Barbara Kafka's Simplest Roast Chicken

By Genius Recipes
May 18, 2012
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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 to 4
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 50 min

  • 1 5- to 6-pound chicken at room temperature, wing tips removed
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 4 whole garlic cloves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
  • 1 dash kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 dash freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup chicken stock, water, fruit juice, or wine for optional deglazing
  • Optional: Potatoes or other vegetables for the pan, to prevent smoke and spattering (see Genius Tip below)
  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.
  7. Genius Tip from Cook's Illustrated, via the Food52 community: The single complaint about this recipe is that there can be too much sputtering or smoke—Kafka would say this is because you've used too big a pan, your oven was already dirty, or the bird was too close to the top of the oven. Regardless, an ingenious way to prevent sputtering is to add potatoes or other hardy vegetables in large chunks to the pan—they'll absorb the delicious juices from the chicken and keep them from spluttering. Stir the vegetables once or twice during roasting and, if they aren't as evenly browned as you'd like when the chicken is done, simply return the pan to the oven (sans chicken) until they are, decreasing the temperature as needed.

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