There is so much about fall that I love, like apple picking, sweater weather, and pumpkin spice everything. My favorite hallmark of the season is the license to make roast chicken whenever I want—warming up the kitchen and filling the whole house with its delicious smell. Fall, and onward into winter, might as well be dubbed “roast chicken season” in my home. I make it once a week, keeping leftovers for easy lunches and making stock from the bones.
All that said, roasting a whole chicken does require something I don’t have a lot: time. Sometimes, I don’t have the one hour and a half or longer required to roast the chicken whole. That’s where the most popular chicken recipe on Simply Recipes comes in.
If you haven’t tried it already, it’s time to add Classic Baked Chicken to your menu. Since it was first published on May 18, 2009, Simply Recipes readers clicked on the recipe 12 million times. If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.
The recipe is a huge time-saver because it calls for cooking cut-up chicken parts instead of the whole bird. You can cut up the chicken yourself, use a pre-cut whole chicken, or simply use whichever parts you like. The parts require much less time in the oven, cutting the cooking time by almost half compared to cooking it whole.
The Easiest Roast Chicken Recipe
This chicken recipe isn’t the site’s most popular chicken recipe just because it saves time. The chicken recipe is also so popular because it’s incredibly easy.
Simply salt the chicken parts and let them sit out to get rid of the chill from the fridge. Then rub with olive oil and salt again, and stick them on a roasting pan to bake uncovered in a 400°F oven. After 30 minutes, lower the heat and bake for an additional 10 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the chicken parts. Remove from the oven when the juices run clear. The breasts should reach 165°F and the legs and thighs 170°F. That’s it!
There are no fancy techniques. You don’t even have to brown the chicken in a pan first—a step many recipes call for. The hot oven does the browning for you—all the cooking occurs in the oven in one pan.
This easy trick is a brilliant way to make sure the chicken is seasoned well: salting the chicken pieces twice. First when it comes out of the fridge and again after they get a chance to get to room temperature.
I also love the advice to keep the skin on to cook the chicken, even if you don’t intend to eat it. The skin protects the meat from drying out—it’s sweater weather after all and the chicken needs one too.
Take It Up a Notch If You Want
Of course, you can take things up a notch if you have the time. This is such a simple recipe that it’s also easy to play around with it.
Make a quick gravy: If you started with a whole chicken, simmer the neck and giblets to make stock for gravy. After the chicken has been baked, you can scrape the drippings from the pan, deglaze them with white wine or your freshly-made stock, and reduce it into a wonderful sauce. Adding a little cornstarch or flour will turn this into a thicker gravy. I prefer to keep the sauce thinner and if I’ve used only stock and no wine, I’ll add a tablespoon or two of lemon juice to the pan to make a zippier sauce.
Give the chicken a spice rub: Take this recipe in a different direction by adding a spice rub before baking. I’ve tried it with a tablespoon each of ground cumin and coriander, and also with two tablespoons of za’atar.
I do like it best as is—simple and perfect. And it seems a few million people agree and have added it to their rotation of easy weeknight dinners, including Gary who said in a comment: “I love this recipe, it reminds me of the baked chicken my grandmother Jane would serve me when I was a kid. She was born in 1878, and in the 1960s and early seventies, I lived with her. I gotta tell you the first time I made this chicken I literally ate it with a tear in my eye. Made me miss Granny.”