Marcella Hazan's Roast Chicken with Two Lemons

From the moment I heard of this method of preparing a roast chicken well over 20 years ago,  this has remained one of my family's favorites. It is definitely my personal favorite, and if I could only roast a chicken using one method for the rest of my life ~ this would be it!

If you are lucky enough to get a chicken with skin entirely intact (no tears, or holes) ~ near the end of roasting time the skin will  will puff up dramatically and have become crispy while the chicken beneath the skin remains juicy and succulent ~ as this one did. (But by the time I got the camera out it had deflated, no worry though because the chicken is delicious just the same.) Perfectly flavored whether served from the oven, or at room temperature.

It's a classic and simple recipe from one of my favorite cooking teachers and cookbook authors, Marcella Hazan.

One whole chicken, two lemons, salt and a little freshly ground black pepper produce some of the most succulent pieces of chicken you may ever taste.

I love Marcella's recipes, and although some may seem to be quite an undertaking because of the length ~ please don't let that put you off. It simply appears so because Ms. Hazan is such a great teacher that she explains each step and exactly why they are necessary to produce the desired results, which is enormously helpful, especially for a new cook.

The method is simple ~ rinse the chicken well, inside and out. Allow to drain for a few minutes after rinsing, then blot dry with a cloth or paper towels. Remove any visible bits of fat in the cavities of the bird and salt generously, inside and out. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.

Roll the lemons between your hands or on a counter to help release the juice. Poke the lemons many times with the tines of a fork or a wood pick.

Place the pricked lemons inside of the cavity of the chicken and secure with a couple of tooth or food picks. I tie the legs together with a bit of twine to help keep the chicken compact and the lemons in place.
Then roast, at first breast down, then turn over to continue roasting until done~ the chicken is self basting, no need to add fat or to baste.

Serve along with the succulent juices ~ and you'll probably taste one of the best roasted chickens you've had in your life.


As Linda (
noted... sometimes the chicken skin will stick to the pan during the first part of baking (as the chicken is roasting breast-side-down.)
To prevent this~  I cut a small piece of parchment baking paper, brush with olive oil or butter and place it on the roasting pan beneath the chicken breast where it makes contact with the pan.  When it is time to turn the bird over to continue baking (when breast side is UP) just remove the parchment paper. Yay! No stick, and NO torn chicken skin.

Forever grateful to Marcella Hazan for all she shares! I have several of her books, which I value highly ~ here is the first I ever purchased and I recommend it. 

You probably noticed I roasted the chicken in one of my favorite cast iron skillets.  Not fancy at all, but of all the roasting pans I have... stainless, porcelain, Le Creuset or Staub ~ I reach for my Lodge cast iron skillet almost every time for small roasted meats like this; just as my parents and grandparents did before me.
It's just large enough to add a few potatoes and/or carrots around the meat while roasting. 

This one is a Lodge Logic-- no need to preseason the skillet.  Just hand wash it and it is ready to use.  I love my collection of great quality cookware ~ but I would never part with any of my black cast iron ... they heat evenly and are indestructible workhorse pieces in my kitchen.

I haven't asked for permission to share the exact recipe, but you can find it HERE on the Internet.  If you try it, I hope it becomes one of your favorites, too.

Thank you for stopping by today ~ and I would love it if you would leave me your thoughts or any comments, I cherish each one.    ~ Mari  :)


  1. Who doesn't love a good roasted chicken. This reminds me of the chickens at this place in North Beach "Gira Polli." Do you remember that place? They jammed lemons inside. They opened up one here in Walnut Creek, but it was in a weird location, so it didn't do well.

    I love your new header :)

  2. That is one pretty bird! Very nicely detailed directions too:@)

  3. If we add some potatoes to your treasured cast iron skilllet we will have my two ingredients I can't live without...chicken and potatoes. Chicken is the reason I will never be a vegetarian.

  4. I am proud to be one of Marcella's 'Pomodori'. We have been cooking our way through her 'Essentials' cookbook. Everyday a new recipe! Check the link on my blog. Marcella and her husband Victor have been commenting all along. It is fabulous.
    This chicken is so simple and so pure... the boiled tripe not so much :-)

  5. Gorgeous bird Mary.

    Nothing better than a perfectly cooked chicken.

    My favourite small roasting pan is a vintage Griswold cast iron skillet. Perfect for roasting, frying and baking.


  6. I just saw this cookbook at the Discount Book Store....going back today and buying it. Have been buying my baked chicken at the store but after viewing this recipe, will bake my own at home.

    Love cast iron skillets...I have some that are very old...belonged to my Mamma and grandparents...some are actually thin from use. Lots of Southern food cooked in these pans; especially cornbread.

  7. Finding lemons in Baja California Sur is next to impossible, but no so tender whole chickens to roast. Have you ever tried substituting limes in place of lemons? We'll let you know how it turns out.

  8. I have to try this method..ty..ciao Flavia

  9. The color on that chicken is just gorgeous and the skin looks so crispy. Will have to give this a try!

  10. One couldn't ask for a more simple preparation! Roast chicken is a favorite at our house. I must try this method! Yummy!

  11. There is nothing better to me than a good roasted chicken! Love that simple, juiciness!!!! Thanks for the recipe! XO, Pinky

  12. A simple roasted chicken is one of my favorite foods. I buy pieces so often these days that buying a whole chicken is a treat! If I didn't have so much snow on the ground, I'd head to the store and make this tonight! I can smell it from here:)

  13. Decades ago, my mother-in-law taught me to start a chicken by roasting upside down. It's foolproof for moist breast meat, but the skin does frequently rip when I turn it over. Your photos are so beautiful, as always. I love how you capture such great light, great focus too.

  14. You got me, Mari. The next chicken I roast will be done this way.

  15. i'm a big fan of marcella's recipes so tks for sharing this.

  16. Mari,

    I always put lemons in my chicken but I have never pierced them before. I will try that next time.

    Your photographs as usual are just stunning.


  17. Gorgeous Mary...this is also one of my favorite recipes from Marcella...and oldie but goodie.
    I am always craving roast chicken lately...

  18. A simple, yet perfect dish. This is a recipe I have been making for years also. And Marcella Hazan is indeed a wonderful teacher. Classic Italian Cooking is still my favourite of her cookbooks. Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos, Mary.

  19. I'm going to try this the next time I roast a chicken!

  20. i've been on a roast chicken kick and this looks like it would be a great recipe to try my hand at! going to have to make this ASAP! thanks for posting!


Thank you for your comments, friends ~ they make my day!

A Sampling of my food . . .


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