Easy Roasted Chicken (Recipe from The Ancestral Table)

It’s hard to believe, but my cookbook, The Ancestral Table, has been out for nearly four months. I keep finding myself surprised whenever someone tells me they have and enjoy my book; for some reason I keep assuming that only our little family regularly uses it as a reference. So I thought it would be fun to take a week off from my regular recipes and share one from The Ancestral Table, as a gentle reminder to myself that there are other people out there who could use these recipes.

Deciding on a dish to share was really easy; we make this roasted chicken recipe at least once every two weeks. Simply put, it’s one of the easiest chicken recipes you’ll find, and it’s deliciously crispy and juicy. Cooking the bird directly in a skillet also makes it a cinch to whip the drippings into a flavorful gravy. Finally, we like to throw the bones and carcass into our electric pressure cooker for a couple hours to make some tasty and calcium-rich broth.

I’m also giving away a copy of my book this week, signed by me and Paul Jaminet (who wrote the foreword of my book). There are only a few copies like this one, so be sure to enter to win (instructions at the bottom of this post).

Easy Roasted Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

1 whole chicken (3-5 lbs preferred)
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 cloves garlic
peel of 1 lemon or orange, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
30″ cooking twine

1. Pat the chicken dry inside and out with paper towels. Let the chicken set out for 1 hour to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 450F.

2. Combine the salt, pepper, and thyme. Season the inside of the chicken with 1/3 of the seasonings, then place the garlic, citrus peel, and bay leaf inside the chicken. Tuck the chicken’s wingtips behind the drumettes so that the tip meets the drummette joint that’s attached to the body.

3. Truss the chicken by placing the center of the twine under the tail, pulling the twine up and over each drumstick, then looping each end of the twine across the chicken’s cavity and under the drumstick, creating a figure-8 shape. Tighten the figure-8 around the legs, then pull the twine down the length of the body, toward the front end, and tie at the front in the notch created by the neck.

4. Sprinkle the remaining seasonings on the outside of the chicken, then place the chicken breast side up in a stainless-steel or cast-iron skillet, or on a baking sheet. Roast until the breasts and thighs register 160F, 50-60 minutes. Remove the twine and let rest for 15 minutes before carving. (Here is a video I made several years ago on how to carve a chicken, using an old, soggier roasted chicken recipe.)

** The secret to an evenly-cooked chicken is threefold: 1) the chicken should be at room temperature by the time it’s put in the oven to speed up the cooking process, 2) it should be trussed to tighten it into one single ball so that it will evenly cook, and 3) the chicken should be relatively dry inside and out so that its natural fat can flavor the bird.

** Unlike many similar recipes, when cooking a chicken at a high heat, it is unnecessary to coat the chicken with butter or oil; the fat may lower the temperature of the chicken and interrupt the cooking process.

** Similarly, it’s better to add only a few small aromatics (in this case, a couple cloves of garlic and some lemon or orange peel) so as not to overstuff the chicken and further reduce its temperature. Adding an onion sounds like a good idea, but it’ll make for a soggy chicken.

** If you’d like to make a gravy to accompany the chicken, here’s how I throw it together. Scrape the drippings into a pan (if you roasted the chicken directly in a pan, you’re already there). Heat the pan over med/low heat, then add 1 tbsp butter. Once the butter is foaming, about 1 minute, add 1 tbsp of white rice flour (coconut flour will also work). Mix everything together into a paste, then let it toast for a couple minutes until slightly darkened, stirring often. Next pour in 1 cup of chicken broth and stir until thickened, adding more broth if it gets too thick. Once it’s reached your desired thickness, season it with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

For the picture at the top of this post, I used the whole chicken from my friends at Tendergrass Farms. I’ve recently been shooting product photos for their website, which really has been an excuse to cook with and sample their meats. Everything I’ve tried so far as been awesome.

Here is an illustration of how to tie the twine around the back end of the chicken, done by Alex Boake. Alex did all of the sketches found in my book, and she did a great job!

To enter the giveaway for a signed copy of my book, click here. The giveaway ends midnight, Monday June 9th, 2014. Open to US residents only. Good luck!

