¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter or extra-virgin olive oil
1 3½–4 lb. whole chicken
Freshly ground black pepper
Arrange a rack in the center of your oven, and preheat to 425°. Cut 1 lemon in half crosswise and remove any visible seeds. Cut 1 head of garlic in half crosswise (its okay if it falls apart)
Melt ½ stick butter in a small saucepan or microwave in a small bowl.
Place whole chicken on a cutting board. Pat the whole thing dry with paper towels. This is important to get the chicken as dry as possible, which helps with browning.
With chicken breast facing up and legs pointing toward you, use a sharp knife to slice through loose area of skin connecting the leg and breast, making about a 3″-long incision. Continue cutting downward until you hit the joint that connects the thigh to the body, then stop (once you get through the skin, there’s not much there; if you are cutting through flesh, you’re too close to the breast). This exposes the leg joint, making it easy to tell if chicken is cooked. Repeat on second side.
Season every surface of chicken, inside and out, and inside part of the leg, with lots of salt and pepper. If you’re using kosher salt, it should take you 4–5 generous—as in, four finger—pinches, which will be around 4 whole teaspoons.
Transfer chicken breast side up to a large oven-safe skillet. Arrange lemon and garlic cut sides down in skillet around chicken. Drizzle chicken all over with melted butter and transfer to oven.
Roast until chicken is nicely browned and cooked through, checking for doneness after 45 minutes. The Temperature of the thigh meat should be 155-165 degrees. To check without a thermometer, carefully poke a knife into leg joints, and pierce the meat. If juices run clear, the chicken is done. If you see a rosy pink color, it needs more time. Continue to roast, checking every 5 minutes, until juices run clear
Let chicken rest in skillet at least 15 minutes before carving; to help the juices in the meat to settle, and will be cool enough to handle with your bare hands while carving. Transfer chicken to a platter. Pour all of the tasty pan juices over top of the meat and serve with roasted lemon and garlic alongside.
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