Ina Garten’s Lemon Chicken

Ina Garten’s lemon chicken with croutons 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.

Ina Garten's lemon chicken roasted on top of a bed of bread croutons and lemon wedges ina cast iron pan.

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


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

The ingredients for Ina Garten's lemon chicken -- whole chicken, 2 lemons, butter, onion, oil, and a bowl of bread cubes.
  • Whole chicken–A 4-to-5-pound bird is perfect for the roast lemon chicken 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.)

How to make this recipe

An oven knob set to 425 degrees and a black cast-iron pan with raw sliced onions.
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C).
  2. In a small roasting pan, toss the onion with a little olive oil. Mix well so that the onion is evenly coated.
Two raw chickens, each stuffed with lemons on a bed of sliced onions; one unseasoned and the other sprinkled with salt and pepper.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Roast the chicken. Cook, until the juices run clear when pricked with a knife and the internal temperature in the thickest part of the thigh, is 165°F (74°C).
A skillet filled with toasted croutons and a small roasting pan with a cooked whole chicken on top of lemon wedges and croutons.
  1. Toast croutons. While the chicken is roasting, heat the oil in a skillet until very hot. Add the bread and toast until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Let the chicken rest, loosely covered, for 15 minutes. Arrange the croutons on a serving platter. Carve the chicken, and arrange the pieces on top of the croutons, then drizzle with the pan juices.

Recipe 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.

Can I make this in a slow cooker?

Yes, our testers were successful at making this roast lemon chicken recipe in a slow cooker.

Arrange a halved onion and two halved lemons on the bottom of the slow cooker. Prepare the chicken as instructed in the recipe, setting it on top of the onion and lemons. Cook on high for 2 hours, then on low for 3 1/2 hours.

To get crispy skin on the chicken, pop it under the broiler for a few minutes.

Helpful tips

  • If the onions start to burn, remove the pan from the oven, carefully lift the chicken, and tuck the onions underneath.
  • Don’t use packaged, dry-as-cement croutons. By toasting fresh bread, the croutons remain soft enough to absorb all that buttery lemon liquid.
  • If your chicken is browning too quickly while roasting, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.
Close up of croutons and lemon wedges in Ina Garten's lemon chicken in a cast iron pan.

More great roast chicken recipes

☞ If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

Ina Garten’s Lemon Chicken

Ina Garten's lemon chicken roasted on top of a bed of bread croutons and lemon wedges ina cast iron pan.
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.

Prep 15 mins
Cook 1 hr 45 mins
Total 2 hrs
Mains
American
4 servings
1169 kcal
4.81 / 21 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Barefoot in Paris cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Ingredients 

  • 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

Directions
 

  • 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 lemon chicken and place the pieces on the croutons. Spoon the pan juices over the chicken. Taste and, if desired, sprinkle with salt.
Print RecipeBuy the Barefoot in Paris cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Notes

  1. Onions–If the onions start to burn, remove the pan from the oven, carefully lift the chicken, and tuck the onions underneath.
  2. 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.
  3. Browning–If your chicken is browning too quickly while roasting, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portion (1/4 chicken)Calories: 1169kcal (58%)Carbohydrates: 49g (16%)Protein: 74g (148%)Fat: 75g (115%)Saturated Fat: 22g (138%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 15gMonounsaturated Fat: 31gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 336mg (112%)Sodium: 949mg (41%)Potassium: 981mg (28%)Fiber: 6g (25%)Sugar: 8g (9%)Vitamin A: 3340IU (67%)Vitamin C: 41mg (50%)Calcium: 167mg (17%)Iron: 9mg (50%)

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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 two 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 cook 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 two more small lemons. I cut the lemons 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.

The roast lemon chicken turned out perfect, with raves from all! I will definitely do this recipe this way again.

I was first served this roast lemon chicken 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 after 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!

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Hi David,

    My family and I thoroughly enjoyed this roast chicken–it was absolutely delicious and so easy to make! This my first BFC recipe and definitely not my last. I really loved your story, too.

    Regards,

    Nancy

    1. Hi Nancy. So glad you liked the recipe and the story. If this is your first time to the site, welcome. If not, then hello again. Generally, you’ll find Barefoot Contessa recipes to be pretty much spot on, although I find she uses too much salt–and I have a heavy hand with salt.

    1. Lloyd, it could. My concern is, because it has to cook longer, the onions would scorch. I’d do some research into high-heat roasting of turkeys to get a sense of how to handle the bird. (I consider 425°F to be high for a turkey, unless you’re roasting using a high-heat method.)

      1. Hello David,

        Thank you for your reply.

        I agree perhaps this temp would be a bit much. When we do any fowl we always brine simply with water and sea salt.Usually for no less than 2-3 hours. For a 10lb. turkey probably about 12 hours. We even brine boneless breast. However never dark meat such as boneless thighs. We find that by brineing that after cooking the meat is always moist and is cooked to the bone with no red or pink. This also gives us assurance that the meat is cooked through.

        Absolutely love your site and it is our “go to” site for all cooking.

        Oh, and the stories are great!

        Again thank you & regards,

        Lloyd

        1. Llyod, if you’re going to brine the turkey, the vegetables under the turkey might be too salty. It depends how strong the brine is and for how long you keep the turkey in it. So keep that in mind while cooking. And, please, send photos when you’ve made it!!

  2. Hi David! The last commenter had it right- I love your style, very Sedaris-esque 🙂 I went to your session at BlogHer Food in Austin this year and actually felt the same way about you as you do about Ina! Talk about being surrounded by your food idols. I’m still feeling inspired by that weekend.

    But yes, Ina. Love. I actually really like her show- it seems like it’s the only one of the Food Network shows left that’s actually about … well, food, and not some extreme challenge or whatnot! The roast chicken sounds absolutely lovely. I think my fiance and I would fight over who gets to eat more croutons! YUM. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    1. Mallory, my pleasure. (And thanks for the compliment!) If you make the recipe, report back what you and your fiancé think. I’d marry just about anyone who offered me this chicken on a weekly basis.

  3. Loved the story! A bit David Sedais and Robert Rodi combined. It laughed, I cried, I loved it! Now I’m gonna take a peek at your first book:)

  4. Love Ina’s practicality and TV persona. She’s so–well, me. Wish we knew one another better so you would get the full breadth of that comment. Meeting her for you was like meeting you for us/me at the FBC conference last weekend. But a Canadian would never be an overt sycophant. Probably not even a covert one. We expect nothing and give all… then get so much in return. So wonderful meeting you, David.

    🙂 (cannot resist)

    Valerie

    1. Valerie, well, I’m still thrilled about my time spent in Canada, and how lovely everyone was. Oh, and a little sycophantic adulation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, is it!

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