I Made Ina Garten’s ‘Perfect Roast Chicken’ and Yes, It’s Honestly Perfect

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This Ina Garten roast chicken recipe is legendary. It elevates a modest supper to a meal that won't be forgotten.

Ina Garten is your go-to girl for meals that boast comfort, simplicity and amazing taste. For more than 20 years, she’s opened the doors of her Hamptons home to enlighten Barefoot Contessa viewers with her best-selling cookbooks and foolproof cooking tips.

I’ve been longing to try one of her recipes, and since I grew up on comfort food, the famed Ina Garten roast chicken rose to the top of my list. Even Meghan Markle has a soft spot for Ina’s chicken, telling Good Housekeeping the chicken is “a game-changer.” Meghan revealed that Ina’s recipe was the inspiration for the cozy, romantic meal she shared with Prince Harry the night he proposed. If the aroma of this savory dish wafting from the oven will get a man down on one knee, I knew it had to be winner!

Are you looking for more classic recipes from Ina Garten? Here’s a classic Ina Garten’s meat loaf recipe that you’ll love.

How to Make Ina Garten’s Perfect Roast Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 (5- to 6-pound) roasting chicken
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
  • 4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 bulb of fennel, tops removed and cut into wedges
  • Olive oil

Initial Thoughts

If I were making Ina’s chicken in the summer, I would have scooped up the garden-fresh herbs and veggies at my local farmer’s market. But living in Wisconsin and suffering through a brutally cold winter (and spring!), my only option was to head to the supermarket. That wasn’t a problem though, because I easily found everything I needed for this recipe at one store. (I like to move through a grocery store fast, so any recipe that doesn’t require hard-to-find ingredients is one I make sure to keep.)

After glancing at the garlic, lemon and large bunch of thyme in my cart, I knew these aromatics would take my modest roast chicken from simple to spectacular!

Getting Started

I started by preheating my oven to 425°F. I placed my uncooked 5-lb. roasting chicken on a clean work surface. No need to rinse it under running water and risk contamination by accidentally spreading bacteria. I wasn’t going to use the packet of giblets that came with the chicken, so I pulled them out of the cavity and discarded them.

The Seasonings

Chicken has long been a dinnertime staple, but it’s the seasonings that give it a flavorful upgrade. I sprinkled the inside of the empty cavity with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Then I added a liberal amount of thyme. Thyme is one of those herbs that’s a flavor powerhouse. Available as fresh leaves or dried and crushed, it has pungent, earthy flavor with minty and lemony tones.

I grabbed my fresh lemon, but before cutting it in half, I peeled it so that any bitterness from the rind wouldn’t infuse into the chicken. But if you like that little extra zing from the rind, by all means stuff it inside the chicken unpeeled.

Next up was the garlic. I quickly learned that cutting a whole, unpeeled head of garlic in half requires a good chef’s knife and a steady hand. But as a garlic lover, this was one ingredient I was not going to skimp on. After stuffing both halves into the chicken, I liberally basted the whole exterior of the chicken with melted butter and sprinkled on more salt and pepper.

Then, I tied the legs of the chicken together with kitchen string. Feel free to get fancy and truss your chicken if you like.

Finally, I tucked the wings under the body for more even cooking.

The Veggies

ina garten roast chicken on roasting dish before bakingAmy Glander/Taste of Home

On to the ah-mazing roast veggies. I like big, chunky roasted vegetables so I purchased the biggest carrots I could find. After peeling off the skins, I cut them into approximately 2-inch pieces. I also used two bulbs of fennel because I wanted to fill my roasting pan to the brim. Then I tossed everything into the bottom of my roasting pan, added salt, pepper and more sprigs of thyme, then sprinkled it all with olive oil. I added my chicken to the top of the rack in my roasting pan and put it in the oven.

The Outcome

Ina garten chicken doneAmy Glander/Taste of Home

I let that bad boy roast in the oven per Ina’s instruction for 1-1/2 hours until it was a tantalizing golden brown and the vegetables were just tender. Test the bird’s internal temperature by making sure a thermometer registers at least 165° when inserted in the thickest part of the thigh. This is the safe temperature for both white and dark meat. You can also cut between a leg and a thigh; if the juices run clear, it’s done.

I removed the chicken and vegetables from the roasting pan to a platter. Then I covered the bird with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. That short amount of time felt like an hour because I could hardly wait to slice into the succulent, juicy meat and scoop up the tender veggies.

Ina’s roast chicken is worthy of every ohh, ahh and mmm it elicits. It’s as perfect and impeccable as Ina herself! My family gave it a thumbs up and quickly asked for seconds. Regardless of your cooking style or level of experience, this crisp-skinned chicken will be a dinnertime hero.

If you love entertaining, don’t miss Ina’s best tips for hosting happy gatherings of all kinds.

Ina’s Tips for Making the Best Roast Chicken

Use a small chicken

Ina says that nine times out of 10, the smallest chicken will be the most flavorful. If you need to double your recipe, use two smaller chickens instead of a bigger bird. When Ina makes two chickens, she cooks them in separate cast-iron skillets.

Roast the chicken uncovered

Ina cooks her roast chicken uncovered in the oven, then tents it with foil for 20 minutes once the bird is done cooking. This keeps the meat moist until it’s ready to carve and serve.

Serve with potatoes or another starch

If the roasted vegetables aren’t enough to be a satisfying side, serve the roast chicken with red roasted potatoes or over a bed of wild rice. If you’d prefer a salad, try this wild rice and lentil salad for something colorful and healthy.

Every Way to Roast a Chicken
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Amy Glander
Amy is a book editor at Taste of Home where she gets to pour her passions for food and storytelling into trade and series cookbooks. When she’s not writing or editing, you’ll find her antiquing, cooking and baking from her favorite vintage cookbooks and exploring Milwaukee’s urban beauty with her digital SLR in hand.