Lemon Chicken

Overheard at the market, “I’m a breast girl.” “Really? I’m definitely a thigh girl,” pause…”dark meat, so much more flavor.” Had to laugh, I’m so so so much a thigh girl myself. Here is the secret to fabulous lemon chicken – use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (or legs, but thighs are easier to eat). Lemon is acidic and greatly benefits from the balance of the stronger flavor of the dark meat in thighs and legs, and the fat from the chicken skin. You don’t have to eat the skin (my father doesn’t, he gives them to me, score!), but cook with them on for the flavor.

What we most love about this recipe is that it is a classic American lemon chicken recipe without being too lemony. In other words, it doesn’t make your lips pucker, it has just the right amount of lemon flavor to it.

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Lemon Chicken Recipe

  • Prep time:
  • Cook time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6.
Yum

Ingredients

  • 3-4 pounds chicken parts (thighs and legs recommended), skin-on, bone-in, trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2-3 Tbsp melted butter
  • Lemon slices for garnish

Method

1 Place lemon juice, lemon peel, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, whisk to combine. With the tip of a sharp knife, cut into each chicken piece one or two times by about 1/2 an inch. (This will help the marinade penetrate.) Place the chicken pieces and the marinade in a gallon-sized freezer bag. Rotate the bag so that all chicken pieces are coated with the marinade. Seal the bag and place in a bowl in the refrigerator (in case of leakage). Let marinate for 2 hours.

2 Preheat oven to 425°F. Remove chicken from marinade and place in a single layer in a large baking dish, skin side up. Reserve the marinade. Use a pastry brush to brush a little melted butter on to each piece of chicken.

3 Bake for a total of 50 to 55 minutes, until the skins are crispy brown, and the chicken is cooked through, juices running clear (breasts have an internal temperature of 165°F and thighs 175°F). Half-way through the baking, at about the 25 minute mark, baste the chicken pieces generously with reserved marinade.

Depending on the size of the breasts, they may be ready before the thighs, so if you are cooking a mix of chicken parts, keep that in mind, you may have to take them out of the oven before the thighs.

Let rest, covered in foil, for 10 minutes before serving.

4 Pour the juices from the pan into a serving bowl. Use a tablespoon to skim the fat off the top (save the fat for cooking with later, or discard, but do not discard down the drain or it will solidify and clog your drain). Serve the chicken with the juices on the side or a little poured over the top of the chicken.

Serve alone or with steamed rice.

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Adapted from a recipe by Diana Rattray of About.com

Links:

Moroccan chicken with lemon and olives and honey glazed lemon roast chicken here on Simply Recipes

Lemon chicken with sherry vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and garlic from Anne's Food

Sesame and lemon chicken from nami-nami

Amanda Hesser's lemon chicken with creme fraiche from the Wednesday Chef

Pan-fried lemon chicken nuggets from Maki of Just Bento

Lemon Chicken on Simply Recipes

Showing 4 of 108 Comments

  • Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    I make a version of this with boneless thighs, marinated in the same flavors and cooked on the grill under a brick. Chicken and lemon together — amazing.

  • Min

    Hi, here the lemon chicken recipe is almost the same. Only we do it the unhealthy way. After marinating, dip into corn flour and deep-fry it. Yummy !

  • Linda

    Hi Elise

    I am breast girl but I love those chicken legs too!
    Your recipe is very close to the roasted chicken I cook with this exception.
    Like you, I roast at 425 but only for 30 minutes to crisp the skin, then I drop the temperature to 350 so I don’t have to baste. It keeps most of the juices in the chicken. I roast for an hour or so till chicken is done depending on the size of the chicken.
    I am a fan of lemon; I buy dry lemon peel in bulk so it goes in alot of things like salad dressing, veggies, and anything roasted or grilled. I love lemon juice to tenderize meats.

    Linda in Washington State

  • Kevin

    Elise,
    No oil in the marinade? I’m shocked! But perhaps I’ll try it. My traditional welcome-to-the-grilling-season meal is charcoal-grilled lemon chicken, fruit pilaf, a salad, and Pimms’ No. 1 Cup with soda and lime. Alas, a new county fire ordinance means grilling is no longer an option for me.

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