Thanksgiving Roast Chicken

November 18, 2022

Look, I’ve got nothing against turkey — I just wanted to create a Thanksgiving Roast Chicken for people who do. Or, for people who are hosting Thanksgiving for a small family, a cozy party of two, or even for the 20+ crowd that needs a second protein. Plus, with turkey shortages this year, there will be fewer options for the big bird and higher prices. Chicken it is!

This Thanksgiving chicken recipe was inspired by the spiced and glazed turkey from Bon Appetit’s (now several-years-old) YouTube series, Making Perfect. I didn’t mess with the flavors or the cooking method that BA’s professional test kitchen editors perfected, but I swapped out the main ingredient and tweaked a few quantities here and there. If you’ve ever wondered: how to make chicken taste like turkey? It turns out, the perfect Thanksgiving turkey can also be the perfect Thanksgiving chicken. 

Let’s make Thanksgiving Roast Chicken

First, cut the chicken into five pieces. This is just like carving the bird, but it hasn’t been cooked yet. A friendly butcher will do this for you, or you can buy a bird already broken into parts (Farmer Focus makes one). Roasting the chicken in parts, rather than whole, allows it to cook more evenly. Plus, it means the whole carving part is already done before the bird is even cooked and the chicken cooks in under an hour. Imagine Thanksgiving dinner done and on the table in roughly 60 minutes?

After the chicken is prepped, apply the dry brine: It’s a mix of salt and spices that, when patted all over the bird and left to sit overnight, flavors the chicken right to the bone. Seasoning chicken just before cooking will flavor the skin, but not the meat underneath. The brine is a spicy, slightly smoky, ever-so-sweet combination of pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and light brown sugar. Total flavor bomb!

Piece of thanksgiving chicken getting picked up with a fork.

Finally, drizzling the dry-brined chicken with oil instead of butter creates the shiniest, crackliest, crispiest skin. Unlike oil, butter contains moisture that can prevent browning. Oil also has a higher smoke point than butter, so you can really crank up the heat (key for crispy skin) without the risk of burning the bird.

Bon Appetit’s turkey might be perfect, but a chicken that cooks in under an hour and suits a small family or supplements a big crowd? That’s something to be thankful for.

What to serve with Thanksgiving roast chicken:

Thanksgiving Roast Chicken

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Dinner American
By Adapted from Bon Appetit Serves: 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes Cooking Time: 45-65 minutes Total Time: 50-70 minutes

Quick & easy, incorporates all the best Thanksgiving flavors with none of the hassle. Great for a small crowd or as an extra main dish.

Ingredients

  • 4-5 lb whole chicken
  • 4 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or half as much Morton)
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp plus 3 Tbsp (packed) light brown sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp neutral oil (such as vegetable, peanut, or canola)
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 2 strips orange zest
  • Small handful of hardy herbs (such as sage, rosemary, bay leaves, and/or thyme)

Instructions

1

Cut the chicken into parts, leaving the breast, wings, and legs whole. It's just like carving the chicken, except it hasn't been cooked yet. You can ask your butcher to do this for you, or purchase chicken pieces instead of a whole chicken.

2

In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and 1 teaspoon brown sugar.

3

Place chicken pieces, skin side up, on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet lined with 2 pieces of foil. Gently pat the salt mixture all over the chicken (don't rub, or it will start to clump). Chill bird, uncovered, overnight and up to 24 hours.

4

Before cooking, take the chicken out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about a half hour. This helps it cook more evenly.

5

Place a rack in the middle of oven; preheat to 425°F. Drizzle oil over chicken to coat and pour 1/2 cup water into baking sheet. Roast chicken, rotating baking sheet halfway through, until skin is mostly golden brown, 15-20 minutes.

6

Meanwhile, in a small pot, combine soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, orange zest, herbs, and remaining 3 tablespoons brown sugar. Heat on medium, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and glaze thickens slightly (it will continue to thicken as it cools), 10-12 minutes. Remove glaze from heat.

7

Reduce oven temperature to 325°F and continue to roast chicken, brushing with glaze every 15 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 165°F, and 175°F when inserted into the thickest part of the thighs, 30–40 minutes longer (total cooking time will be 45–65 minutes). Start checking after 15 minutes (when you first go in to glaze), as the smaller pieces, like the wings, will cook more quickly. The breast will take the longest.

8

Transfer chicken to a cutting board. Let rest 10-20 minutes before carving.

Nutrition

  • 452 Calories

Notes

Instead of breaking down the chicken into parts, you can do this with a whole chicken. It will take longer to cook, so expect an extra 30-45 minutes of oven time.

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    chefboyrdee
    November 8, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    Photos are stunning! Looks extremely yummy

  • Reply
    Calli
    December 6, 2020 at 4:53 am

    Randomly googled to find this recipe thanksgiving day — skipped the overnight marinade but holy cow this chicken was DELICIOUS! Our guests couldn’t stop raving over it. Thank you!!!

    • Reply
      Samantha
      December 6, 2020 at 8:26 am

      Hi Calli,

      Yay! That is wonderful news. Really appreciate the feedback!

      Cheers,
      Sam

  • Reply
    Beck & Bulow
    November 7, 2021 at 1:26 am

    Yummy, now I have another yummy one to add to my prep for Chicken!! and please visit us: https://www.beckandbulow.com

  • Reply
    Ryan
    November 22, 2021 at 10:20 am

    This will definitely be our main for Thanksgiving this year~such great ideas. Thanks Samantha!!

  • Reply
    Koala23
    November 26, 2021 at 5:37 pm

    Hey! I’m new to the country and I wanted to cook for my first thanksgiving. My oven wasn’t big enough to fit a turkey and I googled a chicken alternative. Man, was this good or was this good! It’s easy and delicious!

    • Reply
      Samantha
      November 29, 2021 at 6:36 am

      This comment made my day, so happy you enjoyed!

  • Reply
    Anna
    November 11, 2023 at 9:29 pm

    Hi Samantha! I’m a newer cook and I’m trying this recipe this week and doing a practice run on a smaller amount of chicken. I saw you said to put it in the fridge uncovered overnight. What happens if you cover it loosely? I feel weird leaving the chicken uncovered. I’m excited to cook it tomorrow! Thanks!

    • Reply
      Samantha
      January 9, 2024 at 12:58 pm

      Hi Anna, I’m so sorry for the delayed response. Been taking a break from blogging! You can absolutely cover it loosely (I find that the surface of the skin dries more easily if uncovered, thus resulting in better browning, but it’s not necessary.) Thanks for your comment!

  • Reply
    Kayte CookWatts
    November 23, 2023 at 5:28 pm

    Fantastic! We are novice cooks and this was easy enough for us to be confident, but special enough for the holiday. Thanks so much.

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