Martha’s Perfect Roast Chicken

Chicken, Gluten-Free, Main Courses / Thursday, July 30th, 2009


Every time I mention roasting a chicken to my mother, she gives me Lecture No. 4,739 about how you “might as well buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery, because it’s cheaper.”

It’s a philosophical difference.

She’s right that it’s (usually) cheaper and very convenient, especially if you’re already at the store, to pick up a chicken that’s table-ready. But, I like to know what’s in and on my chicken, and I like to experiment with different flavors. And, I love that crisp skin. You just can’t get that with a grocery rotisserie chicken, mainly because they rush to get the bird into a plastic container, and it steams in there.

Steam is the sworn enemy of crisp skin.

On the other hand, crisp skin is a stated priority in the recipe for Martha’s Perfect Roast Chicken from “Martha Stewart’s Cooking School.” The very simple recipe. There’s no rounding up a dozen herbs or tinkering with the temperature. You pat the chicken dry (inside and out) to eliminate the steam issue; stuff it with lemon, rosemary and garlic; and roast it “fast and high” at 450 degrees F for about 50 minutes.

While the chicken’s resting sweetly on a platter, you deglaze the roasting pan with white wine or chicken stock, strain it, and add a tablespoon of butter for a rich, simple pan sauce that will make you feel like a Golden Domestic God (or Goddess). Like you could throw TVs out of hotel windows, and no one would say anything, because your pan sauce is that awe-inspiring and worshiped throughout the land.

By the time your roast chicken and pan sauce are ready, the only thing missing will be a crowd of Norman Rockwell-illustrated people sitting around the table, ready to ooh and ah over the juicy, lemony chicken and that crisp, brown skin.

Nothing beats the feeling of mastering a classic. Especially not a container of soggy chicken.

Perfect Roast Chicken

Adapted from “Martha Stewart’s Cooking School”

Serves 4

    For the Chicken:

  • 1 fresh whole chicken (about 4 pounds)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature*
    For Pan Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter*
  1. To Prepare the Chicken: Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Remove giblets and liver from cavity; discard. Let chicken rest at room temperature 1 hour.
  2. Trim excess fat from cavity. Rinse chicken thoroughly under cold water, inside and out, then pat dry, making sure the cavity is as dry as possible. Season cavity with salt and pepper, then stuff with lemon, rosemary and garlic. Rub skin with 2 tablespoons butter. Tie chicken’s legs together with twine. Season all over generously with salt and pepper.
  3. To Roast: Place chicken in a large ovenproof skillet or small roasting pan (fitted with rack, if desired). Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (avoiding bone) registers 165 degrees F, 50 to 55 minutes. Transfer chicken to a platter. Let rest 10 minutes.
  4. To Make Pan Sauce: Spoon and discard fat from juices in pan; pour accumulated juices in chicken cavity and plate into pan. Place pan over medium-high heat. Pour in wine or stock to deglaze pan, stirring and scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Cook until reduced by half, then pour through a small fine sieve into a liquid measuring cup. Return to skillet and add 1 tablespoon butter, swirling pan until melted and incorporated.
  5. Carve chicken and serve with pan sauce.

*Gluten-Free Tip: Make sure your butter is gluten-free.

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16 thoughts on “Martha’s Perfect Roast Chicken

  1. I love Martha's chicken…have made it before and you're right, it doesn't compare to the rotisserie. Have just come across your site on a google search and it is really great…your photos are beautiful and the food all sounds amazing!

  2. Never been much of a tv thrower but I've stolen a few towels in my day. Shhh don't tell.
    I think store bought is ick, much better to make your own. And the house smells so good and the cats go crazy sharking around the kitchen looking for scraps. Can't beat it.

  3. Roast chicken is fall and winter food for us – personally I can't wait – grilled chicken is beginning to wear on us. We have a roast chicken recipe that calls for a similar cooking technique but surrounds the chicken with quartered tomatoes, kalamata olives and onions – yummy!

  4. That chicken looks pretty and golden brown. So much better than store bought. Invite mom over and make it maybe she will change her mind as well.

  5. I love roasted chicken! This looks so simple and delicious.

    Also, is that cookbook good? I've been meaning to buy it, but I have been reluctant about it. Do you like it? Obviously this recipe is a winner :)

  6. Oh gosh, this is such a gorgeous roast chicken! And I love the simplicity of it. I have Martha Stewart's Cooking School on my wish list. This post just made me move it up the ranks closer to the top!

  7. I've always been a scaredy cat about roasting chicken, but this doesnt seem too hard. I think I'll give this a whirl next time whole chicken goes on sale.

  8. I agree, there's nothing better than a home roasted bird & this recipe is wonderful, though it's caused our smoke detector to go off on occasion….as for the pan sauce, oh man! Now you've got my mouth watering for chicky & it's only 7:26 in the morning. What am I to do?

  9. Nothing like roast chicken! If you want to skip the sauce and like the idea of the pan drippings creating roasted crutons, go to the the New York Times website and search roast chicken (March 2009 recipe). You slather some olive oil on the chicken, stuff it with lemon, garlic & thyme, drizzle olive oil on thick slices of bread, put the chicken on top of the bread and roast away.

  10. Your chicken looks WONDERFUL! I have to admit, I am a SUCKER for crispy skin…and I eat it, I don't care that it's probably better not to. I tried to roast a chicken once and it didn't turn out so well…I think maybe I should try it again.

    I see that your chicken is in a cast iron pan…was that your roasting vessel of choice?

  11. I love roast chicken and I absolutely agree with you that a homemade bird is so much better than a store bought one. I have Martha's Cooking School book but I haven't tried too many of the recipes yet. I need to change that!

  12. So right. You know how everyone "tents" the chicken while it's resting? I don't do it, because all that effort to get crispy skin goes to waste from the steam that builds up unde the foil.

  13. Arrrgh! This happened to me once. By any chance, were you using a chicken you'd frozen and then thawed? Sometimes the rest of the chicken will feel like it's ready to go, but the inside cavity will still be way too cold. Cold enough to cook more slowly than the rest of the bird.

    If that definitely wasn't the case, let me know, and I'll try to help. Also, you can always e-mail me at

  14. Normally this would be one of two things: either your chicken may have been a bit frozen or that you used too big of bird. Either one of these (or a combination of both) would result in an overly done outside and a raw inside.

    A third issue could be that you might have had the chicken in the wrong position in your oven. Our oven has a temperature discrepancy between the top and bottom elements, so we typically have to cook food on the higher racks so as not to burn the bottom. Get an oven thermometer and hang it in various places in your oven to find out the optimal "center" of your oven.

  15. I'm on a quest for the perfect roast chicken, although it's also my belief that roast chicken falls into the same category as pizza and sex – even when it's not great, it's still pretty good. This is tops on my list and on the weekend's agenda. Thank you!

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