No. 179: Barbara Kafka's Simplest Roasted Chicken

In my mother's pantry there are several shelves dedicated to cookbooks. Everything from classics like Joy of Cooking and Moosewood Restaurant to the more unique neighborhood association produced cookbooks and the Indianapolis Museum of Modern Art recipe collection.

I remember when Barbara Kafka's classic, Roasting: A Simple Art, came to our door. My mother was so very excited, and I may have only been 12-years-old, but the event made quite an impression.

It was the first time I realized how important a new cookbook could be.

Kafka's Simplest Roasted Chicken

I found Kafka's chicken on Food52, and love that the author urges cooks to have fun with the recipe. She recommends playing around with the cavity stuffing, as I did below.


5- to 6-pound chicken at room temperature, wing tips removed
1 lemon, quartered
1/2 onion, cut in thick chunks
4 whole garlic cloves
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup chicken stock, water, fruit juice, or wine for optional deglazing

To make

Place rack on second level from bottom of oven. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Remove the fat from the tail and crop end of the chicken. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the lemon, garlic, rosemary, thyme, onion and butter, if using. Season the cavity and skin with salt and pepper.

Seasoned chicken

(I sprinkled a few herbs on the skin as well.)

Place the chicken in a 12 x 8 x 1 1/2-inch roasting pan breast side up. Put in the oven legs first and roast 50 to 60 minutes, or until the juices run clear. After the first 10 minutes, move the chicken with a wooden spoon or spatula to keep it from sticking.

Remove the chicken to a platter by placing a large wooden spoon into the tail end and balancing the chicken with a kitchen spoon pressed against the crop end. As you lift the chicken, carefully tilt it over the roasting pan so that all the juices run out and into the pan.

Optional: Pour off or spoon out excess fat from the roasting pan and put the roasting pan on top of the stove. Add the stock or other liquid and bring the contents of the pan to a boil, while scraping the bottom vigorously with a wooden spoon. Let reduce by half. Serve the sauce over the chicken or, for crisp skin, in a sauceboat.

The results

Can you see this crispy skinned perfection? Can you practically smell the herbs and butter?

Finished chicken

Kafka is on to something special here. A 500 degree oven and simple preparation are all you need for one terrific meal. I loved the additions of some sweet red onion and herbs to the cavity as well. And you know I used butter:)

There was a moment in the rental house kitchen where I wasn't sure if we had a roasting rack. We ended up using a broiling pan that worked just fine.

If you have ever been in the same predicament, never fear! Here are some other great alternatives:

  • Potatoes and onions: Chopped into large chunks, they will lift your chicken off the pan, soak up all the juices and make a wonderful side.
  • Foil ropes: Crinkle some long sheets of aluminum foil into ropes and coil them so they create a figure 8 that holds up the chicken. MacGyver would love this one.
  • Toaster oven rack: If it fits in the pan and can hold your main dish, this is a great solution.
  • Cooling rack: A heavy duty metal cookie cooling rack over a baking sheet can also work in a pinch. Make sure there's no plastic coating.

Here's to more creative solutions and great roasts in the future.

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Amelia McCormick

Kansas girl transplanted to Asheville, North Carolina. Smiler, lover of great food and wine, facilitator, runner, storyteller, wife, optimist, and mother of sweet twins:)

Asheville, North Carolina