What is it about roast chicken? It’s such a simple dish to make and yet it’s absolutely divine. I remember once joining a discussion on Twitter about chicken, that it’s on pretty much every restaurant menu but is it really that delicious? Honestly, no, not really. I mean, I’ve had truly wonderful roast chicken at Troquet and The Fireplace, but it can’t compare with standing over a too-hot roasting pan, burning your finger tips as you peel juicy, crisped skin off of a chicken and pop it into your mouth.

I have a number of chicken recipes I like, but in the end the tried and true, I can’t believe I made this recipe is always, always Thomas Keller. It will shock you how decadent this chicken is because you add nothing to it but salt and pepper. Really. When I pull it out I do add butter and thyme, as he suggests, but while it’s filling my home with chicken fat smoke I can tell you that it would be just as incredible without those additions. Although you may not get as much of that brown roast buttery pan sauce that you eat with a spoon. Uh, so I’ve been told.

It’s crucial to get the best possible chicken you can for this. The chicken is the star and all of the flavor relies on just the chicken, so if you can get one of those fancy Portlandia well-loved chickens, so much the better.

A note here: if you don’t have twine to truss the bird, just cut slits in the skin on either side and stick the ends of the legs through the holes, then tuck the wings under the bird on either side and truss the chicken with ITSELF.

It’s a crime of some kind that I don’t have a photo for this post, but I’ll make it again and take a picture. I promise.

Thomas Keller’s Roast Chicken

adapted from epicurious.com


5-6 lb. chicken*
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Way more than you think.
2 tsp minced thyme (optional – or give Penzey’s Bavarian Style Seasoning a whirl. I’m addicted to it.)
unsalted butter (optional – see above)


  1. Preheat the oven to 425*.
  2. Rinse and dry the chicken, inside and out, or just dry it if you’re in the anti-poultry-washing camp. Just make sure it’s very dry. Keller’s theory is that dry heat makes all the difference, and I tend to agree.
  3. Fill and cover that bird with salt, in the cavity and on the body. If you are like me and don’t often use salt, you’re going to push way past your comfort zone on this one. Be generous and uniform with the salt. Add some pepper, while you’re at it.
  4. Time to truss.
  5. Put the chicken in a roasting pan with a wire rack or a cast iron skillet. Once the oven is hot enough, slide the chicken in.
  6. DO NOT OPEN THAT DOOR for 90 minutes. I mean it.
  7. Turn on a fan. It’s gettin’ smoky.
  8. Remove the chicken and baste it with the pan juices. Smother it in butter and thyme and baste it again. And again.
  9. Let the chicken rest on a cutting board for 15 minutes before carving it. Try really hard not to eat all the skin off but let’s be honest you totally will.

*Keller’s original recipe calls for a 2-3 lb. chicken at 450 for 50-60 min. I used a 5-6 lb. chicken at 425 for 90 min.