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Roasted Whole Chicken with Garlic and Herbs

5 from 7 community reviews

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This basic recipe for roast whole chicken is amazingly juicy and tender! Follow these step-by-step directions and win over the hearts of the people you love with this foolproof recipe for roasted chicken recipe that’s seasoned with lemon, garlic, and herbs.

A roasted whole chicken in an oval cast iron baking dish, with lemon and a gray napkin.

If you’ve never attempted to roast a whole chicken, this is a basic method to learn. It makes a tender, perfectly seasoned juicy chicken with a minimum amount of work. It’s as simple as a classic beer-can chicken recipe on the grill, and just as versatile.

I’ve been cooking professionally and as a home cook for years and years, and have roasted so many chickens I’m afraid to count them! But long before I was comfortable in the kitchen, this somewhat old-fashioned roast chicken recipe is the one I start with.

Learn how to:

Fun fact: Versions of this chicken are known as “Marry Me Roast Chicken” or “Engagement Chicken because dozens upon dozens of proposals came about after it was served.

Move over, Ina Garten

When I heard that people were going crazy over this chicken, I noticed immediately that the recipe was almost the exact replica of the best roast chicken recipe from acclaimed Italian cooking teacher and author, Marcella Hazan.

Her roast lemon chicken is as easy as it gets — it calls for a chicken, a lemon and salt.

A whole raw chicken prepped on a cutting board with fresh lemons, garlic, thyme and salt and pepper.
All you need are three ingredients to make a perfect roast chicken.

I first came across it in Marcella’s cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking — which by the way is a book I’d ABSOLUTELY grab on the way out of my house if it was burning down.

I’ve tweaked the recipe over time to suit to my family’s taste, but remains true to the original. First, I added a whole head of garlic and handfuls of fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme to the chicken to add more flavor. I also adjusted the oven temperature to achieve a deeper color and crisper texture on the skin.

Best roasting pans for chicken

You don’t need a fancy piece of cookware to roast a chicken. In fact, the simpler the better.

  • The best choice are pans that are about 12-inches, just the size to hold the chicken without too much space around it.
  • I don’t recommend using a pan more than 3-inches deep, such as a basic casserole-style dish. Because the chicken will be resting deeper inside the pan, the oven heat won’t be able to circulate all around. That means the chicken skin won’t brown evenly, and will steam instead of crisp.

Use any one of these pans to roast a chicken:

Chicken roasted with lemon

  • The magic of this recipe is that the whole lemon bastes the chicken from the inside out. As the chicken gets hotter and hotter in the oven, the juices come out of the lemon and ooze out into the chicken parts — thigh, wing, breast and skin.
  • All you need to do is poke some holes in a small lemon and stick it inside the chicken cavity. When you carve into the chicken, you’ll see all those juices spill out to make a natural tangy sauce.

Tying or trussing a chicken

There are many ways to truss a chicken, but honestly I often go with the easiest, quickest method — tying the legs together with string.

The goal here is to keep the lemon and other seasonings in the cavity so they can work their magic, seasoning and moistening the chicken while it cooks. It’s easy!

  1. Cut a 12-inch length of kitchen twine or plain cotton string.
  2. Loop the string around each leg, then tie it securely in front of the cavity. Done!

How to roast a whole chicken

A whole raw chicken prepped on a cutting board with fresh lemons, garlic, thyme and salt and pepper.
  1. Properly season your bird with plenty of salt and pepper. Seriously, this is the key to a tasty, super-juicy chicken, whether it’s a roasted whole bird or portioned into baked chicken quarters.

Note on seasoning: I use more than a tablespoon of coarse kosher salt plus a full teaspoon of fresh black pepper both inside the cavity and rubbed all over the skin. If you’re using regular table salt, decrease the total amount to 2 teaspoons.

2. Next, insert the lemon, garlic cloves and herbs inside the chicken and tie it up with a piece of string. You can also use toothpicks pushed through the skin on either side of the cavity.

3. Drizzle some olive oil over the bottom of pan so the breast skin doesn’t stick to the pan and minimize tearing when you turn the chicken over.

4. Preheat the oven while the chicken rests at room temperature. Marcella starts her chicken in a preheated 350 oven, but I like to get my bird nice and hot right away.

Pro tip: To ensure a crisp, golden skin, it’s best to start roasting your chicken in a 425-degree oven for 25 minutes. Then turn the temperature down to 375 degrees to finish roasting, which takes another 25-30 minutes depending on the size of your chicken. To help determine doneness, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. It should read between 160-165 degrees.

