There are a million and one recipes for “the best” roast chicken. Over the past few years, I have tried a lot of them, and this guide combines my favorite techniques to form, in my opinion, the best of the best. A little buttermilk brine ala Samin Nosrat, spatchcocking the bird and making a backbone pan sauce via Serious Eats, and seasoned butter under the skin– need I say more?? My contribution is to roast the potatoes under a wire rack beneath the chicken for ultra schmaltzy, carby goodness.
- This recipe works the best with a roasting pan with a wire rack insert. I like this one from Made In. You can also use a sheet pan with a wire rack (the kind you use to cool cookies).
- This recipe is very flexible! I give suggestions for spices, but feel free to make this to your own preferences.
For the chicken
- 1 4-5 pound chicken
- 4 cups buttermilk
- Softened butter and spices (optional)
For the potatoes
- Enough yukon gold potatoes to fit on the bottom of your pan
- Olive oil
- Seasonings of your choice (I love herbs, chili flakes, lemon pepper, and amchoor powder for tartness).
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the pan sauce
- Reserved chicken spine
- 2 ribs of celery, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 cup dry vermouth or white wine
- 1 cup water
- 1 bay leaf
- A couple sprigs of thyme
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2-3 tablespoons of butter
- Fresh lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
Step 1: Prepare the Chicken (24 hours in advance)
Copied from Serious Eats and Salt Fat Acid Heat
For step by step pictures on how to spatchcock a chicken, click here.
- Spatchcock the chicken by cutting along both sides of the spine to remove the backbone.
- Flip the chicken over and press down firmly on the chicken’s breastbone until you hear a crack—that’s the wishbone breaking—and the chicken lies quite flat.
- Season the chicken generously with salt and let it sit for 30 minutes.
- Stir 2 tablespoons of kosher salt or 4 teaspoons fine sea salt into the buttermilk to dissolve.
- Place chicken in a large bowl and completely cover with buttermilk.
- Place in the fridge overnight.
Step 2: Roast the Chicken and Potatoes
- The next day, remove the chicken from the fridge and drain the buttermilk and wipe off any excess without being obsessive. Let sit at room temp for about an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 450.
- Cut your potatoes into small chunks and place them in the bottom of a roasting rack. Do not overcrowd the potatoes, they should not be touching each other.
- Coat with olive oil, salt, pepper, and seasoning of your choice.
- Place the wire rack insert on top of the potatoes and lay the flattened chicken on top, breast side facing up.
- Tuck the wings behind the breasts.
- Optional: mix softened butter with herbs and spices of your choice and stuff under the skin.
- Place in the oven with the legs facing the back. Cook until a thermometer inserted into the breast reads 155 degrees, about 45 minutes.
Step 3: Make the Sauce
Copied from Serious Eats. For step by step pictures, click here.
- While the chicken roasts, make the pan sauce.
- Cut the reserved chicken back into one-inch pieces, using kitchen shears or a heavy knife.
- Heat tablespoon of neutral oil (like canola or vegetable) in a medium saucepan until shimmering, then add the back and cook, stirring every so often, until it’s nicely browned.
- Add a chopped onion, carrot, and celery rib to the pot, and cook them until they’re lightly browned.
- Add a cup of vermouth, along with a cup of water, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom. For better flavor, add a couple bay leaves and the stems from any herbs you used for the chicken.
- Let the sauce simmer for about 20 minutes, then strain it into a fresh pot, discarding the solids. Place the sauce back on the stovetop and let it simmer until it’s reduced to about a third of a cup. It should have a really intense flavor by this point!
- Finish the sauce by stirring in a small splash of soy sauce and lemon juice, along with a couple tablespoons of butter. Soy sauce will add some umami backbone to the sauce, while lemon juice brightens it up. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set the sauce aside until you’re ready to serve.
Step 4: Serve
- Remove the chicken from the oven and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
- Stir the potatoes gently. If they look like they could use more browning, place them under the broiler for a minute or two.
- Carve the chicken by removing the legs and splitting the thighs from the drumsticks, then splitting the breast into two halves, and each breast half in half again, for a total of eight pieces.
- Serve with the roasted potatoes and pan sauce.