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Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roast Chicken

I haven’t had a chance to update this place in a few weeks, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking my ass off lol. Someone asked me to share my roast chicken recipe, so here we go!

Lately, I’ve been addicted to meyer lemons. They’re not the most easily available little buggers, but if you can find them — use them for this recipe. They are a bit sweeter than regular lemons and have a very interesting flavor and aroma. They’re almost like a hybrid of a mandarin orange and a lemon, absolutely delicious. Of course if you can’t find meyer lemons you can use regular lemons and still achieve delicious results. This chicken is simple, flavorful and absolutely yummy. Try it out, make it your own and enjoy it.

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken

This recipe is passed down from my mom, and is a pretty basic yet very delicious roast chicken recipe (and usually made with regular lemons). This is the way my mom taught me how to roast a chicken, so I’m passing that on to those of you who’ve never roasted a chicken before in your lives. Minimal ingredients — tons of flavor. This is just one way I roast a chicken, so stay tuned for lots of other variations. I’ve seen a bunch of other chicken recipes in my lifetime and they’re all basically the same. Different flavor combos of course, but the techniques are usually identical. When it comes to roast chicken, it’s best to keep it simple. When you start doing too much and over-thinking it, you can end up with flip-floppy inconsistent results. This is the kinda recipe you can really make your own. Add fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, or tarragon to the inside of the bird or use different citrus fruits, such as limes or blood oranges. I usually add fresh herbs to the inside of the bird, but I didn’t have any on hand 🙁 One of my favorite parts of this whole meal would have to be the onions. They cook down til they’re very soft and sweet, and slightly caramelized. They provide such a nice balance to all of the flavors going on here. After the chicken is done, I usually squeeze the remaining liquid out of the onions and mix it with the chicken juices for a nice drizzling sauce, nothing fancy at all.

A few tips for perfect roast chicken:

  • Keep the chicken skin dry during prep by patting with paper towels
    This will ensure proper and even browning all over the bird because there is no surface moisture on the skin to steam it and render it pale and flabby.
  • Separating the skin from the meat also helps the skin render more fat, further helping it crisp as it roasts
    Do this for the breast meat, and the legs and thighs and any surface of the bird that’s exposed facing up (no need to do the bottom of the chicken because it’ll be sitting in the roasting pan and won’t get crisp like the rest of the bird). Make sure you are being as gentle as possible so that you don’t tear the skin, just use your fingers to navigate thru the chicken and loosen the skin.
  • Because we’re not brining the bird, salt liberally with kosher salt
    It’s textured and gives the chicken a nice salty crust. Adding plenty of it helps season the bird for the short period of time it’s in the oven. Salt and freshly ground black pepper are the only “shakeable” seasonings you need on the surface of the bird — anything else will burn. Feel free to use different seasonings for the inside of the chicken if you’d like. Keep in mind that the lemons, garlic, and onion will contribute to amazing flavor as well. It’s best to salt and pepper the bird after you massage olive oil all over the bird so that it actually sticks to the skin.
  • Tie the legs together at their base
    This ensures the bird will roast more evenly because as you know, the chicken is comprised of white and dark meat — dark meat takes longer to cook, but also has more moisture than the white breast meat. White meat is done around 160 degrees, whereas dark meat is ready around 175 degrees. Overcooking the chicken will result in tougher, drier white meat and that’s just not what we came here to do.
  • Butter or olive oil — choose your fat
    I’ve roasted chickens by brushing about 3 tablespoons of melted/slightly cooled unsalted butter all over the bird, and they’re delicious and very “buttery”. However olive oil has always given me more crisp than butter, and that’s what I personally prefer, so I tend to use that 90% of the time. It depends on what you’re in the mood for and what your preference is. Both options are incredibly delicious. You could use both, which I often do — massage the outside of the bird with olive oil, and rub a little butter under the skin to give the meat a buttery flavor.

I used a 4lb bird and it took about 1 hour and 20 minutes for the dark meat to register 175 on my instant read thermometer. I immediately took it out of the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes before cutting into it. This helps all of the hot and rampant juices running all thru the chicken STAY in the chicken. If you cut into the chicken too early, you risk drying it out because the juices will be all “Hayyy, look at me!”. So be patient, my love. Also, don’t open your oven door too much because every time you do, you lose about 50 degrees of heat and then it has to get hot all over again, slowing down the roasting time.

