An intensely flavored compound herb butter and a few special roasting techniques make for a super juicy, flavorful garlic herb butter roast chicken with crispy skin.
I don't make whole roast chickens often, so when I do it's always a treat — and worth taking the time to get it just right. That means seasoning it thoroughly, prepping it the night before you plan to cook (to give the skin time to dry out), and rotating the pan while it's in the oven to ensure it browns evenly.
This recipe was inspired by the lemon garlic rotisserie chicken I used to pick up at my local Shop & Stop. They either stopped selling it (or it's always sold out because it's just that good) so I had to make my own!
Unlike most compound butters for roast chicken which use a savory poultry blend of herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage), this uses a roasted garlic and chive compound herb butter. I find that the fresh chives add a brighter, fresher flavor that pairs really well with the lemon and garlic.
Take this garlic herb butter roast chicken to the next level by using homemade butter to make the roasted garlic and chive compound butter. And try serving it with this lettuce and walnut salad with the zesty garlic toasted walnuts.
While this chicken is fantastic on its own, I really enjoy transforming the leftovers into other dishes. You can totally shred this chicken for making grilled cheese, pizza, egg rolls, or even add it to soups.
If you really want to go HAM on the garlic and chive flavor, serve this garlic herb butter roast chicken with these garlic cheddar biscuits which use the same herb compound butter in the dough!
Here's what you'll need to make this easy garlic herb butter roast chicken.
- Whole chicken - Look for a 5-6 lb pound roasting chicken. Make sure you remove the giblets from inside!
- Roasted Garlic and Chive Herb Compound Butter - I recommend making this at least a day in advance so the butter has time to absorb all the garlic chive flavors. You'll want to let it soften for an hour or two before you shove it under the chicken skin though.
- Onion - Remove the root and tip, then cut into wedges or quarters. Fit as much as you can inside the bird, and the rest can go in the pan around it.
- Garlic - Remove the top from a bulb of garlic. The bottom half goes inside the chicken with all the papery bits and everything. You can discard the top portions of the cloves, or remove the papery bits and add them to the cavity or the pan.
- Poultry blend herbs - Rosemary, sage, and thyme. You can usually find these sold together in a package at the grocery store. These go inside the bird.
- Lemon - This is optional, tbh. I really like the subtle brightness and acidity the lemon adds, but if that's not your vibe you can skip it!
- Salt and pepper - 1 teaspoon salt per pound of chicken (Cook's Illustrated). Use a third as much pepper (pre-ground pepper is fine). I recommend mixing the salt and pepper together before seasoning the chicken. This way you can season the bird all over at once instead of having to go over the whole chicken twice.
See recipe card for quantities.
🔪 How to dry brine a chicken
This step is crucial for getting super crispy skin on your roast chicken.
Remove the chicken from the packaging and drain the excess liquid. Pat dry with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible. Slide your fingers or a small spatula gently under the skin to separate it from the meat, getting the legs and thighs too.
Hold the chicken upright and sprinkle salt and pepper under the skin. Use your hands to massage the salt and pepper into the meat. Flip the chicken over to get a better angle for seasoning the thighs.
Working one tablespoon at a time, smush the roasted garlic compound butter under the skin into an even layer around the chicken breast and fronts of the thighs. Flip the chicken over and repeat on the back of the chicken thighs.
Place the chicken front-side up on a small sheet pan or roasting dish in the fridge for 12-24 hours.
- Do this step the night before you plan to roast the chicken.
- Soften the compound herb butter to room temperature beforehand.
- Dry brining allows the seasonings to penetrate the meat and dries out the skin so it's extra crispy when you roast it.
- Clear space on the bottom shelf of your fridge for the chicken to fit, uncovered. Remove anything that has holes or openings (like fruit containers with drainage holes) from the bottom shelf of the fridge.
How to roast a whole chicken
The next day, before roasting, remove the chicken from the fridge. Stuff the cavity with garlic, lemon, onions, and herbs.
Tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders and tie the legs together with cooking twine.
Arrange the bird in a roasting pan along with any excess aromatics. Basically, anything that didn't fit inside the bird.
Season the outside of the chicken with additional salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 450F with a rack in the center position.
Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. I use my Meater+ wireless meat thermometer which connects to an app on my phone and keeps me updated throughout the cook time. (Disclosure: Meater gifted me a Meater+ earlier this year. I'm recommending it because I love it and use it all the time!)
