5 Ingredients or Fewer

Barbara Kafka's Simplest Roast Chicken

May 18, 2012
4 Stars
Photo by James Ransom
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

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 50 minutes
  • Serves 2 to 4
  • 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)
In This Recipe
  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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • suzannakang
  • Cristie Green Rives
    Cristie Green Rives
  • Ling Ling
    Ling Ling
  • Margo Smith
    Margo Smith
  • Barbara Annemarie
    Barbara Annemarie
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

126 Reviews

peppersandeggs November 17, 2021
If you enjoy cleaning your oven, this is the recipe for you.
There was a big hullabaloo when this recipe first came out.
Because of the high heat, the oven needs to be clean before you roast ( to avoid a grease fire and filling your kitchen with smoke).
Then of course, you'll have to clean your oven again when finished because (you guessed it) your oven will be splattered with grease, which will smoke the next time you use your oven.
Margo S. November 17, 2021
Roasting any meat will dirty your oven, but I found that roasting the chicken on a bed of sliced onions as the recipe suggests greatly reduces the amount of spatter.
Martha December 23, 2020
I love this cookbook. I think I got it not long after my wedding (the cookbook lasted longer than the marriage! Lol) I have made the roasted chicken so many times and everyone is amazed I cook at 500! It’s wonderful! I do skip the deglazing and always roast the chicken on a bunch of veggies. They are the best when they have soaked up all those delicious juices! No need for a roasting rack. I’ve used potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, turnips; whatever you fancy. Roasting is the best! Thank you Barbara Kafka for this wonderful cookbook.
suzannakang September 8, 2020
Roasting a chicken has always intimidated me. Thanks to Food52 and Barbara Kafka --I used this recipe to roast my first ever chicken! The recipe made it simple, and the results were delicious. It's rare that my picky teen and my adventurous ten year-old both enjoy the same meal, but this one was a hit. I love the cooking instruction of baking in high heat for 10 minutes per pound and using whatever herbs and vegetables you have on hand. In my case, I used onions, shallots, garlic, fresh rosemary, celery and a lemon. I also added potatoes at the bottom of the dutch oven, as suggested by Cook's Illustrated. Overall, a very satisfying meal and I will make again.
Linda D. August 24, 2020
Made this last night using root vegetables. They were delicious and the chicken was juicy, and the skin was crispy. Yum! Thank you!
SydAnderson April 22, 2020
Tried this recipe last night as written. Results were a juicy and tender chicken with a gorgeous golden crust and a house full of smoke! I think I did well by following the genius tip to avoid the smoke... pan size and placed lower in a clean oven. Absolutely loving the ease and final chicken I’ll by trying again with the addition of veggies. Who doesn’t love a one dish meal anyways?!
Cristie G. April 4, 2020
I have made this numerous times. I have used potatoes and onions under the chicken and have recently tried sweet potatoes and onions under the chicken. The sweet potatoes are the best! They take on a savory taste with the chicken juice cooking into them. I won’t try it any other way!
Ling L. January 5, 2020
I've always used this recipe as a basis for roasting chicken and the skin is outstanding: thin and crispy. My other favorite chicken roasting tip is to slide pats of butter under the skin on the breast and legs so the fat melts into the meat as it cooks.
brushjl November 13, 2019
excellent recipe. I turned off the oven after an hour and let the chicken stand in the over for an hour or so. it was perfect. I didn't bother with the sauce.
robin L. November 13, 2019
What did keeping it in the oven for an hour do?
Margo S. October 1, 2019
I've made this recipe several times with excellent results. Interestingly, I made it at my son's house twice. He just has a basic "non convection" oven. Worked like a charm! I have a very fancy "bells and whistles" oven. I tried this recipe on "convection roast" at 450 and the skin started to burn instead of brown within the first 15 minutes. So much for fancy ovens! I am wondering if this roast chicken recipe could be adapted to turkey? Same concept- high heat, 10 minutes per pound. Has anyone tried it?
Steve February 14, 2020
Convection roast, at least in my oven, only runs the top element. Convection bake, uses the lower element only. I usually start withe CB, then during the last bit go with CR. Works great for pizza as well.
Margo S. February 14, 2020
Interesting technique. My oven has a setting called "surround." I would assume that would turn on both elements at once? Maybe I'll try it. What temp do you use with convection roast/bake?
Steve February 21, 2020
Probably to the first.

