Roasted lemon chicken is one of the easiest recipes ever. Everyone should know how to make a basic roasted chicken. This is the Italian version, Pollo Al Limone. These days too many recipes are just a competition to see who can add the most ingredients. Just three simple ingredient produce the moistest and most flavorful chicken ever.
The simplest recipe for lemon chicken!
In Italy, it’s always quality over quantity that wins. This recipe has been my go-to roasted chicken recipe for over 35 years. Although my culinary school training was classical French cuisine, we spent two weeks studying the two other most influential cuisines; Chinese and Italian. Our Italian chef, Carlo Middione, took us the the markets and restaurants in San Francisco that showcased the best cheeses, wines, and meats. This roasted lemon chicken was the most memorable for its simplicity. (This post was originally published on October 1, 2011 and has been updated to contain nutritional information. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn commission on qualifying purchases.)
Ingredients for roasted lemon chicken
The ingredients? Just a fat roasting hen, a whole lemon, a brush of olive oil to the skin, and a shower of kosher salt. That’s it. We students, fresh from 4 months of French cooking, were eager to add more. “Herbs? Garlic?” we asked. “Butter?” Nope. As promised, the meat of the chicken was unbelievably moist, with a hint of lemon.
How to make roasted lemon chicken
This lemon chicken is simple to make. Simply poke the lemon all over with a fork or knife, stuff it in the cavity of the chicken, rub or brush the breast with a bit of olive oil, then sprinkle with a liberal dusting of kosher salt. That’s it!
Roast the chicken, un-covered, at 350 degrees F.. for about an hour and a half, (for 4-5 pound chicken) or until the internal temperature is 165-170*. Nothing else.
Do I need to rinse chicken before cooking?
No need to rinse chicken before cooking. In fact experts warn that rinsing raw chicken can actually spread salmonella. Just pat the bird dry with paper towels.
Cooking tips for making the lemon roasted chicken
- Make sure you purchase the best quality chicken you can afford. Because this recipe doesn’t contain a lot of ingredients and spices to hide an inferior bird, you’ll want to by the freshest chicken possible.
- Don’t forget to remove the chicken livers and neck from the cavity of the bird.
- Do not rinse. Pat chicken dry with paper towel.
- Before poking the lemon with a fork, press and roll it a bit to soften it. Then using a sharp knife, or fork, poke the lemon all over.
- Truss or pull the chicken’s legs together and tie with kitchen twine. While this step isn’t necessary, it makes for a prettier presentation.
- Poke the thickest part of the thigh. When the juices run clear, the bird is done. Using a kitchen thermometer, it should register 165 to 170 degrees F. I like this thermometer.
- Let the bird rest, tented with foil about 10-15 minutes before carving.
Lemon Roasted Chicken is healthy too.
Because this recipe contains just 3 ingredients, it’s naturally low-carb, gluten free, keto friendly and Whole30 compliant! This is the perfect dish for those with allergies or who have special dietary needs!
What to do with leftover chicken?
If you have leftover chicken, what can you do with it? A 4-5 pound roasted chicken usually yields enough meat for one meal for 4 people with plenty of meat leftover.
- A little chicken breast turns an ordinary Caesar Salad into a meal.
- Throw a bit of chicken into tortillas for Chicken Tacos. Serve with Cilantro Rice and Salsa Fresca
- Add shredded chicken to a Cold Sesame Noodle Salad
Lemon Roasted Chicken
- 5 lb. roasting chicken giblets and neck removed
- 1 large lemon pierced all over with a knife or fork
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Remove giblets, liver and neck from chicken and pat dry with paper towel
- Place chicken in a baking pan fitted with a rack.
- Pierce a medium lemon all over with a fork or sharp knife. Place whole lemon inside of chicken and truss up legs. Give the bird a brush with the olive oil.
- Roast chicken, undisturbed for 1-1 1/2 hours or until juices run clear when thickest part of meat is pierced or internal temperature reads 165-170 degrees F. (do not over cook) Meat will be just done, with no trace of pink and very moist.
- Remove bird from oven and remove lemon from chicken. Place bird on a carving board, covered loosely with foil and allow to rest 15-20 minutes.
- Purchase the best quality chicken possible.
- Nutritional information is for a 5 pound chicken including bones, actual nutritional values are less.
- Do not rinse the chicken, pat dry.
- Roll lemon to soften before piercing.
- Allow bird to rest 15 minutes before carving.