Roast Chicken with Lemons

This, I promise you, is the easiest chicken recipe ever. Ever! It's not hard to make that claim since the only thing you need is a whole chicken, 2 lemons, salt and pepper. That's it. Nothing else. But is it good? Of course. It probably is one of the most tender roast chickens I've ever made. Now if you want to jazz it up, you're more than welcome to. This recipe for Roast Chicken with Lemons is one I plan on making again because not only is it easy, it's one that famed Italian cook, Marcella Hazan, swears by...

You may be asking yourself, 'Who's Marcela Hazan?' Well what Julia Child is to French cookery, Marcella Hazan is to Italian cookery. She introduced the traditional techniques of Italian cooking to the masses and is considered a respectable resource on Italian cuisine. Friends of mine got together for an Italian dinner featuring recipes from Marcella Hazan's cookbook, Essentials of Italian Cooking. We enjoyed it so much that we plan on meeting each month to continue making recipes from her book and critique them as we go along.

For our dinner, I prepared Hazan's recipe for Roast Chicken with Lemons. As I mentioned above, it was ridiculously easy and so good too!  Below is the recipe along with pictures of the other dishes my friends made from Hazan's cookbook. Links to the additional recipes are soon to come...

Roast Chicken with Lemons
recipe from Marcella Hazan

3- to 4-pound chicken
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
2 rather small lemons

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash the chicken thoroughly in cold water, both inside and out. Remove all the bits of fat hanging loose. Let the bird sit for about 10 minutes on a slightly tilted plate to let all the water drain out of it. Pat it thoroughly dry all over with cloth or paper towels.

Sprinkle a generous amount of salt and black pepper on the chicken, rubbing it with your fingers over all its body and into its cavity.

Wash the lemons in cold water and dry them with a towel. Soften each lemon by placing it on a counter and rolling it back and forth as you put firm downward pressure on it with the palm of your hand. Puncture the lemons in at least 20 places each, using a sturdy round toothpick, a trussing needle, a sharp-pointed fork, or similar implement.

Place both lemons in the birds cavity. Close up the opening with toothpicks or with trussing needle and string. Close it well, but dont make an absolutely airtight job of it because the chicken may burst. Run kitchen string from one leg to the other, tying it at both knuckle ends. Leave the legs in their natural position without pulling them tight. If the skin is unbroken, the chicken will puff up as it cooks, and the string serves only to keep the thighs from spreading apart and splitting the skin.

Put the chicken into a roasting pan, breast facing down. Do not add cooking fat of any kind. This bird is self-basting, so you need not fear it will stick to the pan. Place it in the upper third of the preheated oven. After 30 minutes, turn the chicken over to have the breast face up. When turning it, try not to puncture the skin. If kept intact, the chicken will swell like a balloon, which makes for an arresting presentation at the table later. Do not worry too much about it, however, because even if it fails to swell, the flavor will not be affected.

Cook for another 30 to 35 minutes, then turn the oven thermostat up to 400 degrees, and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Calculate between 20 and 25 minutes total cooking time for each pound. There is no need to turn the chicken again.

Whether your bird has puffed up or not, bring it to the table whole and leave the lemons inside until it is carved and opened. The juices that run out are perfectly delicious. Be sure to spoon them over the chicken slices. The lemons will have shriveled up, but they still contain some juice; do not squeeze them, they may squirt.

Here are the additional dishes my friends prepared for our potluck dinner:

Lentil & Pasta with Bacon

Sopressata & Pecorino Romano Cheese


Pork with Vinegar & Bay Leaves

Cauliflower Gratin

Walnut Cake


  1. I really want to try this- I've never made a roast chicken and this sounds so easy. Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. Your roasted chicken picture is beautiful. I've tried to roast chicken recently for my blog, but have to admit it was tricky trying to take pictures of it that looked appealing. Great job! Here's what mine looked like:

  3. I made this last night for dinner! It turned out really good! I added a little thyme for some extra flavor to mine, and served it with a side of mashed red potatoes. Thanks for the recipe!

  4. This is the ONLY roast chicken recipe I use!! Very easy and very good. Thank you for sharing!