Lemon Roast Chicken
Photography by  Blue Caleel

Photography by Blue Caleel

This is probably one of the easiest recipes I make. There are only six ingredients, and you just throw it all in the oven. Then, one hour later, you have of my favorite things to eat. I make this for my family at least once every couple of weeks. My children love rice, so I frequently make it with Nishiki Rice, but torn bread croutons are equally delicious and also beautiful. Do whatever is easiest for you. I usually serve it with with green beans and a salad made with radishes, carrots, and Buttermilk Dressing. It is the ultimate comfort food meal, and I always feel healthy and nourished after I eat it.

Since we all love dark meat, I always make two chickens so we can each get a leg and a thigh. I use the leftover white breast meat to either make Chicken Salad, Chicken Enchiladas, Chicken Soup, or Chicken Sandwiches. Just omit one of the chickens if you want to make this recipe for one. You can use glass or ceramic rectangular baking dishes, a roasting pan, or a cast iron fry pan; they all work. The drippings from the chicken make a lemon garlic sauce to drizzle over the chicken.

Maili's Notes:  I do not truss my chickens. I feel like the air circulates better around the leg and thigh if it is not pressed against the breast. Also, it leaves the cavity of the chicken exposed, allowing hot air to circulate inside the chicken. There are many myths in cooking, and one of them is that the breast will be more moist if you truss the chicken. Well, that is not true because the breast is still completely exposed to the air. It may look slightly prettier, but for taste, trussing never made sense to me.



2 whole chickens

Olive Oil

Kosher Salt

2 whole lemons, cut into wedges

2 heads of garlic

Fresh Thyme, optional


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove the liver, hearts, necks and giblets from the inside of the chicken. (If you are feeling extra ambitious, you can make stock with the neck, wings, and back and make chicken liver pate from the liver.)

Rinse and pat dry the whole chickens. (Chicken, like most meat, will not brown properly if it is wet.)

Place the chickens in a roasting or a ceramic baking dish. Rub olive oil all over the chicken.

Squeeze lemon wedges over the chicken. Then put the squeezed lemon pieces both inside the chicken and in the pan.

Cut the top off the head of garlic and put the garlic cut-side down in the pan.

Put the chickens in the 400 degree oven and roast for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 375 and roast for another 45 minutes to an hour depending on the size of your chickens. The average chicken takes an hour, total, to cook. A slightly larger chicken will take an hour and 15 minutes.


Tearing the beautiful sourdough Levain from  The Bakers' Table  to make croutons. You can also cut the bread into squares, but I love the look of the hand-torn pieces.

Tearing the beautiful sourdough Levain from The Bakers' Table to make croutons. You can also cut the bread into squares, but I love the look of the hand-torn pieces.


The croutons will only be as good as the bread you use, so be sure to buy the best bread you can find.  Day old bread works the best.

1 day old loaf of sourdough Levain or another delicious bread

Olive Oil or Chicken Fat

Kosher Salt


Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Tear the bread into pieces.  Alternately, if you prefer a different look, you can slice the bread into squares with a bread knife.

Toss with either olive oil or chicken fat.  Spread out evenly on a baking sheet--be careful not to overcrowd the bread!--so that it will crisp nicely.

If you are using the drippings from the roast chicken, there should already be enough salt. If you are using olive oil, you will want to sprinkle the bread lightly with salt. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in a 375 degree oven, until golden brown.

Croutons can also be made from frying the bread in olive oil in a pan on the stove. Usually, the oven method is considered the easiest way, but do whatever works best for you.

Fill a platter with the croutons on place the chicken on top of them.


Maili Halme