This is one finger-lickin’ good chicken! And I mean that very sincerely. I literally licked the spicy, wowerful flavor off my fingertips, right after I devoured a nice, big pre-bedtime protein snack. At 10:30pm. Yep. That’s the only way to do it in my book. If you want simple with a powerful flavor punch, this roasted chicken sure is one heck of a crowd-pleaser.
We had some extra-special guests over for dinner tonight, and tasked with some special dietary requirements, I settled on this roasted chicken as the main course. It’s simple, spicy, and easy. Oh, and did I mention easy? Yeah, so easy. And while roasted chicken may not be the most difficult thing out there to cook, there are a couple tips that I’ve thought up and tested along the way that, no matter what flavor combo you use to season your roasted chicken, result in a huge flavor punch, juiciness like nobody’s business, and a crispy golden skin.
Here are the key things I’ve learned about roasting chicken:
- Thighs or legs. You need dark meat if you want the juices.
- Seasoning goes under the skin.
- Oil goes on the outside of the skin. If you put oil underneath the skin, you’ll just end up with dry meat. Blech. I did it one time; it was a disappointment.
- Bones and skin on your chicken. Bone-in plus dark meat is much more resilient combination in the face of temperamental ovens or a slightly longer cooking time.
- 400 F/204 C for 40 minutes. That’s my baseline temp and time for thighs, which is what I usually use since they’ve got more meat on them than a leg, so it’s more meat for less work. (Work smarter, not harder. That’s one of my mottos.)
Thighs plus connected legs (aka leg quarter) are also a great option; bake these 45 minutes.
Just legs only need 30 minutes.
And if you’ve got a big pan of meat plus a pan of cold, twice-baked potatoes, for example, you can add on 10-15 minutes with no problem.
There you go. You’re welcome.
This method for seasoning and roasting can really be carried out with any flavor combo you set your heart on. And while I usually just eyeball the seasoning amounts, I measured for this recipe, just for you!
Oh yeah, and if you have fresh chicken, you can prepare this up to a day in advance of when you’re serving it so that all you have to do is preheat the oven and pop it in at the right time. No stress. And you don’t have to tend to it at all, so this is easy to prepare for dinner guests and doesn’t take you away from them for more than a few minutes.
Okay, enough talk, let’s get down to action!
Step 1: Prep ahead as your hands will be grubby when you start touching the meat. Preheat the oven to 400 F/204 C. Mix together your spices and pour a small amount of olive oil into a separate dish.
I brought a giant bottle of Lawry’s seasoned salt from the US when we moved. If you don’t have that, you can use another mix of spices that will produce a similar flavor to Lawry’s. I’ve included that in the recipe.
Set out your baking dish and a cutting board. In fact, if you don’t want to trim any fat off your chicken, you don’t even need a cutting board. But you will want to use a baking dish with higher sides, like a Pyrex or casserole dish, because there will be lots of juice coming out of your chicken. Also, it should be ceramic or glass for better heat distribution.
I’ve roasted my chicken on a metal rack over a baking sheet before, but that’s too many dishes to wash, and the grease just burns on the baking sheet and clings to all the curves of a metal rack plus it splatters more. So, work smarter, not harder, and don’t complicate things. This dish is about easy.
I’ve never made this in a cast iron dish, though I bet it would be pretty delicious. I don’t know how cast iron would change the baking time or results, but let me know if you try it! You’d want to leave it uncovered to crisp the skin.
Step 2: Trim off excess fat or skin, but only the excess as you still need it to be covered in skin. I noticed that thigh-only cuts in the US sometimes have a huge fold of excess skin on the underside. I like to trim that up a little but leave enough so that it wraps around the meat on the underside. You need that fatty, juicy blanket to protect the meat and also to provide another source of crispy goodness to devour later.
Here I’ve already started separating the skin from the meat, which is Step 3, but it’s the best photo to illustrate. Do you see that long, thick fat on the front of this cut of meat. That’s the excess that I like to cut off.
You’re welcome to leave on all the fat if you like that sort of thing or if you want to make tons of gravy from the pan drippings and pour it all over mashed potatoes. Mmmm…
Step 3: Make a pocket with the skin. You need to leave it attached where it’s connected to the bone, so find the cut side, and stick your thumbs in under the skin. Now slide them all along underneath to separate the skin from meat. You might need to stick your whole hand in if your meat is big. Don’t be afraid to get dirty. It’s a messy process but only takes a few seconds.
Step 4: Take a generous amount of seasoning and rub it underneath the skin, all over the meat. Leave no part of that chicken unseasoned. Don’t forget the underside too!
Then stretch the skin back over the meat and smooth it out. And since you’re already covered with seasoning, you can put some more seasoning on the outside of the skin. Most of the seasoning should go underneath, but just enough to color the skin on the outside is the right amount. You can season the skin either before or after oiling it, which is the next part.
Here, I’m just pinching up a portion of seasoning and throwing it deep in there then lightly rubbing it in. Otherwise, it can get fairly caked onto your fingers.
Step 5: Dip your fingers in the oil and smear all parts of the skin, just on the outside. If you didn’t season the skin in the previous step, do so now.
Place your chicken pieces skin-flap or bone-side down in your baking dish, and try to give them just a little space so they can get nice and crispy on all sides. As long as they’re mostly not touching, you’re good.
Time to throw it in the oven!
Just kidding. You probably want it a little neater than that.
Step 6: Roast these up to a day later. Dig in and enjoy your juicy, flavorful chicken!
And if you have any leftovers, try not to get caught with greasy fingers when you end up eating them cold out of the fridge later. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Spicy Paprika Roasted Chicken
Yield 3-4 lbs bone-in thighs, legs or leg quarters
Simple, juicy, bold, and spicy roasted chicken with crispy skin, with a few extra tips to get the most flavor possible. Great for everyday or for special occasions. And you can prep it a day ahead, too!
- 3-4 lbs. bone-in thighs, legs, or any combination of these
- 1-2 Tb olive oil, give or take
- 1 1/2 Tb Lawry's Seasoned Salt (if you don't have this, make a mock Lawry's with 1 Tb celery salt, 1 tsp sugar, and 1/8 tsp each of turmeric, onion powder, and garlic powder.
- 2 tsp hot paprika
- 2 tsp dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper, I use a 50/50 combo of white and black pepper
Note: You may end up not using all of the seasoning mixture, but you will probably use most of it.
- Preheat the oven to 400 F/204 C.
- Combine the spices together in a small dish and, in a separate small dish, pour a couple tablespoons of olive oil.
- Grab your chicken pieces and trim off any excess fat or skin, but make sure to leave enough skin so that it can cover as much meat as possible, including on the underside, if using thighs.
- Separate the skin from the meat by sticking your finger in underneath it and sliding them along all over the chicken to free the connecting tissue. Leave the skin attached to the meat at the bone and other large connection points, but basically you want to create big, open pockets so that you can access most of the meat's surface area.
- Liberally spread seasoning under the skin, all over the meat, and rub it in. Don't forget the meat on the underside. When done, replace the skin and smooth it back over the meat so that it covers as much as possible.
- Spread oil all over the surface of the skin. Your fingers are your most effective tool for this. Then rub another small amount of seasoning on top of the skin, all over.
- Place the chicken pieces skin-flap or bone-side down in a glass or ceramic baking dish, such as Pyrex, that is large enough to fit your chicken with just a little bit of space between each piece.
- Thighs only - 40 min
- Legs only - 35 min
- Whole leg (thighs with legs attached) - 45 min