52 thoughts on “Easy Roasted Chicken (Recipe from The Ancestral Table)

  1. I have mixed thoughts about the book. My first big turn off is the cover! What’s ancestral about a pizza???



    1. David, think of it more as “ancestral” in the idea that the book contains recipes from previous generations, and not necessarily what our far-reaching ancestors ate. I chose pizza for the cover because I consider it to be an excellent pairing of traditional foods (Pizza Margherita was first documented in 1889) and modern taste preferences, similar to the approach I took for most of the dishes found in my book. Hope that makes sense! Here is a list of all the recipes found in my book: https://thedomesticman.com/2014/01/11/the-ancestral-table-recipe-list/


  2. Thanks! I really suck at roasting chicken and this gives me some good pointers which I didn’t know about. What’s the deal with onion making the bird soggy? I think I’ve ruined a couple that way. Your posts are great! Entertaining and well written and recipes are excellent.


    1. Hi Jorma, glad to hear you like my recipes! Adding anything bulky and moist is going to end up steaming the chicken once it gets hot enough, which will contribute to a soggy chicken. That’s why it’s better to use citrus peel instead of actual sliced citrus fruit, or just a couple cloves of garlic instead of an onion.


  3. Hi Russ I just got your cook book. LOVE IT!!!! Today I’ll read your view on dairy, potatoes and rice. To be honest, I love yogurt and popcorn. I figure that if I eat 90% Paleo and 10% not so Paleo I’m doing good. Besides, who’s to say that one of our ancestors didn’t pick an ancient ear of corn off an ancient corn stalk throw it into the fire, watch it pop, throw the popped kernel into his mouth and declare it good? Just a thought. Peace and All Good Robbie in San Diego


  4. I always cook my chicken veryyyy similar to this (usually just salt and pepper!) and I end up with a LOT of fat in the pan straight from the chicken! Is it just because the chickens I get are fattier? It makes carving so messy when the bottom is soggy :(


    1. Joy, there are two ways you can prevent a soggy chicken bottom. #1 would be to remove the chicken immediately after you take it out of the oven, and put it on a wire cooking rack. Another option would be to cook the chicken directly on a wire rack (with a pan underneath). Both will allow air to circulate around the chicken and let the far drip off. I also end up with a good amount of fat in the pan after cooking, which I use in making my gravy. Hope that helps!


  5. I just signed up for a meat CSA and pick up my first order this Saturday. They said that we typically get a whole chicken every month and I’ve been so nervous about how to prepare it but this makes it super simple! Thank you and I look forward to giving this a try!


    1. I absolutely LOVE that you explain how to truss the chicken AND make the gravy! Never been good at either of those things!


  6. Hello Russ,

    I’m really enjoying your recipes. I’ve never spent much time in the kitchen before, and I’m amazed out how good everything tastes…and how easy you make it for a novice to cook.
    I made this roasted chicken last weekend and it was delicious, but in the last 20 minutes or so, the chicken started to splatter a lot which led to a great deal of smoke in our gas oven. I had the chicken on a wire rack in a roasting pan. Do you have any idea what might have caused this?
    Any help would be appreciated.

    Tom M.


    1. Hi Tom, thanks for writing! Glad you like my recipes. I wouldn’t put the chicken on a wire rack – the distance that the fat is dripping is likely causing the splattering. Just put it directly on the pan; the very bottom of the chicken won’t be as crispy but you’ll get less smoke. You’ll probably still get some splatter, but unfortunately the only fix for that is to loosely drape tin foil over the chicken, which will trap in moisture and make for a soggier bird.


  7. Russ, loved the carving video. I always make the mistake of removing the whole leg and then the bird gets too wobbly to carve. I’m making your roasted chicken recipe tonight and will try leaving on the thighs until last as you show. The only mod I’m making is using half dried thyme and half Herbes de Provence (because I love it so much on chicken).
    Thanks for the great demo!


    1. Hi Leo, brining is not required for a quick roast in the oven like this. The only time I tend to think a brine is necessary is when I smoke a chicken or turkey, since that can dry it out quickly.


  8. Just made this today, and I gotta say this is the first time a roasted chicken recipe came out the way I want a chicken to look and taste! Thanks for this recipe! Now I gotta try your liver and onions one :)


  9. Thanks for this- I combined your technique with a bit of a dry brine (a la Zuni Cafe) and ended up with a moist, beautiful, flavorful bird. Delicious skin! I didn’t have kitchen twine, but managed to use some extra skin to secure the legs. Worked like a charm! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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