Roasted Lemon Chicken

Roast Chicken is the perfect Sunday meal. It’s homey, comforting, and downright delicious. Roasting a whole chicken is also very economical as you can get at least 4 servings from the meat alone plus the added bonus of the carcass for making chicken stock. In my version, I use lemons, onions, garlic and rosemary (along with a little bit of butter) to season the chicken, but you can use whatever combination of herbs or spices you like. Serve with potatoes and you’ve got yourself a nice Sunday dinner.

Servings: 4-6

Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time:  15 minutes   |   Cook Time: 1 1/2 hours   |   Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes


  • 1 3-pound chicken, preferably free range
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 2 lemons
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened


Preheat oven to 425°F.

Remove the chicken from the packaging. Remove the giblets from the cavity (if they are included) and pat the outside of the chicken dry using a paper towel.

In a small bowl, prepare the salt and pepper mixture. Add the dried rosemary, salt and pepper to a bowl and mix to combine. You will use this to season the inside and outside of the chicken.

In a separate small bowl, combine the softened butter with two minced cloves of garlic. Reserve two whole cloves of garlic for later. You will use this mixture to rub underneath and on top of the chicken skin.

Get ready to stuff the bird by placing the chicken into a roasting dish. Prop the chicken up and season the cavity lightly with the salt and pepper mixture, using about 1/4 of the mixture. Next, cut 1 lemon and 1 onion into quarters and stuff them into the cavity of the chicken along with the remaining 2 whole cloves of garlic.

Lay the chicken back down into the roasting pan, breast side up. Using your fingers, begin to separate the skin of the chicken from the breast and legs by running your fingers underneath the skin and gently pulling upwards. Try not to tear the skin. Use a sharp knife to cut underneath the skin where any fibers are still attached. By the end, you should be able to lay your whole hand down flat under the chicken breast and be able to move your fingers smoothly under the chicken legs.

Next, butter the bird. Take 2/3 of the butter mixture and rub it underneath the skin of the chicken, both on the breasts and the legs. I find it easiest to add dollops of the butter underneath the skin first then massage the butter across the breasts and legs by pressing on the top of the skin. If you use your hands to spread the butter underneath the skin, the moisture of the chicken makes it much harder and it tends to clump up.

Next, rub the remaining 1/3 of the butter mixture over the skin of the chicken. Make sure you rub the legs, wings and underside of the chicken as well as the breasts. Finally, use the remaining salt and pepper mixture to season the outside of the chicken, again making sure to season all areas.

To ensure that the chicken cooks evenly, truss the legs together. Simply use butchers twine to tie the legs together. It doesn’t have to be too tight, just make sure the legs won’t separate. Additionally, to ensure the wings don’t overcook, simply tuck them underneath the chicken, no trussing required.

Wash your hands and prepare the vegetables. Cut the remaining lemon, onion, and carrot into 1 inch pieces. Scatter the vegetables around the outside of the chicken.


Bake the chicken in the center of the oven for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, flip the chicken on its back and roast for another 15 minutes. After these 15 minutes, flip the chicken back to breast-side up and roast for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and test if the chicken is done (see methods below). If so, then cover the chicken with aluminum foil and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Carve the chicken into the breasts, thighs, and drumsticks, and serve. Leftovers will keep for about 3 days in the fridge or can be frozen for up to 3 months.

How to Tell if a Chicken is Done

There are many ways to tell if a chicken is done and you don’t necessarily need fancy equipment to do so. Here are some of my tricks:

  • Firmness. First off, the meat should be firm and white/golden in colour. If the meat is pink, jiggly, or rubbery, it needs more time in the oven.
  • Juices. The best way to tell if a chicken is done is to cut between the leg and the breast meat. If the juices run clear and the meat is white, then the chicken is done. If the juices are pink, then you need to cook it longer.
  • Thermometer. If you are uncertain if the chicken is done then check it with a thermometer. Insert the thermometer between the leg and the breast. When the thermometer reads 165°F, it is done. If the temperature is lower, then it needs more time in the oven. If it is above this temperature, it’s overcooked.