50 degrees less than the bake temp given in whatever recipe.
Amy June 14, 2019
This recipe is amazing! Some minor tweaks that worked well for me. 1. Ensure chicken is as dry as possible before seasoning. 2. Rub kosher salt and pepper inside and out first (I used about 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon pepper). 3. Smear softened butter inside and out. 4. Finally, add lemon and garlic to the cavity. Throughout roasting, as soon as the pan started to smoke, I added about 1 cup of room temperature water. I had to do this about 4 times throughout the cooking process, but those juices were just too precious to let burn! It yielded a delicious "jus", but probably added an extra 5-7 minutes to the total roasting time. The result was absolutely delicious and juicy chicken as promised, and the skin was still very crispy, despite adding the water. This recipe is genius and a game-changer for sure, especialy when compared to the tedious method of roasting at 350 degrees. Cheers!
Amy June 14, 2019
Also forgot to mention that I used a larger roasting pan, to allow extra room around the chicken and prevent mess.
Barbara A. May 23, 2019
Loved it! Made mine in a Dutch oven over quartered onions and turned out perfect. No smoke at all. Subbed oranges for lemons. Breast was golden perfection, legs were a little less brown (probably because of sides of Dutch oven) but I plan on using them for a different purpose. Will be a regular recipe!
Christina February 7, 2019
I had high hopes for this recipe, but there was just too much smoke in the oven. Since there was a note about the pan possibly being too big and causing the smoke I switched pans mid-way through cooking. Alas, the smoke continued. I was a bit disappointed.
Christina February 7, 2019
I should have added the meat was cooked thoroughly either
Amy June 14, 2019
Hi Christina, I just tried the recipe last night. When it began to smoke, I added about 1 cup of water to the pan. I had to do this about 4 times throughout the cooking process, but the chicken still browned beautifully, and I was left with a delicious "jus" gravy at the bottom of the pan. Also, I used a larger enamel roasting pan to allow extra space around the chicken and minimize mess from splatter. It did need an additional 5-7 minutes of cooking time as well, but it turned out delicious and the skin was still very crispy. I hope this helps.
Christina September 9, 2020
Thanks for the tip!!
Deanna C. September 17, 2020
Suddenly you’re basting. Kinda’ takes away from the whole ‘simplest chicken or whatever’ doesn’t it? Also smoke in the house.
marilu December 5, 2018
This was my first roasted chicken, and the family enjoyed it very much! So perfect! Thank you!
Chantal M. October 30, 2018
This recipe N E V E R fails me!
Martin October 23, 2018
I just tried this. The skin is definitely crispy, but the meat wasn't cooked through. Maybe cause I used a glass baking dish? Or the potatoes cramped it up too much so that there wasn't space for the heat? I will have to try again. But I can attest to the fact that the potatoes keep it from spattering about.
jocelyn L. August 16, 2018
hi can i use turbo broiler for this recipe?
Reizen July 27, 2018
Has anyone used a roasting rack in the pan for this?
Jim B. August 4, 2018
I use a Le Creuset signature roaster and trivet set when I make this chicken, and it works great!
Jim B. June 4, 2018
This recipe was so insanely good.
Tea March 9, 2018
(Writing/looking on phone so pardon if answered already but-) I assume this is ok to cook in the morning and reheat for dinner? Can’t make right before dinner as I usually do.
Jill B. January 28, 2018
I know this is an old post, but this cooking method is much like Thomas Keller's Very simple Roast chicken (basically rinse, dry salt pepper chicken inside and out. Bake at 450 for 50-60 min). This has always turned out for me, and I plan on trying this. I think the negative results must be from the meat. I always use a Trader Joes organic chicken and it's always great.
marilu December 2, 2018
Good to know! I just picked up the Trader Joes organic chicken to try this out and was happy to know the size worked well for you :).