Luben’s perfect chicken

Some years ago my dear friend Luben was visiting from NYC, and he offered to cook “the perfect chicken” that he had mastered from the NY Times (I think). Еver since, when we make roast chicken at home, it is referred to as “Luben’s perfect chicken”.

serves: 4        difficulty: easy      prep time: 2 hrs


  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 Meyer lemon
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 bunch of thyme
  • 4 tbs butter


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry.


Season the chicken cavity with 1 tsp salt and black pepper. Season the outside of the chicken with salt and pepper.

Slice the lemon cross wise in half.  Slice the head of garlic crosswise as well. Note that you don’t need to peel the garlic. Reserve  10-12 sprigs of thyme.

Next stuff the chicken cavity: place half a lemon, then half the bunch of thyme then half the garlic head, then the other half of hte thyme bunch, and finish with the second lemon half.


Soften (but don’t completely melt) the butter in the microwave, and mix with the leaves of the reserved sprigs of thyme.


Working from the neck side of the chicken, gently insert your fingers under the skin and separate it from the breast. Be careful not to tear the skin. Then using your hand insert the butter mixed with thyme under the skin and on top of the white breast meat.  You can see a video of this technique in the Thanksgiving turkey recipe.  That’s one of the secrets of having juicy breast meat (the other one being don’t overcook the chicken).

Truss the chicken with kitchen twine such that the legs and wings are tied to the body. The chicken should be a compact bundle at this point.

Place the chicken on a roasting rack breast side up, and put in the oven. Pour a cup of water in the roasting pan.

Roast for about 90 min or until the thermometer inserted in the thigh registers 170 degrees.

Take out of the oven, cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 min before carving.

Carve the chicken and enjoy!





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