Barbara Kafka's Simplest Roast Chicken Recipe on Food52 (2024)

5 Ingredients or Fewer

by: Genius Recipes



39 Ratings

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 50 minutes
  • Serves 2 to 4

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Author Notes

Barbara Kafka's basic formula for roasting chickens in the high-heat method is about ten minutes to the pound for a chicken at room temperature, untrussed. Feel free to adapt this recipe up or down for larger or smaller birds using this rule (up to 7 pounds). Kafka urges us to have fun: "This is not astrophysics." Try stuffing instead with herbs, shallots, a quartered small onion, celery leaves, or juice or blood orange wedges. Recipe adapted from Adapted from Roasting: A Simple Art (William Morrow, 1995) —Genius Recipes

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

  • 1 5- to 6-pound chicken at room temperature, wing tips removed
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 4 whole garlic cloves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
  • 1 dashkosher salt, to taste
  • 1 dashfreshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cupchicken stock, water, fruit juice, or wine for optional deglazing
  • Optional: Potatoes or other vegetables for the pan, to prevent smoke and spattering (see Genius Tip below)
  1. Place rack on second level from bottom of oven. Heat oven to 500°F (or for convection, reduce to 450°F).
  2. Remove the fat from the tail and crop end of the chicken. Freeze the neck and giblets for stock. Reserve chicken livers for another use.
  3. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the lemon, garlic, and butter, if using. Season the cavity and skin with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the chicken in a 12 x 8 x 1 1/2-inch roasting pan breast side up. Put in the oven legs first and roast 50 to 60 minutes, or until the juices run clear. After the first 10 minutes, move the chicken with a wooden spoon or spatula to keep it from sticking.
  5. Remove the chicken to a platter by placing a large wooden spoon into the tail end and balancing the chicken with a kitchen spoon pressed against the crop end. As you lift the chicken, carefully tilt it over the roasting pan so that all the juices run out and into the pan.
  6. Optional: Pour off or spoon out excess fat from the roasting pan and put the roasting pan on top of the stove. Add the stock or other liquid and bring the contents of the pan to a boil, while scraping the bottom vigorously with a wooden spoon. Let reduce by half. Serve the sauce over the chicken or, for crisp skin, in a sauceboat.
  7. Genius Tip from Cook's Illustrated, via the Food52 community: The single complaint about this recipe is that there can be too much sputtering or smoke—Kafka would say this is because you've used too big a pan, your oven was already dirty, or the bird was too close to the top of the oven. Regardless, an ingenious way to prevent sputtering is to add potatoes or other hardy vegetables in large chunks to the pan—they'll absorb the delicious juices from the chicken and keep them from spluttering. Stir the vegetables once or twice during roasting and, if they aren't as evenly browned as you'd like when the chicken is done, simply return the pan to the oven (sans chicken) until they are, decreasing the temperature as needed.


  • American
  • Chicken
  • 5 Ingredients or Fewer
  • Make Ahead
  • One-Pot Wonders
  • Serves a Crowd
  • Spring
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Christmas
  • Gluten-Free
  • Entree

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jenny A

  • suzannakang

  • Cristie Green Rives

  • Ling Ling

  • Margo Smith

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

Popular on Food52

134 Reviews

Jenny A. January 15, 2023

This is the same as Thomas Keller's recipe except with a larger chicken and he doesn't place anything inside the cavity because he says the drier the air the more crispy the chicken will be. I think adding things into the cavity doesn't even affect the taste. He salts and peppers the entire chicken and roasts at 450. The high heat makes it more moist than low heat.

Darlene January 15, 2023

Barbara Kafka's recipe likely came first (published 1995) so one could wonder if his recipe is based on hers. I think the empty cavity for a crispier bird makes sense unless you're wanting cavity ingredients to add flavor to pan dripping gravy.

smed November 25, 2022

This was certainly an effortless Thanksgiving PREP alternative to the ubiquitous turkey dinner. The end result was crisp skinned, tender and juicy. I followed the recipe exactly without any substitutions or alterations. Our fire alarm went off 4 times. I was forced to employ every fan in the house, open every window, and that was with a one-month old pristinely clean new oven. It was literally intolerable for the last 30 minutes of cooking. Was the outcome worth the discomfort? Probably not. I think I will revert to my tried and true roasting method in the future and avoid the smoke inhalation but ya know, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

peppersandeggs November 26, 2022

Agreed. There are plenty of good recipes out there for roast chicken that don't make such a mess or smoke up the house.
I would suggest checking America's Test Kitchen; their recipes are thoroughly
tested, fairly easy and reliable.