Place the whole chicken on the rack in the back right corner of the oven with the legs facing into the right corner.
After 30 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 400F and move the pan so it's in the back left corner of the oven with the legs facing into the left corner.
Adjusting the pan like this helps the chicken brown evenly as it cooks by keeping the breast — the thickest part — in the center of the oven.
Continue cooking for an additional 40-50 minutes at 400F. The chicken is done when the thermometer registers 165F.
Depending on the size of your chicken and the reliability of your oven, you may need more (or less) time.
Once the chicken reaches 165F, remove the pan from the oven and rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.
Credit: This roasting method is borrowed from Samin Nosrat's famous buttermilk roast chicken recipe from her book Salt Fat Acid Heat.
Hint: Save the pan drippings to make a gravy or a pan sauce by adding flour and a bit of stock! You can remove any aromatics and whisk the sauce directly in your roasting pan, or strain the juices into a small sauce pot and make it there. If you transfer to a new pot, make sure you scrape as much of the brown bits off the bottom of your roasting pan into the new pot to give it lots of flavor.
- Roasting pan - I used the bottom portion of my cast iron Challenger Bread Pan, but you can use a round 12" cast iron skillet or a traditional high-sided roasting pan too. Avoid anything non-stick, as we're using a fairly high roasting temperature.
- Meat thermometer - Like I said, I use the Meater+ wireless meat thermometer (Amazon), but you can use a wired in-oven digital thermometer or go old school with an analog 2.5" large face stem thermometer.
- Cooking twine - Make sure yours is food and oven safe, like this 100% cotton kitchen twine.
- Narrow silicone spatula - A flexible, slightly curved silicone spatula like the GIR skinny spoonula, GIR mini spatula, or OXO jar spatula makes it much easier to gently separate the skin from the meat.
📖 Variations — Thanksgiving, etc!
- Deluxe - Turn the drippings left in the pan into a gravy or pan sauce by whisking in a bit of flour, minced shallots, and chicken stock. Remove any aromatics left in the roasting pan and whisk the sauce directly in your roasting pan, OR strain the juices into a small sauce pot and make it there. If you transfer to a new pot, make sure you scrape as much of the brown bits off the bottom of your roasting pan into the new pot to give it lots of flavor.
- Thanksgiving - Scale this up for roasting a whole turkey on Thanksgiving! You'll need 3-4x the amount of garlic herb butter depending on how big your turkey is. You can use your preferred brining method — wet or dry! Roast at 400F for the first 30 minutes, then drop to 350F for the remaining duration. Use Butterball's handy "how long to roast" calculator to determine your roasting time and skip the process of rotating the bird during the cook time.
- Garlic lover - Use minced raw garlic instead of roasted in the garlic herb butter.
- Lemon lover - Squeeze the roasted lemon from inside the chicken over top the bird after it comes out of the oven.
- Extra-extra crispy - Use Helen Rosner's hair dryer technique to get the chicken skin extra crispy. Use the hair dryer on cool/low so you don't melt the butter.
⏲️ How long to roast a chicken
Regardless of temperature or the size of your chicken (or turkey), the best way to measure doneness is internal temperature, not time. Your chicken is done when it reaches 165F internally.
A good rule of thumb for calculating an estimate of how long your roast chicken will need in the oven at 400F is 15 minutes per pound. So a 5 pound chicken would need 75 minutes (1hr 15min). But if your oven runs cool, you may need as much as 1hr and 40 minutes.
Given the way this recipe calls for you to start at a higher temperature and rotate the bird during the cook time for even browning, I recommend doing 30 minutes in one spot, 30 minutes in the second spot, and then move it to the center for the remaining time.
💭 Top tip
Don't cut this garlic herb butter chicken right away! Letting it rest for 15-20 minutes before carving will help the chicken retain its juices and flavor.
📋 Practical recipe notes
- Most roast chicken recipes call for 3-4 lb chickens, which are really hard to find. I tested this recipe with 5-6 lb chickens and have written the recipe assuming that's what you're using too. Keep an eye on the internal temperature and adjust the cook time according to the size bird you have.
- If moving the chicken around the oven feels too overwhelming, you can leave it in the center of your oven for the entire cook time. It will cook through, but the browning and crisping of the skin might be less even.
- Give yourself more kitchen twine than you think you'll need to tie the chicken's legs together. Once you have a secure knot, then trim the string ends.
