm so pleased to have found it. This is my query: The whole family (including the cat) is bothered by the other results -- a house full of fumes (that overhead fans can barely ameliorate) and an oven that's so grimy afterwards a full clean is required. It's a real stinker all the way around. I'd be so keen to hear any advice about this. Normally I'd put some water in the pan; but I realize the whole point is to keep the oven closed and to dry the chicken out. Thoughts?

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9 months ago littlesister

Made this last night and it was really tender and juicy with a nice crisp skin. Roasted at 450 to avoid too much smoke and only had to add about ten minutes cooking time. Didn't even fool with the pan gravy - though I'm sure it's great - but threw some squash underneath it to roast at the same time. Good, quick, easy dinner!

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9 months ago Kelly

This was so delicious! Perfect Sunday dinner.

Stringio

9 months ago Jennifer Scott Spencer

I'm making this right now. I've never roasted a chicken in a cast iron skillet, and I've never cooked such a beautiful chicken. Also, just after I added the butter and before I added the garlic and herbs I scraped up some brown bits to feed to my husband. We are not having marital problems but if we ever do the brown bits alone will solve them. Worth every bit of smoke filling the house (of which only one window is screened, to add to the great landlord stories.)

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9 months ago Angel

A keeper! I made this with only two chicken breasts, and it was great. Thank you for sharing!

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6 months ago Marissa Leffler

Did you use the same temperature oven and roast for the same amount of time?

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10 months ago Kathryn Ashline

Roughly, how much longer would you need to cook for a 5 lb chicken?

Merrill

10 months ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Probably 10 to 15 minutes.

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9 months ago Beau Bourne

I tried this recipe last week with a 4.5 pound chicken. I had it in about 50 minutes and would probably let it go at least another 5 mins next time to really crisp up the skin.

Stringio

10 months ago Teresa Winters

If you wanted to roast vegetables as well, would you recommend putting them in the same pan as the chicken, or in a separate dish?

Merrill

10 months ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

They'd be delicious cooked in the same pan!

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10 months ago Walter Bode

I'm just an amateur, but I've always wondered about this extensive salting of a chicken. I would have thought a chicken's skin is fairly impermeable to salt. And there's a membrane on the inside of the cavity that looks pretty nonporous to me. I'm always haunted by the idea that most of that salt winds up in the juices in the pan. Which is great if you throw those vegetables in. Anyway, I just wondered if anyone knew any thoughtful research about this.

Ashley

8 months ago Ashley Marie

Extensive salting of a chicken is perhaps the best way to make it super juicy. I know what you're saying about it all going into the juices in the pan, but it doesn't. I'm not sure of the exact science, but the way it was explained to me was this: You heavily salt your whole, skin-on chicken (3/4 teaspoon per pound) after patting it dry, loosely wrap it with with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 days depending on the size (2 days for a 2-3lb, 3 days for a 4-5lb), and what happens is the salt initially draws out all the moisture of the chicken, but then because it's still sitting on there so long, it infuses the moisture back into it, along with the "salty" flavor AND any herbs you've chosen to sprinkle on the skin or tuck under it. That being said, in my opinion, that's one of the reasons your pan juices aren't just pure salt - a lot of it has been "infused" per say into the chicken itself.

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10 months ago burns Wattie

I was really curious about Keller's recipe so I looked it up - http://www.simplyrecipes... . Its similar - but also different. There is a lot of focus on trussing up the chicken - and I really love the idea of setting it on a bed of roasting vegetables! The sauce here though really makes a difference. Its really interesting to see how a recipe develops through time and practice with many eyes on it, constantly tweaking and improving it. It leaves me curious how effective or not is it to dry brine it for an hour as Ruhlman suggests in Twenty (Really its the same recipe with this step the only difference)
I also have to thank A&M for your great 'how to carve a chicken' video. I've been waylaid all these years by the Norman Rockwellish image of a knife thinly slicing through the top layer of breast - as a first cut. How silly. http://food52.com/blog...

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10 months ago procrastibaker

Made this last night with mashed potatoes and snap peas - a perfect Sunday supper. I used a cast-iron skillet for a 3lb bird, and it was perfectly crisp and finished after 45 minutes. For those of you, like me, living in small apartments with less-than-clean ovens, you probably will want to disable the smoke alarm, particularly if your landlord has, like mine, very thoughtfully installed it DIRECTLY ABOVE THE OVEN.

The pan sauce is delicious, but the chicken itself is so crispy and tender that the sauce turned out to be gilding the lily (though we still went through plenty of it, so maybe not). Next time I would probably pour off a bit of the fat (there was quite a lot in the skillet) and reduce it a little more (I got impatient because the chicken smelled so delicious). This is absolutely my new go-to roast chicken recipe, with or without the sauce.