Pamela G. January 11, 2022

I have declared this my favorite pandemic roast chicken recipe. I happen to come across this recipe video with Merrill Stubbs on Facebook and was intrigued that I watched it a couple of times before I tried it. I work long hours in an Emergency Room and needed an easy but hearty chicken recipe for two teenagers.
To my surprise, this is an awesome method because there is very little prep work for very high return. I have made this now at least two dozen times and each time is fantastic.

peppersandeggs November 17, 2021

If you enjoy cleaning your oven, this is the recipe for you.
There was a big hullabaloo when this recipe first came out.
Because of the high heat, the oven needs to be clean before you roast ( to avoid a grease fire and filling your kitchen with smoke).
Then of course, you'll have to clean your oven again when finished because (you guessed it) your oven will be splattered with grease, which will smoke the next time you use your oven.

Margo S. November 17, 2021

Roasting any meat will dirty your oven, but I found that roasting the chicken on a bed of sliced onions as the recipe suggests greatly reduces the amount of spatter.

peppersandeggs January 12, 2022

I made this recipe when it first came out MANY years ago.
At that time Kafka did not suggest putting onions or any other ingredient in the pan.

Martha December 23, 2020

I love this cookbook. I think I got it not long after my wedding (the cookbook lasted longer than the marriage! Lol) I have made the roasted chicken so many times and everyone is amazed I cook at 500! It’s wonderful! I do skip the deglazing and always roast the chicken on a bunch of veggies. They are the best when they have soaked up all those delicious juices! No need for a roasting rack. I’ve used potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, turnips; whatever you fancy. Roasting is the best! Thank you Barbara Kafka for this wonderful cookbook.

suzannakang September 8, 2020

Roasting a chicken has always intimidated me. Thanks to Food52 and Barbara Kafka --I used this recipe to roast my first ever chicken! The recipe made it simple, and the results were delicious. It's rare that my picky teen and my adventurous ten year-old both enjoy the same meal, but this one was a hit. I love the cooking instruction of baking in high heat for 10 minutes per pound and using whatever herbs and vegetables you have on hand. In my case, I used onions, shallots, garlic, fresh rosemary, celery and a lemon. I also added potatoes at the bottom of the dutch oven, as suggested by Cook's Illustrated. Overall, a very satisfying meal and I will make again.

Linda D. August 24, 2020

Made this last night using root vegetables. They were delicious and the chicken was juicy, and the skin was crispy. Yum! Thank you!

SydAnderson April 22, 2020

Tried this recipe last night as written. Results were a juicy and tender chicken with a gorgeous golden crust and a house full of smoke! I think I did well by following the genius tip to avoid the smoke... pan size and placed lower in a clean oven. Absolutely loving the ease and final chicken I’ll by trying again with the addition of veggies. Who doesn’t love a one dish meal anyways?!

Cristie G. April 4, 2020

I have made this numerous times. I have used potatoes and onions under the chicken and have recently tried sweet potatoes and onions under the chicken. The sweet potatoes are the best! They take on a savory taste with the chicken juice cooking into them. I won’t try it any other way!

Ling L. January 5, 2020

I've always used this recipe as a basis for roasting chicken and the skin is outstanding: thin and crispy. My other favorite chicken roasting tip is to slide pats of butter under the skin on the breast and legs so the fat melts into the meat as it cooks.

brushjl November 13, 2019

excellent recipe. I turned off the oven after an hour and let the chicken stand in the over for an hour or so. it was perfect. I didn't bother with the sauce.

robin L. November 13, 2019

What did keeping it in the oven for an hour do?

brushjl November 25, 2022

It kept cooking while the oven cooled down.

