Roast Chicken with Lemon

The secret to this flavorful, juicy roast chicken with lemon is a dry brine. The bird is rubbed with salt and sits overnight in the fridge. The next day, it’s rinsed, lemon slices are slid under its skin, and the whole shebang is roasted. A simple pan gravy knocks this over the top.

Roast chicken with lemon slices under the skin in a oval metal pan

Is anything more homey or more knee-wobblingly satisfying than crisp-skinned chicken roasted with vegetables to soak up the pan juices? Sounds like Sunday supper to us. Sounds like supper any day of the week, actually.
Renee Schettler

*What Is a Dry Brine?

Is it just us or is anyone else sorta annoyed by the concept of brining a bird in salt water? Yes, the technique turns out a spectacularly moist hen. And yes, we actually have several lovely brine recipes on the site. But who has a container large enough to contain the bird and the water? Even if you have said container, how on earth do you manage to find space to cram it into your fridge without sacrificing Tuesday night’s leftovers to the countertop?! Enter this dry brined roast chicken with lemon. It requires just a simple salting of the bird. Then it’s tucked in a resealable plastic bag and shoved atop whatever stuff is already monopolizing your precious fridge real estate. Thing is, the taste is so good, the skin so crisp, the meat so tender, we’d actually make the effort to wet brine this if that’s what it took to achieve these results. Fortunately, that’s not the case.

Roast Chicken with Lemon

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 45 M
  • 2 H, 20 M
  • Serves 4 to 6
5/5 - 1 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food cookbook

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  • For the dry brine*
  • For the herb butter
  • For the roast chicken
  • For the pan gravy


Dry brine the chicken

Pat the chicken dry and sprinkle it inside and out with the salt. Slide it inside a large resealable plastic bag and refrigerate for at least 16 hours and up to 48 hours.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 1 hour before roasting and place it on the counter.

Preheat the oven

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

Mix the herb butter

In a bowl, mix together the butter and minced thyme.

Prepare the chicken

Rinse the chicken inside and out under cold running water and pat the chicken very, very dry.  Starting at the cavity, gently slip your fingers underneath the chicken skin and loosen it all over, reaching as far as possible into the thigh and breast area and being careful not to tear it.

Using your fingers, massage the herb butter under the skin to distribute it as evenly as possible. Slip the lemon slices under the breast skin, arranging 4 slices on each side. (If you have a small bird and the slices don’t all fit, overlap them or simply tuck the extra lemon in the cavity.) Rub the chicken all over with the oil and season with the 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bend the wing tips and tuck them under the shoulders. Don’t truss the chicken.

Roast the chicken

Place a large, heavy, ovenproof skillet (preferably cast iron) in the oven and heat until very hot, about 5 minutes. Twist a 12-inch (30-centimeter) length of aluminum foil into a rope and fashion it into a ring. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully place the ring in the pan. Place the chicken, breast side up, on the ring.

Return the skillet to the oven and roast, basting occasionally with the fat in the pan, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh away from the bone registers 165°F (74°C), anywhere from 45 to 80 minutes, depending on the size of the bird.

Rest the bird

Place the chicken on a rimmed platter and let stand for at least 15 minutes before carving.

Make the pan gravy

While the chicken rests, remove and discard the foil ring from the skillet. Pour the pan drippings into a large heatproof liquid measuring cup. Let stand for a few minutes, then spoon off and reserve the fat floating on the surface of the drippings. Add enough stock to the drippings left in the cup to total 2 cups (16 ounces) liquid.

Place the skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons reserved fat to the skillet and whisk in the flour, stirring until a thick paste forms. Let the mixture bubble for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the stock mixture and the cream and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, whisking frequently, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and add the thyme sprigs, if using.

Carve, serve, enjoy

Carve the chicken, pile it onto a platter, and pass the gravy on the side. Originally published April 12, 2015.

Print RecipeBuy the Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Recipe Testers' Reviews

It felt like a special occasion when I served this beautiful roast chicken with lemon. The thyme and gravy make it a great dish to serve to guests...but I didn't. My chicken was only 3 1/2 pounds, so my husband and I enjoyed it as a special weeknight meal.

I like the idea that I could dry brine it the night before. (I left it in the fridge for 30 hours!) Massaging the butter mixture under the skin worked well. My little chicken still took 1 hour and 10 minutes. For the gravy, I didn't get 2 cups liquid but also knew I wouldn't need that much for just the two of us, so I reduced the liquid to 1 cup. It was all very tasty!

This roast chicken with lemon taught me two new delicious techniques, so in my book, that already makes it a winner. I love the idea of brining, but I hate the fuss of liquid brines or even dry brines with a ton of ingredients. Plus, as a single working mom, I just don't have the time. But slap a few tablespoons of salt on a bird and toss it in the fridge for the day? I can do that! Simple? Check. Relatively little hands-on time? Check. Delicious? Check. Loved it!

I placed the salted bird on a plate in the kitchen and drained it twice over an 8-hour period. Then I let it rest at room temperature for 1 hour before rinsing and preparing it for the oven. Because I used a 4 1/2-pound organic roasting chicken, I was only able to fit 2 slices lemon per side. The hen was cooked perfectly after 1 hour, 10 minutes. I had 1/4 cup juices in the pan after skimming the fat, so I added about 1 1/2 cups chicken broth to the pan. I only used 2 tablespoons flour and omitted the cream. The gravy was still thick and full-bodied, possessing a wonderful flavor without adding any additional seasoning (minus the thyme sprigs).

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