- It's not just the resting period in the fridge that dries out the skin — the salt also draws out moisture and penetrates the meat giving you deeper flavor and crispier skin! This is also why you want to keep the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet (as opposed to a cutting board) in the fridge; you don't want any juices to drip!
- Give the chicken plenty of space in your fridge on the bottommost shelf to rest. This is important for food safety — you don't want to risk raw chicken dropping over anything on the shelves below it. Remove any packages or food containers with holes in them (like fruit containers with drainage holes) to higher shelves to avoid contamination.
- If you have leftover compound butter, you can melt it and spoon it over the chicken when you rotate it.
👩🏻🍳 Recipe FAQ
Yep! You can use pretty much any compound butter you want in this recipe.
Yep! In that case you'll want to check the internal temperature of the stuffing too. Use an instant read thermometer and make sure it reaches 165F before removing it from the oven.
You'll lose a lot of the lemon flavor if you go this route, so I recommend adding lemon zest to the butter.
I haven't tested it so I'm not sure! If you try it in an air fryer please let me know how it turns out.
Easy Garlic Herb Butter Chicken
Roasted Garlic Chive Compound Butter
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (½ cup, 4 oz)
- 1 bulb garlic
- ⅓ cup chopped chives
- 2 tablespoon additional minced herbs (optional - rosemary, thyme, sage)
Garlic Herb Butter Roast Chicken
- 5-6 pound whole chicken
- 6-8 tablespoons roasted garlic chive herb compound butter
- 1 medium lemon (quartered)
- 1 bulb garlic (top removed)
- 1 medium onion (quartered)
- 5-10 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2-3 sprigs fresh sage
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons diamond crystal kosher salt (use half as much of a different brand)
- 2 teaspoons black pepper (pre-ground is fine)
Roasted Garlic Compound Herb Butter
- Remove top quarter of garlic bulb. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then wrap loosely in aluminum foil and roast for 30 minutes at 420°F.
- Mash roasted garlic cloves with room temperature butter, chives, and any other herbs (if using) until well combined.
- Use immediately, or wrap in plastic and refrigerate or freeze. You'll need it softened to room temperature for this recipe.
The Night Before
- Mix the salt and pepper together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Remove chicken from packaging (discard giblets from center cavity, if included). Pat the chicken dry all over with paper towels, including inside the chicken.
- Find the edge of the chicken skin (near the neck or inner thigh) and gently lift to begin separating it from the meat.Use your fingers, or a thin silicone spatula, to continue separating the skin from the meat, including on the chicken thighs, legs, and back.
- Season the chicken all over under the skin with the salt/pepper blend. Massage it into the meat to ensure even coverage. Flip the bird over to season the backs of the chicken thighs and the chicken wings and back.
- Smush softened compound butter under the skin all over the chicken, front and back.Estimate about 1½ tablespoon each per breast and 1 tablespoon each per front of thigh and leg. You'll need an additional 1½ tablespoons per back thigh and shoulders.This isn't about precision, don't worry if it's uneven or you didn't get exact tablespoons. Just do your best to get a nice layer of butter under the skin all over.
- Arrange the chicken on its back in a rimmed sheet pan, sprinkle with additional salt and pepper, and let it rest, uncovered, 12-24 hours on the bottom shelf of your fridge before roasting.
- Preheat oven to 425°F with a rack in the middle setting.
- Place chicken in roasting pan. Tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders and stuff the cavity with aromatics — lemon, garlic, fresh herbs, onion.Tie the legs together with twine and tuck any remaining aromatics into the pan around the chicken. Insert oven-safe instant read meat thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken breast, if using.
- Place the skillet in the back right corner of the oven so the chicken's legs are pointing toward the back right corner. After 30 minutes, drop the oven temperature to 400°F and rotate the pan so that it's in the back left corner of the oven with the chicken's legs pointing toward the back left corner.
- Roast for an additional 40-60 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165°F. If the chicken seems like it's browning too quickly, tent with aluminum foil.
- Remove from oven and rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.
- Roasting technique inspired by Samin Nosrat's Buttermilk Roast Chicken from Salt Fat Acid Heat.
We sometimes take for a granted that we have years (or decades) of cooking experience, that the average visitor may not. Add to, or remove from, the list below with health and safety tips.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C).
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat.
- Wash hands after touching raw meat.
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods (4+ hours).
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove.