Wishbone Roast Chicken with Herb Butter

February 22, 2010

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: As I was slicing into this chicken, I suddenly remembered this story: one day my daughter excitedly said to her preschool teacher “Guess what? Chickens have a game inside them and it’s called a wishbone! Wishbones are good because you can make wishes on them.” The teacher said “I’ve played the wishbone game before with my mom. Did you cook the wishbone first?” My daughter replied “Yeah, we had to cook the wishbone and then the game is better … way better!”

To cook those wishbone chickens, I use the tube insert of my tube pan, which settles neatly inside my 9 inch cake pan. Cooking it standing up means I don’t have to turn the bird this way and that during the roasting to get a nice crispy skin. The chicken itself is inspired by a restaurant in Carmel (now replaced by a chain restaurant) that served a succulent rotisserie chicken with a flavorful herb butter. Does a perfectly roasted bird need such an embellishment? Some may argue not, but all I can say is that I have never forgotten that dish and often long for that butter while eating other perfectly fine roasted chickens. - monkeymom

You can vary the herbs to what you prefer. Chervil, thyme, lemon zest, cayenne, etc. One bird, many options for flavoring.

Food52 Review: This recipe with its unassuming 5 ingredients caught our eye for its use of simple techniques to achieve a flavorful bird with crisp skin. Monkeymom has thought a lot about roasting chicken: she has you tuck shallots and butter under the skin, season the bird and then let it rest in the fridge, uncovered, for 8 hours. The butter keeps the meat moist and the air-drying in the fridge ensures a crackly skin. She also came up with an ingenious way to replicate the verticle roasting in "beer can chicken," in which the chicken sits on top of a beer can while it grills. For her brilliant adaptation, she sets the chicken on the tube part of a tube pan. The verticle positioning allows the fat to drip off the bird while it cooks, and we think it does a great job of helping to cook the bird evenly, as every part is equally exposed to the oven heat. And did we mention that the finished bird is then served with an herb butter? Herb butter gets us every time. The Editors

Serves: 4 to 6
Prep time: 12 hrs
Cook time: 1 hrs


For the wishbone chicken

  • 3 1/2 pounds chicken
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 shallot, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon salt and pepper

For the herb butter

  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced parsley
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced chives
In This Recipe


  1. Wash and dry chicken. Using your hand, spread softened butter under skin on breasts, especially the part near the neck. Put shallots under skin all around. Sprinkle pepper, then salt the bird very generously all over. The key to a crispy skin is a dry bird, plenty of salt, and a hot oven. Place in refrigerator, uncovered, for 8 hours to overnight.
  2. For herb butter, soften the butter and add the other ingredients. Mash with fork to mix thoroughly, then scrape into saran wrap. Wrap up the butter to form a tube and chill in refrigerator.
  3. To roast chicken, preheat oven to 400° F. Use only one rack, placed in the bottom slot of your oven.
  4. Place chicken feet side down on tube insert that is placed into a 9-inch cake pan. This forms a stable base that will catch the drippings without leaking out. Tuck wing tips behind the neck and pull the legs out to separate them from the breast. This helps them cook a little faster so the breast won’t dry out. If the skin has torn or is short, you can use a toothpick and pin it to the bottom end of the breast. Place the bird into oven and roast for 55 minutes (my chicken was a little under 4 lbs and was cooked perfectly at this time.)
  5. Remove nicely browned chicken from oven. Let rest on tube while preparing the rest of your dinner.
  6. Slice legs from bird, then carve breasts from bones. Be careful not to cut the wishbone, which is near the neck cavity on the front top of the breast! I’ve disappointed my kids many times by accidently breaking the wishbone prematurely. Pick off the goodies from the rest of the bird and share them with your favorite helper(s).
  7. Slice the herb butter and serve with the carved chicken. A little dab of butter on the chicken goes a long way.
  8. Play wishbone game.

