Barbara Kafka's Simplest Roast Chicken

Test Kitchen-Approved

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)
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.

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Reviews (107) Questions (3)

107 Reviews

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 :).
Darlene November 27, 2017
This came out perfect - crisp skin, juicy meat. I used the suggestion to line the pan with sliced potatoes and did not have a wisp of smoke - and the potatoes were delicious!<br />
Gardener-cook May 21, 2017
I'm going through my new copy of Genius Recipes and am delighted to come across this old friend. I've been roasting chickens this way for the last ten years or so, with 95% success. No matter what other methods I try, I always return to this one. If I think far enough ahead, I brine the chicken for 24 hours and then rest it in the refrigerator for another 24 to let the salt distribute, but it's rare that I show that much foresight. Seasonings vary by mood and availability.
BrettyJax March 19, 2017
Has anyone tried this with herb butter under the skin?
Laura July 13, 2016
I've made this Kafka recipe a dozen times with perfect results until last night. I cooked two Foster Farms chickens in separate pans at 475 degrees on convection for 50 minutes (I live at 4500ft altitude). Because the meat was still slightly pink inside, I cooked the chickens another 10 minutes. At that point, I let them sit, covered, for about 10 minutes. NEVER have I tasted a WORSE texture in a chicken before! The meat was a cross between gristle and gizzard. Inedible. The chicken were not frozen when I bought them that morning, and they sat out on the counter for an hour to take the refrigerator chill off of them before they were put in the oven. I see one other person 4 yrs ago complained of the same issue although I didn't see a response/explanation. Can anyone tell me what happened to the chicken meat to make it so awful?? No, it wasn't brined first and the chickens were normal FF chickens from the grocer.
Trena H. July 13, 2016
Hi Laura - I too have cooked this recipe with excellent results. My guess, based on your comment regarding texture of the chicken, is that you just got a less than stellar quality chicken. I'm sure others may have some other ideas and suggestions.
Laura P. July 22, 2017
I know this comment is a year old, but if you bought it fresh that morning directly from the farmer, it might have had rigor mortis
Don B. March 30, 2016
Since when is astrophysics not fun?!
cathi March 21, 2016
Cooked 2 birds (5lbs ea) simultaneously. Just over 50 minutes on 450 convection and it was flawless. Beautiful Sunday dinner and enough leftovers for salad and sandwiches for the week! Amazed at the fantastic crispy skin without any additional butter or oil on the skin. And the pan juices made a lovely sauce.
Milehighlori February 24, 2016
I read all 87 comments before venturing into this. I went through the good and the bad, of which there was far more good. In my humble opinion, if you follow the directions, there is no way you can lose. I went with 10 minutes per pound on a 9 1/2 lb bird, set my convection oven at 450 and it worked like a Swiss watch, Exact. My husband is the de boner of chickens in our house, and he was nearly through the big boy when I stepped into the kitchen to taste the crispy skin; Something not to be missed. The whole chicken was moist and flavorful. Try it, you will not be disappointed...if you follow the directions.
Jamie G. January 24, 2016
Did NOT turn out. Can you believe, 58 minutes in a 500° oven, and juices did not run clear and part of the breast near the bone was literally raw.
Don R. January 25, 2016
A couple of things may have contributed to the failure. Weight of the chicken, accuracy of your oven's temperature control and whether the chicken was still refrigerator cold. Chickens I've bought from my local supermarket are, on occasion, still partially frozen when I take them out of the fridge. Sorry to hear it didn't turn out for you. We've had great success with the recipe. (The amount of smoke generated notwithstanding.)
Jamie G. January 25, 2016
Hi! Thank you so much for the tips! The chicken was 5.79 lbs and so we did 10 minutes per pound as suggested and our oven is bran new and has been a nice oven - but I messed up I think when I put the chicken in the oven as soon as I took it out of the fridge. So make sure to bring it to room temp as suggested and it should work, ok. Now I want to try it again. The skin did look beautiful - smoke was indeed everywhere, a little scary, but interesting! Thank you!!
Angelyn T. January 18, 2016
Finally made this chicken last night!<br /><br />The outcome at putting it on such high heat is that the skin turned out incredibly crispy. The meat was moist as well, but I reckon I can make it even more moist next time. Perhaps I should dry/wet brine it before next time. Has anyone tried brining before for this dish?<br /><br />My chicken was only 2.3 lbs, so I put it at 450 F for 25 minutes. I estimated 10 mins/lb as advised from a previous blogpost. As warned, there were alot of smoke in the oven and I ended up smoking up my whole apartment much to my boyfriend's amusement. If I can make the meat more tender, I would say smoking up the apartment is worth it. <br /><br />Rating: 8/10. This is my favourite Roast Chicken recipe, but this is still my favourite chicken recipe:<br /><br />The only improvement I would make, would be to make
Katie M. January 3, 2016
Excited about making this recipe, though I will say we're about 15 minutes into the cooking time and our 3/4ths size apartment oven is flooding our apartment with smoke. Skin looks nice and crispy, but we're covering this puppy up with foil and turning the temp down to 350 for the rest of the cooking time.
BarbaraM December 15, 2015
Adapted the recipe to make roast duck for a Christmas party, and am happy to report it worked a charm! Flavoured it with an orange, garlic, bay leaves and star anise - crispy skin and tender meat!
Lindsay November 23, 2015
i am wondering about applying this rule for my thanksgiving turkey......?? my turkey is 8.5lbs and this says up to 7 lbs.....any thoughts?