I’ve been roasting chickens for years and I still get a little squeamish when scraping out the guts and liver and stuff — it just looks so gross lol, but hey, you gotta man up and get it done. As simple as this recipe and procedure is, it’s also easy to mess it up. When I first started cooking whole chickens, it took me a few birds to really nail it — now I can do this with my eyes closed. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come out the way you’d hoped the first time, practice makes perfect and whole chickens are relatively cheap.

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken
This bird is exactly 4lbs. We need to clean it up before we cook it. You see this extra piece of flabby fat near the opening? We’re cutting that off. We don’t need it, it’ll just make the chicken more greasy than it needs to be. With a sharp knife or kitchen shears, trim the excess fat from this area. Be careful not to confuse it with the actual skin because we want to keep that. You may be able to simply tear this fat off with your fingers.

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken
With a spoon or your fingers, fish out the liver and kidney’s from the inside of the bird. You don’t have to do this, but I like to.

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken
See, that’s all the stuff I don’t wanna eat — still an optional step.

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken
Salt and pepper the inside of the cavity liberally. Use about 1 to 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and ½ to 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken
These are the “skin flaps” that I’m going to “sew” together with a sharp bamboo skewer to keep that onion and all the good stuff inside.

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken
With a sharp knife, make a tiny incision on the opening of the breast meat, like this. Work your fingers thru the chicken to separate the skin from the meat. Please be gentle so you don’t tear the skin.

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken
Like this…

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken
And like this. I’m on the thigh and leg area here. Do this for the entire surface of the chicken, don’t worry about the bottom of the chicken for this recipe.

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken
I “sewed” the “skin flaps” together with a bamboo skewer and went thru the tailbone to make sure it was all sealed up. Snip and trim the skewer so it looks like this.

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken
Tuck the wings behind the bird. This ensures even cooking and helps prevent the wing tips from burning.

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken
Drizzle about a teaspoon or 2 of olive oil onto the bottom of the bird and massage all over. Sprinkle a teaspoon or two of kosher salt and ½ to 1 teaspoon of black pepper on the bottom of the bird evenly.

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken
Then flip the bird so it’s breast-side up and massage the entire top surface with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. I used about a tablespoon of kosher salt and about a half teaspoon of black pepper at this stage, but the amount is totally up to you.

Progress after about 50 minutes. Almost ready!

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken
1 hour and 20 minutes later, my 4lb bird is perfect. Isn’t she pretty? She’s delicious too…and very juicy.

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken
The lemons release their juice and create a “pan sauce” while the chicken roasts, that’s delicious when drizzled over the final product.

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken
So crispy, yet so juicy! Yum!

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken
Um, do you see how moist the white meat is? Aw man..

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken

Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken
Yeah, I killed that

Welp, it looks as though you better go buy yourself a chicken and make it fabulous!

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Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken


copyright CarnalDish


  • 1 whole chicken (4 to 5 pound)
  • 3 meyer lemons, halved
  • 1 head of garlic, halved
  • 1 large Spanish onion, chopped in large chunks
  • 1lb red potatoes (optional), quartered
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Good olive oil
  • *twine or heavy duty cotton string to tie the legs together


