This Lemon and Thyme Roast Chicken is a quick-and-easy dinner idea that the whole family will love. It’s as simple as stuffing a chicken with some lemon and thyme (I also like to add smashed garlic cloves) and tying it tight with some butcher’s twine (also known as trussing). The combination of lemon and thyme adds so much flavour to the chicken as it roasts in the oven and gets all crispy and juicy.
It also happens to be Paleo and Whole30 friendly and makes for delicious leftovers throughout the week. The dark meat (or breast for that matter) is perfect for some Chicken Pot Pie.
Once the chicken has been stuffed and seasoned all over with salt and pepper, it’s placed in a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven and roasted in a hot oven for about 50 minutes (depending on the size of the bird). If you don’t have any cast-iron cookware, you could use just about any oven-safe pan you have (such as stainless-steel).
This recipe was originally adapted from one by Thomas Keller. Keller prefers to leave the cavity of the chicken empty while roasting because he does not want to introduce any excess moisture or steam into the bird, which can result in a less crispy skin. However, I feel as though stuffing the chicken is a great opportunity to impart more flavours. Also, if you take the time to dry the bird thoroughly with paper towel before roasting, you will still end up with a delicious, crispy skin (by far the best part!).
Lemon and thyme roast chicken is just one possibility, but the combinations are endless. You could do orange and rosemary, apple and sage, or other pairings that go well together. My grandmother used to make roast chicken stuffed with apples and prunes all the time.
If you want to round out the meal, you can add some potatoes or veggies to the bottom of the pan and rest the chicken right on top, breast-side up. Just make sure you chop the veggies big enough so that they cook at the same rate as the chicken.
Do I Have to Truss My Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken
Although this lemon and thyme roast chicken is really easy, it does involve trussing the chicken. Not only is trussing a chicken a satisfying skill to learn, it also results in a more evenly cooked chicken. Not to mention the fact that the bird presents a bit nicer on the table when you cook it this way.
You can, of course, skip this step if you don’t feel comfortable doing it. However, I really encourage you to try it.
To help you learn to truss a chicken I made this YouTube video.
A Few Tips for Perfect Lemon and Thyme Roast Chicken
1. Let the Chicken Come to Room Temperature
To ensure the lemon and thyme roast chicken cooks evenly, it’s best to let it come to room temperature before sliding it into the preheated oven. A cold chicken will not only take longer to cook through to the centre, it will also cause the temperature in the oven to drop. This means that the oven has to take time to come back up to 425F.
2. Resist the Urge to Open the Oven Door.
I know, I know! You want to take a peak and see how the chicken is doing! But the more you open the oven door, the more heat escapes, resulting in a longer cooking time.
3. Add Oil, But Only If You Want It
I don’t usually rub this lemon and thyme roast chicken with any oil. The chicken will render plenty of its own delicious fat (also known as schmaltz). By the end of the cooking process, you should have quite a bit of rendered fat in the bottom of the pan that you can then use to baste the bird.
4. Broil For Extra Crispy Skin
This step is optional, but I like to finish the chicken off by broiling it for 2 or 3 minutes. This gets the skin really crispy. HOWEVER, be very careful if broiling. The skin can burn very quickly if you’re not paying attention. The last thing you want to do is ruin the best part of the chicken!
- 1 Free-range antibiotic and hormone free chicken (approx. 3 - 3.5 lbs)
- Kosher Salt
- Freshly-cracked black pepper
- 8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 lemon plus juice of 1/2 lemon
- 6 to 7 garlic cloves smashed but skin left on
- Remove the chicken from fridge 1 hour before cooking and let it come to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- Pat the chicken dry with paper towel and liberally season the inside and outside with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with 1 lemon (cut in quarters), thyme, and garlic. Truss the bird so that the legs seal the cavity.
- Transfer the chicken to an oven-safe skillet or Dutch oven and cook for 50 minutes or until the thickest part of the thigh registers between 165F and 175F, depending on your preference. (Personally, I like the dark meat to register 185F).
- With the bird still in the skillet, add 2-4 sprigs of fresh thyme and the juice of 1/2 lemon to the rendered chicken juices. Using a large spoon or turkey baster, continuously baste the bird with the juices. Switch the oven to broil and broil the chicken until the skin is crispy, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Transfer to a cutting board and let the chicken rest 10 minutes before carving.