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poulet roti - roast chicken with lemon and thyme and garlic fresh out of the oven

Lemon and Thyme French Roast Chicken (Poulet Rôti au thym et citron)

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  • Author: lechefswife
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1h45
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: 3-4 people 1x
  • Category: Mains
  • Method: Roasting
  • Cuisine: French


This Lemon and Thyme French Roast Chicken Recipe (Poulet Rôti au thym et citron) with Roasted Garlic is one of our family's favorite dishes. The meat is juicy and tender with the delicate perfume from the lemons, garlic and thyme. The skin is crispy and flavorful. Simply exquisite as well as super easy to make!


  • 1 Whole 3.5-4lbs chicken
  • 1 lb baby potatoes, rinsed and cut in half
  • 2 heads of garlic plus 3 cloves for inside the chicken, peel on
  • 2 tsp of coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 5 tbsps of butter - room temperature
  • 1 lemon, rinsed and cut in half
  • 7-8 branches of thyme


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Start with a whole chicken, about 3.5-4 lbs.
  3. Remove the insides. Your bagged chicken might have a neck and gizzards inside the cavity. Reach your hand inside and pull them out. You can wear a rubber glove if you prefer. Discard the neck and gizzards unless you are planning to make chicken broth with the carcass - in that case keep the neck to add to the bouillon for flavor.
  4. Pat down the chicken with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel. Removing the moisture helps to make a crispy skin!
  5. Set the chicken in a roasting pan greased with olive oil. I use a pan big enough with space around it for the potatoes (Roasted Chicken is always served with potatoes in France)
  6. Mix the room temperature butter with the leaves from 3 branches of thyme in a bowl. Now it is time to get a little messy. Using your fingers gently lift the chicken skin over the breast and spread the butter and herb mixture under the skin. You may need to pry the skin a little at the beginning (starting from the base of chicken) but then it will lift rather easily. By adding the butter mixture under the skin you will get a very flavorful, juicy meat and a crispy skin. It is worth it!
  7. Inside the chicken cavity, 2 branches of thyme, the 3 cloves of garlic and both lemon halves and a teaspoon of coarse salt.
  8. Using cooking twine, tie the legs together. (This is not necessary but a chicken does look more elegant with her knees together...!)
  9. Sprinkle coarse salt over the top of the chicken
  10. Drizzle olive oil generously over the chicken (it helps to make the skin crispy)
  11. Cut the top off a whole head of unpeeled garlic (width wise) and place opposite sides of the pan (skin side down).
  12. Arrange the halved baby potatoes around the chicken and garlic.
  13. Put the remaining branches of thyme in with the potatoes (closer to the bottom of the pan so that they infuse with the cooking juice)
  14. Add another generous drizzle of olive oil over the garlic and potatoes.
  15. Place 2 tablespoons of butter around the potatoes. (Using butter as well as olive oil on the potatoes makes for the most amazing crispy potatoes!)

Voilà! Easy as that. Once you get the hang of it, the entire process takes 10 minutes. Add in the time it takes to toss a green salad and you have an entire fancy meal ready with less than 25 minutes of effort.

Roasting the Chicken

Place the roasting pan with the chicken and potatoes in the middle rack of your 350 degree oven, uncovered.

Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes until the chicken is done.

About an hour in to cooking, baste the chicken by taking a spoon (or a baster) and pouring the cooking juice over the Chicken, potatoes and the garlic. Stir the potatoes then put back into the oven to finish cooking.


(You don't need to wash a chicken. Rinsing it in water does not kill off bacteria - cooking does! This is a very curious tradition that confounds Le Chef every time he hears of it.)

How do you know when the chicken is done?

The most reliable way is to check the temperature. Place the needle into the crook between the chicken's breast and thigh. The temperature should read 165 degrees Farenheit. Don't have a meat thermometer? Check to see if the skin has begun to pull away from the the drumstick - that is a good indication that it is done. I also like to pierce the thigh with a fork - if the juice that runs out is clear and not pink it is a good indicator that it is done

How to make broth with the chicken carcass?

Pick the carcass for leftover meat. Set aside. In a large soup pot, cover the carcass with water. Add 2 branches of celery, 2 carrots, 2 cloves of garlic (skin on), and 1 chopped leak. Season with rosemary, thyme and sage as well as a whole clove and a star anise (Le Chef's secret ingredient!). Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and let simmer for 45 minutes. Strain out the liquid and you have your delicious broth! Perfect for freezing to add to a multitude of recipes or use as the base for the most delicious chicken soup with your leftover chicken meat!