  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. You will be using the middle rack, so make sure that’s in place.
  2. Remove the giblets, kidney’s and liver from the chicken and rinse the bird under cool water. Pat the whole chicken dry with paper towels so that no surface moisture remains. Season the inside of the chicken cavity with about 1 to 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and ½ to 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Stuff the bird with 1 lemon (2 halves), and half of the garlic (you don’t need to peel the garlic that goes into the chicken). I like to put one half of the lemon in first, then the garlic, then the other half of the lemon. I also put a chunk of onion in there, but you don’t have to — especially if your bird is already stuffed to the brim.
  3. With a bamboo skewer, seal the chicken’s “skin flaps” to keep the garlic, lemon and optional chunk of onion inside the bird. Trim off the excess ends of the bamboo skewer so that it doesn’t burn in the oven. Yes, we’re tying the legs together later, but this is just another measure to keep everything in tact while you’re flipping it around oiling it and seasoning it before tying it together.
  4. Tuck the wings under the chicken and rest the bird breast-side down. Massage about 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil on the back surface of the bird. Make sure the skin is evenly lubricated just enough for the salt and pepper to stick. Sprinkle about 1 to 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and ½ to 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper all over the back surface of the bird. Flip the bird over so that it’s breast-side up and massage about 1 tablespoon of olive oil all over the top of the bird. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and ½ to 1 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper all over the surface. Tie the ends of the legs together with string.
  5. Place the seasoned and tied bird into a foil-lined small roasting pan about 9×13″ or 11×14″. Arrange the remaining onion chunks, lemon halves, and quartered potatoes (if using) all around the bird. I like to use the lemon wedges to support all four corners of the chicken, but you don’t have to do this. It’s all going to cook down and create a delicious sauce anyway, so no need to be OCD about it. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil all over the potatoes and onions just to moisten them slightly, about 1 tablespoon in total — we don’t want it too greasy. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper. Peel the remaining garlic and scatter it all over the lemon, onions and potatoes mixture.
  6. Roast the chicken on the middle oven rack for about 1 hour and 15 to 25 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer registers 160 degrees for the breast meat, and 175 degrees for the thigh/leg meat, rotating the pan just once halfway thru the cooking time. Juices should run clear. Make sure you rotate the pan once after the first 35 to 40 minutes while its roasting for even cooking. Please be careful not to overcook or undercook the chicken. Every oven and every bird will be different. The larger the bird, the longer it will take to cook so please keep this in mind. If you don’t have a thermometer to check the internal temperature of the bird, make a small cut between the thigh and leg meat — if the juices are clear, it’s ready. If you see any pink, it needs more time. It’s best to pierce and test the dark meat because it has a lesser chance of drying out than the white breast meat.
  7. Once the chicken is fully roasted, remove it from the pan, tilting it so the juices inside the bird run back into the roasting pan. Allow the chicken to rest for 20 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, remove the potatoes, onions, and lemon halves from the pan and set aside. You have all of this marvelous chicken, garlic and meyer lemon juice mixture with a little starch from the potatoes (if you used them) leftover. Skim off any ridiculous amounts of fat from the juices. You can turn the juices into an actual pan sauce if you’d like, but we’re keeping it old-school and using them as is.
  8. Remove the bamboo skewer and lemons/garlic/onion stuffed inside the bird. Carve the chicken and serve with the potatoes and onions on the side, and drizzle a little of the lemon-garlicky pan drippings over the chicken before eating.
  9. Enjoy.


For a bird larger than 4lbs, the cooking time will vary.

  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 20 mins
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  1. Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes - Black Girls Who Brunch says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation. This is a preview; your comment will be visible after it has been approved.

    […] I started out using this recipe from Carnal Dish for a Meyer Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken.   I won’t reprint the recipe here, but you […]

  2. Ness says:

    Hey, I have definitely been following your recipes and progression of your cooking career for a while and i wish you alllllll of the luck in the world. I’ve tried a bunch of your recipes and loved them all. My chicken is in the over right nah!

    Do a cook book!!!


  3. Michelle says:

    Thank you so much for sharing.
    You instructions are right on target.
    I couldn’t believe it came out just like
    your pictures.

  4. Roxanne says:

    Did u cover the chicken when it was placed in the oven or add any type of cooking liquid?

  5. Tiera says:

    Had a dinner party and made this with your red lobster style cheddar biscuits and favorite chocolate chip cookies for dessert…the accolades poured in lol. Thanks!

  6. Bonika says:

    Ive made this dish and it was WONDERFUL!!!! 🙂 thanks!!!

  7. Nurys says:

    It says preheat at 450
    but i dont see you bringing to down once you put the bird in the oven.
    are we cooking this at 450 the whole time

  8. Jenna says:

    You are a magician.

  9. Danielle says:

    If you were going to make a pan sauce with the juices, how would you go about doing it?

  10. Tiera says:

    What’s the green stuff in the pan? Its not listed in the ingredients and I love the way it makes the dish look. Don’t be holding out on us! lol

  11. Stephanie says:

    Oh this is gorgeous!

    Thank you for all the amazing tips Resha! I’ll definitely be using this recipe this Sunday.

    I’ve always wanted to roast chicken with the potatoes and herbs around it, but i’m scared because everytime I roast chicken and potatoes in the oven, the chicken ends up ready at least 90 mins before the potatoes. “/
    Do you have any tips for that?

    • Resha says:

      use a thin-skinned potato, like a red or yukon gold. make sure they’re all cut the same size, in nice chunks so they all cook evenly. in that super hot oven they should be perfectly cooked at the same time the chicken is done.

  12. Kia says:

    When you say turn the bird after 30-40 minutes do you mean flip it over or just rotate the pan?

  13. Dianicia says:

    that skin looks like Heaven.

  14. Walter says:

    What a lovely chicken, it reminds me of the chicken I had in Greece, I think it is about time I do it again. Great Photos