home cooked dinners by the season

Rosemary Lemon Split Roast Chicken

Rosemary Lemon Split Roast Chicken

IMG_8579I’m not sure when I veered off the path of making my own roast whole chicken and instead fell into the habit of picking one up at the grocery store. It must have happened gradually while in the blur of raising kids but it was a contradiction to my personal philosophy that homemade is always better. In the interest of convenience I was able to overlook that many times a pre-roasted chicken tends to be overdone and dry. By turning over the roasting to someone else, I had not only given up control on the doneness, but also the quality of the meat and the seasonings.

The inspiration for getting me back on the path to roasting chicken were the split whole chicken halves I spotted in the meat case of one of the many grocery stores I frequent. They would streamline the process to make it simpler and faster for several reasons. The two split halves can easily be marinated to impart fresh rosemary and lemon zest flavors in the skin and meat. Searing it skin side down in a skillet gets the browning going right away then laying it flat on a baking sheet the meat cooks more quickly and evenly in the oven. And once roasted, cutting the halves into pieces for serving is much easier than wrestling with the whole chicken.

For this inescapably busy time of year, I find this roast chicken to be invaluable. Marinating it the night before does half of the work for you. The next day, the pan searing is quick before transferring it to the oven where it’s left to roast. It’s heavenly for a weekday family meal or a planned evening with guests. Any leftovers can be sliced the next day and layered with mayonnaise, salt, pepper and lettuce in a sandwich. Other options are tossing shredded pieces with greens in a salad or nibbling on whole pieces straight from the refrigerator.

Not all grocery stores carry split whole chickens in their meat case but you can ask the meat department to cut it in half for you. I explain how to do that in the note of the recipe if you want to do it yourself.

Rosemary Lemon Split Roast Chicken
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (3-1/2 to 4 pound) whole chicken, cut in half (ask the meat department to do this for you or see the note below to do this yourself)
  1. Whisk together all ingredients except chicken. Put each split chicken in a re-sealable plastic bag; divide marinade evenly between bags. Seal bags, removing as much air as possible and massage marinade around chicken to coat evenly. Refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. convectional or 425 degrees F. conventional.
  3. Remove chicken from marinade, discarding marinade. Heat a large heavy bottom skillet (I use my cast iron skillet) over medium heat. Once heated, put chicken skin side down in the skillet and cook until browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet or roasting pan, skin side up (chicken halves can be browned in two batches if using a small skillet; wipe skillet with a paper towel between batches). Sprinkle chickens with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast until chicken is browned, meat is cooked through and juices run clear (an instant reading thermometer when inserted in the meat should read 165 degrees F.) about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow sitting 15 minutes to “rest” (this allows the juices to settle in the meat so they don’t run out when chicken is cut). Cut chicken into pieces, following the outline of the leg, wing, thigh and breast.
To split a whole chicken into two halves:
I like to wear disposable gloves when cutting a whole chicken.
If there are giblets inside of the chicken, remove and discard or save for another use. Place chicken on a flat work surface, breast side down. Using kitchen sheers (scissors) or a sharp knife, cut closely along each side of the chicken backbone from one end to the other; save backbone to make chicken stock or discard. Turn chicken over laying it flat and with breast side up; cut evenly through the breast from one end to the other.


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16 thoughts on “Rosemary Lemon Split Roast Chicken”

  • The best! I forgot how good roasted chicken on the bone can be! Way exceeds store bought rotisserie!

    • Thanks for letting me know, Karen. I love roast chicken done this way and the lemon and rosemary make it so flavorful.

    • Hi Genna: Thank you for letting me know! Isn’t it easy and reliable – not to mention the taste is incredible. Happy Holidays!

  • Thanks for this recipe, looks awesome. Can I use a whole chicken already cut into pieces? (What would the difference be vs cut in half?)

    • Yes you can use a chicken already cut into pieces. You will need to check for the breast which will cook more quickly than the leg and thigh pieces.

  • Your recipe calls for the oven to be at 400 degrees, cooking time 45 minutes. Many others call for a 350-375 oven and longer cooking time(for a half chicken).. What’s the difference?

    • Hi Kathy:

      Both methods work. I prefer a higher cooking temperature so the outside of the chicken is more brown and crisp and also it saves valuable time. The increased temperature means a shorter cooking time. Either way, you want to make sure the chicken is cooked through.

  • I was absolutely amazed at this recipe. Such a refreshing addition to the roasted chicken, and my husband said to hang on to this recipe – it was worth repeating… and often!

    • Thank you for the feedback. I prefer this method 100% instead of roasting a chicken whole. I think it has more flavor and is easier to control cooking it evenly. Happy New Year!

  • Really tasty! I cooked it in a convection oven for a full 45 minutes and it came out crispy, savory, tender, juicy perfection. This chicken recipe has been a bright spot in a Coronavirus week of fear and boredom. Good for the soul. Thank you.

    • Thank you for letting me know Michael. To me, there are few things better than a crispy, juicy cooked chicken flavored with lemon and rosemary. I am glad you enjoyed the recipe. And that is was good for the soul!

  • Only now found this recipe and it is amazing! Absolutely love love love the lemon/garlic flavors! I have made it twice now always doubling the recipe. My only change is instead of fresh rosemary I use dry italian seasoning. I look forward to exploring your other recipes!

    • Thank you for this fun substitution/tip. And I hope you find many additional recipes to try and that you enjoy.

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