Buttermilk-Marinated Roast Chicken (AKA Chicken for Tomorrow) from Samin Nosrat

August 16, 2022
10 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 15 hours
  • Cook time 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

"One of the most revelatory and widely loved techniques from Salt Fat Acid Heat, Samin Nosrat’s cookbook and TV show full of revelatory and widely loved techniques, has only three ingredients and a method that can be summed up as follows: Soak in buttermilk overnight—just as Southern cooks do for fried chicken—then, instead, roast.

And yet, bundled up in Samin’s straight-shooting method are all four of the tenets of her famed curriculum: Salt in the marinade sinks deep into the chicken to season it through and through, realigning the proteins to help it hold onto its juices as it heats in the oven, instead of squeezing them out. Fat in the buttermilk and chicken itself (as well as the buttermilk’s natural sugars) give the chicken its signature handsomely lacquered skin. Lactic acid in the buttermilk further tenderizes the proteins and infuses gentle tang. And heat, concentrated more at the back and sides of the oven, helps the slower-to-cook legs of the chicken keep up with the breast. What all of this means: really good roast chicken that’s really hard to overcook.

There is just one more ingredient: time. Start marinating tonight for the juiciest chicken tomorrow, seasoned down to the bone."

Excerpted from Simply Genius: Recipes for Beginners, Busy Cooks & Curious People (Ten Speed Press, September 27, 2022). —Food52

What You'll Need
  • 1 (3 ½ to 4 pound / 1.6 to 1.8 kilogram) chicken
  • Fine sea salt
  • 2 cups (475 ml) buttermilk
  1. The day before you want chicken, prep the bird: Set the chicken on a rimmed sheet pan. If there’s a bag of giblets tucked inside the chicken, be sure to pull it out. Cut off the pointy wingtips by slicing through the first wing joint with kitchen shears or a sharp knife (so they don’t burn—save them for stock). Season the chicken inside and out with 1 tablespoon of salt total and let it sit for 30 minutes.
  2. Make the marinade: In a large bowl, combine 4 teaspoons salt and the buttermilk and stir with a spoon to dissolve the salt. Lift the chicken into a gallon-size (3.8L) resealable plastic bag and pour in the buttermilk. If the chicken looks like it won’t fit in a gallon-size bag, use a larger resealable bag or double up two larger plastic produce bags to prevent leakage and tie the bag with a piece of twine. If you have no bags that will work, use a bowl and cover it tightly, but you’ll want to turn the chicken a few times to make sure it all gets access to the marinade.
  3. Seal the bag, squish the buttermilk around the chicken, place on a rimmed plate, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours. If you remember, turn the bag partway through marinating so every part of the chicken gets marinated, but it’s not essential.
  4. About 2 hours and 15 minutes before you want to eat, get ready to roast: Take the chicken bundle out of the fridge and leave on the counter for 1 hour to lose some chill. Heat the oven to 425°F (220°C) with a rack in the center.
  5. Just before roasting, ready the chicken: Find a 10-inch (25cm) cast-iron skillet or shallow roasting pan. Remove the chicken from the plastic bag, scraping off as much buttermilk with your fingers as you reasonably can. Set the chicken in the pan, breast-side up. Tightly tie the legs of the chicken together with a piece of kitchen twine.
  6. Start roasting: Set the pan in the oven on the center rack and slide the pan all the way to the back. Turn the pan so the chicken legs are pointing toward the back left corner and the breast is pointing toward the center of the oven (the back corners are usually the hottest spots in the oven, so this positioning will help keep the breast from overcooking before the legs are done). Close the oven—the chicken should start sizzling soon.
  7. Turn the pan: After the chicken starts to brown, about 20 minutes, turn down the heat to 400°F (200°C). Roast for another 10 minutes, then use oven mitts to turn the pan so the legs are facing the back right corner of the oven.
  8. Finish roasting and eat: Continue cooking until the chicken is beautifully browned all over and, when you insert a knife down to the bone between the leg and the thigh, the meat looks firm and pale, not squishy and pink, and the juices run clear, about 30 minutes more (an instant-read thermometer will register 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part of the thigh and breast). Using tongs, lift the chicken to a cutting board (preferably with a groove to catch any juices) or platter and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving with a sharp knife and serving.
  9. Store: Roast chicken, tightly sealed in the refrigerator, makes excellent leftovers. You can either carve or pull off all the meat so it’s easier to use throughout the week, or stick the whole bird on a plate and cover it with a reusable beeswax wrap or plastic wrap for 4 days, or freeze in an airtight container for 4 months. Eat it cold, warm, or hot, in sandwiches, soups, grain bowls, tacos, and more.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • BarbaraTheCook
  • Serina Desai
    Serina Desai
  • rbrock1225
  • Deegee
  • Robin Jervey
    Robin Jervey

13 Reviews

BarbaraTheCook November 20, 2022
Wow wow wow-- such moist chicken, made perfectly. I followed the recipe exactly. I had no problems at all- very good directions. Made for our pre-holiday party and everyone commented on how good it was. Can't wait to make sandwiches and salads with the leftovers.
maryjane November 19, 2022
Very salty. Directions don't make much sense, as all of the rigamarole is not necessary. Better to have cooked this size chicken at 325* for 1 hour 15 minutes. Consider adding how to season (no salt) prior to cooking.
Robin J. November 23, 2022
I don’t see any instructions to salt prior to cooking, just scraping off the marinade with fingers before putting in pan.
Nathalie March 17, 2023
It’s right in the recipe - 4 teaspoons salt in the marinade and 1 tablespoon salt ti be rubbed on and in chicken
Jen B. November 15, 2022
Love this recipe for the whole bird, but would this work with a large bunch of chicken legs? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated, as we usually do two whole turkey breasts and about two dozen chicken legs roasted for Thanksgiving.
Serina D. November 13, 2022
Not a review but more of a question…do you season with anything besides buttermilk and salt?
Merry November 13, 2022
We did not, and in fact cut back on the salt for that final seasoning prior to roasting.
Serina D. November 13, 2022
Thank you!
Dot L. November 16, 2022
I have been making this for a long time. I put one or two peeled garlic cloves in with the buttermilk. Also some bay leaves and paprika. Both smoked and sweet are good. I like to put some vegetables like carrots, sliced onions, and some thyme sprigs under the chicken when roasting.
Serina D. November 16, 2022
This sounds great. I always like to try a recipe as is first, but I know my family would appreciate more flavor than just salt…especially the garlic!
Merry November 13, 2022
A truly perfect recipe. Every time we make it, we fall in love all over again.
rbrock1225 November 13, 2022
This is a terrific recipe. And if you haven't watched Samin Nosrat's video on making the turkey version, I'd highly recommend it.

Also, I usually spatchcock a chicken for roasting. Besides cutting off the wing tip for broth, I also add the backbone. THe other part that I cut out of a spatchcocked bird is the keel bone (actually cartiledge). I've found that I can easily get even a full-sized roaster into a gallon Ziploc bag.

Take the spatchcocked bird and lay it on a rack, arrange the wings, but fold the legs so they're point away from the bird, resting the thigh over part of the breast. This protects the breast meat & keeps it from overheating.

Best of all is when you go to serve. The leg/thigh pieces cut off and because there's no keel bone, you can easily split the breast.
Deegee November 13, 2022
Love this recipe. Have made it many times, and it always gets rave reviews. Only difficult part is remembering to start marinating the day before! Have also used it for spatchcocked turkey, for Thanksgiving.