Ina Garten’s lemon chicken is “the best roast chicken I’ve ever made.” That’s what we hear time after time from everyone we know who makes this roast chicken from the Barefoot Contessa. Tasting is believing.
I’ve made Ina Garten’s lemon chicken no fewer than a dozen times, and each and every guest has raved. It’s also a favorite of The One’s family, especially his niece, Callie.
I have a special relationship with the lemony and schmaltzy croutons in this recipe that soak up all the juices from the hen. In fact, I’ve always made extra croutons, just for me, ever since I had to practically tackle others at the table for the last few croutons on the platter. (My solution? Stash some croutons in the kitchen, far from the prying eyes of assertive guests. How easy is that?!)–David Leite
☞ Table of Contents
Why our testers loved this
This roast chicken recipe is a favorite among our testers. They found it to be easy to make and so tender that Suzanne Fortier’s siblings were tearing meat directly from the carcass at the dinner table.
Kristen K. proclaimed it, “the easiest, most gorgeous, and most delicious chicken I’ve ever made.”
Notes on ingredients
- Whole chicken–A 4-to-5-pound bird is perfect for the recipe. You don’t need the giblets or gizzards. Freeze them then pull them out when making chicken stock or chicken gravy.
- Lemons–Since you’re cramming the lemons inside of the chicken, small organic lemons work best here.
- Bread cubes–Use sturdy bread for this, such as artisan bread, sourdough, or baguette. A one-pound loaf of bread will give you more than enough croutons. (Even if you want to make extra for yourself.)
Lemon Chicken FAQs
Can this recipe be made with chicken pieces instead of a whole chicken?
You can, but you’ll need to adjust your oven temperature and cooking time accordingly. A whole chicken contains 2 breast halves, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, and 2 wings – but when separated, the wing pieces will bake far more quickly than the other pieces. Use bone-in pieces for the most comparable results, and tuck the lemons closely around the chicken.
What should I serve with lemon chicken?
We like to highlight the bright lemony flavors in the chicken dish, and suggest this lemon-thyme risotto or Ina Garten’s Mashed Potato with Lemon and this simple celery salad. If you’d rather not have such a citrus-forward meal, we also love asparagus and brussels sprouts in all of their forms and potatoes roasted in olive oil and sprinkled liberally with sea salt.
Ina Garten’s Lemon Chicken
- 1 large yellow onion thickly sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for the onions
- One (4- to 5-pound) roasting chicken
- 2 small lemons quartered
- 2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsalted butter melted (or, if keeping kosher, substitute chicken fat or margarine)
- 6 cups bread cubes each 3/4 inch (18 mm) thick, from a baguette, boule, or other artisanal loaf
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C).
- In a small roasting pan, toss the onion with a little olive oil.
- Pat the chicken dry and place it on the onion. Sprinkle the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper and cram the lemons into the cavity.
- Brush the chicken skin with the melted butter and sprinkle with generous amounts of salt and pepper. Tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken and, if desired, tie the legs together with kitchen string.
- Roast the chicken for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, until the juices run clear when you make a slit between the leg and the thigh with the tip of a sharp knife.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high, heat the 2 tablespoons oil until very hot. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the bread, and let it toast, tossing frequently and adding more oil if needed, until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and sprinkle the bread with the 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
- Loosely cover the chicken with foil and let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Grab a platter and place the croutons on it. Carve the chicken and place the pieces on the croutons. Spoon the pan juices over the chicken. Taste and, if desired, sprinkle with salt.
- Onions–If the onions start to burn, remove the pan from the oven, carefully lift the chicken, and tuck the onions underneath.
- Croutons–Don’t use packaged, dry-as-cement croutons. By toasting fresh bread, the croutons remain soft enough to absorb all that buttery lemon flavor.
- Browning–If your chicken is browning too quickly while roasting, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This is the best roast chicken I’ve ever made. I’ve tried probably more than 100 roast chicken recipes in my life. They never meet my expectations. This was the easiest, most gorgeous, and most delicious chicken I’ve ever made. It brought tears to my husband’s eyes and I was strutting around the house like I’d just won a pageant. Simply amazing.
The only thing I changed was to add some chicken stock to the pan and set it over a flame to reduce. After straining everything at the bottom of the pan, you’re left with a rich, dark, and delicious pan sauce. I’m tearing up just writing about it. Thank you. I really, really want to hug you!
“Mom, you are awesome!” is a quote I love to hear. Coming home to Ina Garten’s lemon chicken for dinner produces just that reaction from my 2 teenage boys, who play soccer after school, and my husband, who works long days, often without a break for lunch.
Being out of the house before dinner is the norm for me, so dinners that need to bake for more than an hour are impossible. I decided to try to produce the same great chicken using the slow cooker. I added another onion and 2 more small lemons, and I cut these in half and placed them on the bottom of my 7-quart slow cooker. I followed Ina’s instructions from there, using salt and pepper and placing the lemons in the chicken cavity and then brushing the skin with butter and seasoning it with more salt and pepper.
I cooked the chicken on high for 2 hours and low for 3 1/2 hours. When I got home, I could tell the chicken was done and juicy. Copying a technique from Ellie Krieger’s Broiled Buffalo Wings from this site, I then put the chicken under the broiler to blister and crisp the skin for more of that roasted texture and appearance. It turned out perfect, with raves from all! I will definitely do this recipe this way again.
I was first served this dish at the home of a well-known website publisher. I assumed it was so good because he made it, but when I invited my family over for Sunday dinner, I decided to try it.
The recipe couldn’t have been easier and the results couldn’t have been more spectacular. My siblings were ripping the meat off the carcass at the dinner table. They raved madly about it for hours—and even several bottles of wine later.
I was serving 5 meat-eating adults and a couple of small kids, so I cooked two 3 1/2-pound free-range natural chickens, side by side, in a large roasting pan. I used a loaf of durum wheat bread from Seven Stars Bakery in Providence for the croutons.
Thank you, Ina!
Originally published February 14, 2013