Chicken/ Main Dishes

Simple Herbed Roast Chicken

roast chicken with herb coating in white and red ceramic roasting pan

My aunt once gave me a cookbook by a famous chef. I didn’t know how to cook at that point, but I wanted to learn so I followed the chef’s instructions to the letter. He had a precise method for roasting the “perfect” chicken. It involved a complex trussing of the chicken with kitchen twine, propping the bird up in the roasting pan with balls of aluminum foil and turning it every 15 minutes to roast it evenly on each side. The chicken tasted fine, but it was a lot of work.

Years later, my cousin Lucy gave me a recipe for roast chicken that changed my entire attitude toward roasting that bird.  The recipe involves rinsing off the chicken, putting it into the roasting pan, mixing up some olive oil with salt and herbs and spreading it all over the chicken. You don’t even have to preheat the oven. Pop that herb-coated bird into the oven, don’t look at it or think about it for an hour and 15 minutes, and dinner is ready. I’ve used this method a zillion times. The chicken comes out perfectly cooked and delicious every time.

I love the combination of garlic powder (I know, anathema to serious cooks, but it works well here), dried marjoram and parsley in this recipe. But you can use any combination of spices that appeals to you. I’ve made this dish with basil, rosemary, thyme and sage, or curry, southwest, barbecue or Cajun spices, and it always tastes great.

Recently, after reading Samin Nosrat’s great cookbook, Salt Fat Acid Heat, I added another step to this recipe. A few hours or the night before I plan to cook it, I rinse the chicken, pat it dry, put it in the roasting pan and salt it inside and out with about a tablespoon of salt. I don’t cover it, I just put it back into the refrigerator. The skin dries out a little, but that’s fine. The meat absorbs the salt, making it taste much better. When I remember to salt it ahead of time, I omit the salt from the olive oil and herb coating.

Simple Roast Chicken

By Springhouse Turtle Serves: 4-6
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cooking Time: 1 hour 15 minutes Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

This is a no-fail recipe even for the cooking impaired. Purchase a chicken, some olive oil and herbs, and you're halfway there. Add an oven and a roasting pan, a few minutes of your time, and dinner practically walks itself onto your table.


  • 1 3 1/2 - 4 pound chicken
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 level teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper



If you have time, salt the chicken a few hours or the night before you plan to cook it. See NOTE below.


Rinse the chicken inside and out in plenty of cold water. Put it in a roasting pan. If it's very wet, dry it off with paper towels.


In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil and the spices with a spoon.


Put one spoonful of the herb mixture inside the chicken breast cavity and spread the rest all over the outside of the chicken, smoothing it with the spoon.


Put the chicken into a cold oven turned to 350 degrees F.


Bake it for 1 hour and 15 minutes. It may need a little longer cooking time if the chicken weighs more than 4 pounds, a little less cooking time if it's under 3 1/2pounds


Check for doneness by poking the thickest part of the thigh with a fork. The juices that run out should be clear or slightly pink. There should also be a lot of juice in the pan when the chicken is done.


Spoon the juice over the chicken before serving. Save any leftover juice for use in soup or sauteing vegetables.


Salting the chicken ahead of time will improve the flavor considerably. I often forget to do this, but when I do, I notice the difference. Take the chicken out of the wrapper, wash it thoroughly in cold water, put it in a roasting pan and salt it inside and out with about 1 tablespoon of salt. Put it in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook it. If you refrigerate it longer than 8 hours, you should cover the chicken, but otherwise, you can leave it uncovered, and let the skin dry out, which will make it crispy and delicious. Omit the salt from the herb mixture if you salt it ahead of time or the chicken will taste too salty.

The raw, salted bird:

raw whole salted chicken on white roasting pan on wood counter

Adding spices to the olive oil:

adding spices to a white dish containing olive oil and other spices with raw chicken in red and white ceramic roasting pan in the background

Put a tablespoon of spice mix into the breast cavity:

spooning herb mixture into raw chicken breast cavity

Spoon the spices over the outside of the chicken and pop it into the oven:

raw chicken with spice mix smeared all over outside on red and white baking dish

Springhouse Turtle Eats


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