Choose the perfectly sized chicken

  • The ideal weight for a roasting chicken is 3-4 pounds, typically called a “fryer”
  • Confusingly, chickens larger than 4 pounds are often called “roasters” in many grocery stores. In my opinion, they’re not as tender and juicy as fryer birds.
A roasted whole chicken in an oval cast iron baking dish, with lemon and a gray napkin.

The smell that comes out of the oven while this little bird is cooking is amazing! Don’t be surprised if brings people into the kitchen before it’s done.

What to serve with it:

A simple whole roast chicken makes a comforting dinner that everyone seems to love. Make it a whole meal by serving with all the pan juices and some delicious sides:

Be sure to save the bones and carcass to make homemade chicken broth!

Roast Whole Chicken with Garlic and Herbs

Karen Tedesco
This basic recipe for roast whole chicken is amazingly juicy and tender. Win over the hearts of the people you love with this foolproof recipe for roasted chicken with lemon, garlic and herbs.
Print Pin
5 from 7 community reviews
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Course Chicken
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings


  • 1 (1.3 kg) 3-4 pound whole chicken
  • 4 teaspoons (55 g) kosher salt, I use Diamond brand or coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small head garlic, sliced in half
  • 1 small lemon or half of a large one, punctured about a dozen times with a skewer
  • 1 handful mixed fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, tarragon, rosemary or lavender
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  • Pat the chicken as dry as possible with paper towels and place in a shallow casserole dish or roasting pan. A quarter-sheet pan is the perfect size for one whole chicken.
  • Put 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon of the pepper, the garlic, lemon and herbs into the cavity. Rub the remaining 2 teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper all over the skin — front, sides and back. Tie the legs together firmly with a piece of kitchen string.
  • Drizzle the oil into the pan, and turn the chicken breast side down. Let it sit at room temperature while you preheat the oven to 425 (220 C) degrees, for at least 20 minutes. Make sure the oven rack is set in the center of the oven.
  • Roast the chicken for 25 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and carefully turn it so the breast is facing up. Put it back into the oven, turn the temperature down to 375 (190 C) and roast for 25-30 more minutes. When it's done, the chicken will be sizzling and spitting, the legs joints will wiggle and the skin should be golden and crisp. You can take its temperature with a digital thermometer if you're unsure: 160-165 degrees before resting is my preference.
  • Take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest, loosely covered with a piece of aluminum foil for 15 minutes. Carve and serve with reserved juices from the pan and the inside of the chicken.

Karen’s Notes and Tips

  • No kitchen string? Close the cavity with a few toothpicks pushed through the skin on either side of the cavity instead.
  • If you’re using regular table salt instead of kosher salt, decrease the total amount to 2 teaspoons.
  • Leftover chicken is great to use in baked pasta dishes or sliced up to use in chicken salad sandwiches.
Recipe inspired by “Engagement Chicken” and Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.


Calories: 452kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Sodium: 2460mg | Potassium: 417mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 286IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 36mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition facts are calculated by third-party software. If you have specific dietary needs, please refer to your favorite calculator.

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Hey, I’m Karen

Creator of Familystyle Food

I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about creating elevated dinners with everyday ingredients. Find simplified recipes made from scratch and enjoy incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.

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  1. JMarie White says:

    Should the chicken be placed on a rack?

    1. karen Tedesco says:

      With or without a rack will work just fine.

  2. rhonda jean says:

    Wish me luck going to try baking this for my awesome boyfriend. Rhonda in Anchorage Alaksa

  3. Scott’s been making me this chicken (more or less) every week for the past few months! And I married him!

    1. Yes, it must be the chicken! Even though you married him way before poultry came between you…

  4. We spend our winters in Arizona, not only is there an abundance of sunshine but there is also an abundance of lemons (some are the size of grapefruits)! We were ready to plant a lemon tree in our yard when we realized all our neighbors have them. I’ve made this recipe many times (can’t remember where I got it from – possibly Good Housekeeping magazine). First time I made this, I was in love…..and everyone who eats it feels the same way. We’re back in NYS for the summer, and I need to make this for my family. Thanks for reminding me how much I love this chicken.

    1. Debbie, thanks for sharing that! Sometimes we forget how the simplest food can be the most satisfying, that we turn to again and again.

  5. Kristy Wendt says:

    My mom gave me an herb garden for mother’s day and this recipe will definitely put it to good use. Yum!

  6. Well, I’ve cooked chicken with similar flavorings for the 30 years my husband and I have been together. Most recently last Friday. It’s always been a hit.

    I have not, however, done the ultra hot oven and the turning bit, so I think the next time I bake chicken I will mix it up/turn it like this and who knows, we’ll probably be good for another 30.