More Great Recipes:
American|Butter|Chicken|Shallot|Make Ahead|One-Pot Wonders|Gluten-Free|Entree

Reviews (89) Questions (3)

89 Reviews

Nell T. March 17, 2019
The smallest chicken I could find was 5 lbs. Are 3.5 lb chickens common? Any recommendations on how much longer I should cook it?
Nell T. March 19, 2019
I cooked it for 70 minutes, and it was perfect.
Tricia T. December 22, 2016
could I use the same recipe but replace with chicken thighs? Would it work as well?
dymnyno October 27, 2013
I have a tube cake pan and the tub part is removable. I usually remove the tube part and put it on a rimmed sheet pan.(one less piece to wash) Someone also gave me a tube that is for roasting chicken and guess what...it is exactly the same size and interchangeable with the one from the cake pan!
Geni October 27, 2013
Oh for heavens sake! Never mind....with some help from my totally non-cooking husband, I get the picture! It IS pushed down onto the tube, it's the shoulders I see on top; I thought it was breast!
Geni October 27, 2013
HELP! Just discovered this recipe and hope to fix it for company tonight! Don't understand how to put the chicken (mine is 7lb)on the tube pan. Photo looks like its "lying" on the tube, breast up....can't be! Or the tube be inserted into the chicken as in beer can chicken. Thanks for any help!!
lauren C. October 6, 2013
I'm about to try this out for the first time, very excited! I'm wondering if the air drying in the fridge overnight would be better done on the tube. Same concept as in the oven really, more air circulating equals a drier raw bird and a crispier finished product.
Tamara H. July 27, 2013
This was so good! Leaving the chicken in the fridge really did make the skin nice and crispy!
gotham G. June 1, 2013
The herb butter really elevates the already moist, flavorful chicken. Delicious!
marydtoombs January 15, 2013
I'm not sure where this idea came from, but when I make herb butter, I always add a generous squeeze of a fresh lemon or lime. Somehow it takes that butter over the top in flavor. This chicken-on-a-tube-pan sounds SO delish. Can't wait to make it.
AnnieHynes October 6, 2012
what is a tube pan?
marydtoombs January 15, 2013
(don't use the fluted kind, it's really a bundt cake pan) Some tube pans have a removable tube part, some do not. It's for easy removal of the cake (usually angel food cake).
AnnieHynes October 6, 2012
what is a tube pan?
AnnieHynes October 6, 2012
what is a tube pan?
AnnieHynes October 6, 2012
what is a tube pan?
pimimond January 13, 2012
I forgot the shallots but it didn't matter. I took the tip to use just the tube pan insert, not the whole pan and my bird got a fantastically golden St. Tropez tan! Moistest and crispiest skin yet, even more so than the Zuni Cafe roast chicken- and a lot less work! Family says YAY!
WendieW January 8, 2012
I use a Spanek Vertical Roaster which allows more even cooking.
belfman January 8, 2012
In the summer I make beer can chicken or as my children like to say "beer butt chicken". I love this concept of roasting in the angel food pan. Just genius! I will try this and use the compound butter idea as well. I miss the "old Carmel" too...
Maliqks C. October 20, 2011
I made this and added some roasted garlic to the herb butter mixture. So yummy. My cousin's boy, who never wants to eat devoured it!
Passenger September 6, 2011
I made this a while back and am looking forward to making it again once the weather cools down. But last time I made this, I set a bunch of brussels sprouts in the bottom of the pan, letting the butter and juices coat them on their way down from dripping... it was a match made in heaven! And so incredibly easy!
Cookbook T. April 29, 2011
Cooked this last night and it was a total crowd pleaser. Thank you monkeymom for the great recipe that I will certainly use for years to come. Thank you also to those responses to my Foodpickle question about what to do in the absence of a tube pan. Used an empty aluminium can and filled it 2/3 of the way with white wine, which made a sturdy base and hopefully the white wine added a little something extra to the roasting process.
clintonhillbilly April 20, 2011
Made this for the second time for our family Passover seder, and it was so delcious and moist! Thanks so much for this recipe!
Author Comment
monkeymom April 24, 2011
I'm so happy to hear that! Thanks for the feedback!