Recipes Main Courses Poultry and Game Roast Chicken with Lemon and Thyme

Roast Chicken with Lemon and Thyme

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 65 minutes
Servings: 6

As with any simple dish, the quality of the ingredients for this classic Tuscan supper must be as superb as possible. Serve this chicken with simple sides such as garlic roasted potatoes and braised greens. Pour a young red wine, such as Rosso di Montepulciano, or a crisp white, such as Tuscan Chardonnay. 


  • 1 chicken, about 3 1/2 lb., preferably free range 
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil 
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 1 Tbs. fresh thyme leaves 
  • 1 large or 2 small lemons 
  • 3 Tbs. water


Preheat an oven to 450°F. Lightly oil a cast-iron pan or small roasting pan just large enough to hold the chicken comfortably.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Rub the outside of the chicken with the olive oil, then sprinkle the skin and cavity generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the outside of the chicken with the thyme. Place the lemon in the cavity. Tuck the wings behind the back.

Place the chicken, breast side up, in the prepared pan and roast, basting occasionally with the juices, for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400°F and continue roasting until it is deep golden brown and the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a knife, about 30 minutes more. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh away from bone should register 170°F.

Transfer the chicken to a carving board and set the pan aside. Remove the lemon from the cavity and set aside. Loosely tent the chicken with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes.

Using a large spoon, spoon off as much of the fat from the pan juices as possible. When the lemon is cool enough to handle, cut it in half, squeeze the juice into the pan and discard the spent halves. Add the water to the pan, place over high heat, bring to a boil and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Cook until reduced by about one-third, about 2 minutes.

Carve the chicken and arrange the pieces on a warmed platter. Spoon the pan juices over the top and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).