Melissa Clark's Feta-Brined Roast Chicken

April 12, 2017

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes:

There are many of us—most famously Julia Child—who would call a simply roasted chicken a perfect food, one that’s hard to imagine improving upon.
But while sometimes you want the simply-seasoned perfect sort of bird like Julia did, sometimes instead you want an herb-crusted, crackly-skinned, salty-briny-juicy pop in the mouth perfect sort of bird. This is the latter. Adapted slightly from the New York Times (January 28, 2015).

Genius Recipes

Serves: 4


  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • One 3 1/2- to 4-pound whole chicken
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons dried Greek oregano
  • 2 large lemons
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 large bunch arugula or other sturdy salad greens, for serving
In This Recipe


  1. The day before serving, combine 2 ounces feta, 2 teaspoons salt, and 4 cups water in a blender and blend until smooth. Put chicken in an extra-large resealable plastic bag or a container large enough to submerge chicken, and cover with the feta brine. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Before cooking, remove chicken from brine and transfer to a paper towel-lined tray. (Discard brine.) Pat chicken dry with paper towels and allow to come to room temperature for 1 hour.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, combine remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, the pepper, the oregano, and the zest of the lemons (about 1 tablespoon). Liberally cover chicken in herb mix and gently massage entire bird. Halve lemons and place 3 halves in cavity (save remaining half for serving). Using kitchen twine, tie legs together.
  4. Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Place a large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add oil and heat until it just smokes. Place chicken, breast-side up, in pan. Transfer entire pan to oven. Cook, basting once or twice, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the fleshy part of the thigh reads 165 degrees F and the juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a knife, 50 to 60 minutes.
  5. Remove pan from oven, then stir remaining crumbled feta into juices in pan and stir well. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes in the pan before carving and serving on a bed of greens, with feta-laced pan juices on top, drizzled with a little lemon juice from the reserved lemon half.

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Reviews (18) Questions (1)

18 Reviews

karencooks April 16, 2018
Delicious and juicy chicken! 50 minutes at 450 was perfect!!!
ghainskom March 5, 2018
This was meat-falling-off-the-bone-melting-in-your-mouth delicious. This is now sharing place one of my roast chicken recipes with TasteFood's Roasted Butterflied Chicken with Cardamom and Yogurt. So thank you!
Gabrielle May 24, 2017
MorriB May 13, 2017
I've made this twice now - once with a whole chicken and once with leg quarters. While the longer brining time is great it is still amazing with only 4-5 hours in the brine.
Fran M. May 9, 2017
I just made this chicken. I'm having trouble getting the feta to blend into the sauce. <br />Any ideas.
Jane K. April 30, 2017
This was incredibly good, the best roast chicken I've had. Everyone, even family members who weren't particularly fond of chicken, loved it. The drippings on the arugula were divine. Clean freak that I am, my only issue was that it made a huge mess in my oven. Still, it was worth the effort. Next time I will try roasting it in my Kamado Joe.
Karen M. September 22, 2017
What about preheating the cast iron pan on a barbecue instead of your oven. That should probably work I think.<br />If you have at least a 3 burner BBQ you could use indirect heat as well. Get the pan smoking hot on the barbecue and then just put the chicken in it. I wonder if that would work?<br /><br />I've heard of this method being used for fish fillets.
Chef T. April 26, 2017
I've made this recipe several times, and it's hands down the best roast chicken I've ever had.
DaveS April 21, 2017
Wait - you don't reduce the temperature from 450? And cook the chicken for an hour?
chris June 12, 2017
I was thinking the same thing. I think I'd test the thigh temperature at 40 minutes, if I left the oven at 450. And, cover the breast with lemon slices to protect it a bit.<br />
Ron S. July 1, 2017
Yes........also I start roasting the chicken on one side.....20 mins, flip to other side...20 place on back, breast up.. .20 minutes. 175 in the thigh is done............
Karen M. September 22, 2017
That does seem like an awfully high temperature. When I do chickens I start them at 400-450 whatever but then after the chicken goes in the oven I zoom it right down to 350 or 325 I think the breast meat would dry out if it were exposed to direct heat at 450 wouldn't it?
Natalia W. April 14, 2017
Just use the brine that the feta comes in!
Starr R. April 17, 2017
I was going to ask why that wasn't the way the recipe was listed. Did you do it? Does it need extra salt in the brine?
Shalini April 19, 2017
Although I haven't made this yet, I think the feta cheese is integral to the brine the chicken is soaked in. You blend the feta with water, not just use the water the cheese has been soaking in. As for extra salt, nope.
Elizabeth L. April 21, 2017
The original recipe this is based on uses the brine. But most of us don't have 4 cups of feta brine lying around.
Starr R. April 21, 2017
that makes sense - I will use the brine and add water as necessary.
Karen M. September 22, 2017
It can be easy to over salt to oversalt a brine I've noticed