Margo S. October 1, 2019

I've made this recipe several times with excellent results. Interestingly, I made it at my son's house twice. He just has a basic "non convection" oven. Worked like a charm! I have a very fancy "bells and whistles" oven. I tried this recipe on "convection roast" at 450 and the skin started to burn instead of brown within the first 15 minutes. So much for fancy ovens! I am wondering if this roast chicken recipe could be adapted to turkey? Same concept- high heat, 10 minutes per pound. Has anyone tried it?

Steve February 14, 2020

Convection roast, at least in my oven, only runs the top element. Convection bake, uses the lower element only. I usually start withe CB, then during the last bit go with CR. Works great for pizza as well.

Margo S. February 14, 2020

Interesting technique. My oven has a setting called "surround." I would assume that would turn on both elements at once? Maybe I'll try it. What temp do you use with convection roast/bake?

Steve February 21, 2020

Probably to the first.

50 degrees less than the bake temp given in whatever recipe.

Jason R. January 25, 2023

Convection ovens cook faster, I think they perform best at the set temperature for roasting which is 400. Hope this helps.

Amy June 14, 2019

This recipe is amazing! Some minor tweaks that worked well for me. 1. Ensure chicken is as dry as possible before seasoning. 2. Rub kosher salt and pepper inside and out first (I used about 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon pepper). 3. Smear softened butter inside and out. 4. Finally, add lemon and garlic to the cavity. Throughout roasting, as soon as the pan started to smoke, I added about 1 cup of room temperature water. I had to do this about 4 times throughout the cooking process, but those juices were just too precious to let burn! It yielded a delicious "jus", but probably added an extra 5-7 minutes to the total roasting time. The result was absolutely delicious and juicy chicken as promised, and the skin was still very crispy, despite adding the water. This recipe is genius and a game-changer for sure, especialy when compared to the tedious method of roasting at 350 degrees. Cheers!

Amy June 14, 2019

Also forgot to mention that I used a larger roasting pan, to allow extra room around the chicken and prevent mess.

Barbara A. May 23, 2019

Loved it! Made mine in a Dutch oven over quartered onions and turned out perfect. No smoke at all. Subbed oranges for lemons. Breast was golden perfection, legs were a little less brown (probably because of sides of Dutch oven) but I plan on using them for a different purpose. Will be a regular recipe!

Christina February 7, 2019

I had high hopes for this recipe, but there was just too much smoke in the oven. Since there was a note about the pan possibly being too big and causing the smoke I switched pans mid-way through cooking. Alas, the smoke continued. I was a bit disappointed.

Christina February 7, 2019

I should have added the meat was cooked thoroughly either

Amy June 14, 2019

Hi Christina, I just tried the recipe last night. When it began to smoke, I added about 1 cup of water to the pan. I had to do this about 4 times throughout the cooking process, but the chicken still browned beautifully, and I was left with a delicious "jus" gravy at the bottom of the pan. Also, I used a larger enamel roasting pan to allow extra space around the chicken and minimize mess from splatter. It did need an additional 5-7 minutes of cooking time as well, but it turned out delicious and the skin was still very crispy. I hope this helps.

Christina September 9, 2020

Thanks for the tip!!

Deanna C. September 17, 2020

Suddenly you’re basting. Kinda’ takes away from the whole ‘simplest chicken or whatever’ doesn’t it? Also smoke in the house.

marilu December 5, 2018

This was my first roasted chicken, and the family enjoyed it very much! So perfect! Thank you!

Chantal M. October 30, 2018

This recipe N E V E R fails me!

Martin October 23, 2018

I just tried this. The skin is definitely crispy, but the meat wasn't cooked through. Maybe cause I used a glass baking dish? Or the potatoes cramped it up too much so that there wasn't space for the heat? I will have to try again. But I can attest to the fact that the potatoes keep it from spattering about.

jocelyn L. August 16, 2018

hi can i use turbo broiler for this recipe?

Reizen July 27, 2018

Has anyone used a roasting rack in the pan for this?

Jim B. August 4, 2018

I use a Le Creuset signature roaster and trivet set when I make this chicken, and it works great!

Barbara Kafka's Simplest Roast Chicken Recipe on Food52 (2024)
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