Lemony Crispy-Skin Chicken

dsc_1744RECIPE #381, DAY #558


ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Simple Broiled Chicken Thighs” and “Garlic, Lemon, and Rosemary Rub” from Cooks Illustrated, January-February 2000*

TIMING: 1 hour for the brine, then 30 minutes


TOOLS: A roasting pan with a rack, aluminum foil, a zipper-top bag, a basting brush

COOK TYPE: Oven, broiler

HEALTH: I actually believe that eating a fair amount of dark meat and even skin is good for you, especially if you are buying a really truly natural bird. I tend to go a little crazy and eat the skin off everyone’s plate, but with skin this good no one will let me.

dsc_1742EXPERIENCE: I know, daughter, that you do not like chicken and even less so on the bone. I also know that I had bought a whole lot of bone-in whole thighs for Indian supper club night and decided not to make the fourth (yes, fourth) entree. So these had to be made, and what better way that in trying out a new recipe from Cooks Illustrated.

I happen to have a collection of annual, bound magazine collections from year 2000-2006. With a plain, dark green bind, they are not as pretty as the rest of my cookbooks and, well, using the recipes can be a bit of a drag what with all that accurate wordiness. On the other hand, I am intrigued because the tests have been done and these recipes are supposed to be the best of the best.

Plus, guaranteed crispy skin? And not-overdone chicken meat? I’m in.

I ended up having some issues with the recipe, but only because I have one of those double ovens that cuts down on overall space in each oven. In other words, I sometimes can’t get heat distributed right when a recipe calls for a particular distance from one of the heating elements. I just plum didn’t have enough space between my chicken and my broiler to do what Cooks Illustrated was asking me to do. However, even with its slightly overdone char, this chicken was incredible and it did have the CRISPIEST skin I had ever tasted. Double that with the superior taste of the lemony baste, and I will totally make this again, even if I have to experiment with covering the chicken with foil for the first half of cooking.

dsc_1739NOTES: Like me, you may need to make some adjustments for your oven and your broiler.

You could sub another herb for the rosemary, if that’s all you have on hand, like parsley, sage, thyme, or tarragon.


  1. In a large zipper top bag, mix together 1 quart warm water, 6 tablespoons salt, and 3/4 cup sugar until dissolved. Add 3 pounds bone-in chicken, seal up with very little air, and place in the fridge. Leave for 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix together 5 pressed garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons lemon zest, 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary, and a hefty pinch of pepper. In another small bowl, whisk together juice of 1 lemon and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Set both aside.
  3. When 1 hour has passed, place an oven rack in the very bottom of your oven and one half-way up. (For small ovens, just place 1 at the bottom.) Preheat your broiler on high. Line a roasting pan with foil and insert the roasting rack.
  4. Remove your chicken from the brine and dry with paper towels. With your fingers, work the rosemary rub up under the skin of all the pieces of chicken. Slash each piece of chicken 2-3 times on the top side, trying to slash only the skin and not the meat. Place the chicken on the roasting rack.
  5. Put chicken at the bottom of the oven and broil for 12 minutes. Use tongs to turn chicken over, then broil another 12 minutes. (For small ovens, you may want to cover chicken loosely with foil for the first 12 minutes, then uncover and turn once after 6 minutes.) Keep an eye on the process. Return chicken to first side and brush very liberally with the lemon oil. Move to the upper rack and give it just 1 minute. The chicken should be cooked through and the skin crisp and dark.
  6. Throw the rest of the lemon oil over the chicken and serve with plenty of napkins.


Serve with a grain and vegetable, any that would please your family on a weeknight. How about glazed carrots and rice pilaf?

LEFTOVER IDEAS: The lovely skin isn’t going to keep, so (while crying) skin it and store in a zipper top bag with the drippings. Pull off the bone later and–with the drippings–make a wonderful, lemony Chicken Noodle Soup.

*Recipe changed from the original.


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