Buttermilk Roast Chicken

November 10, 2021

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Such an easy Roast Chicken recipe. A whole chicken is brined in a well salted, buttermilk, garlic and herb mixture then it’s oven roasted until beautifully browned and amazingly tender! It’s likely to become your new favorite way to prepare and roast a chicken!

Whole brined and roast chicken shown overhead in a cast iron skillet.

The BEST Roasted Chicken

I’ve made this chicken every week for the last month! We just can’t get enough of it. It’s amazing how it turns out so well without even being slathered in butter or oil.

The acidic buttermilk tenderizes the meat, adds flavor, and promotes the skin browning. The salt keeps it juicy (as long as you don’t over-bake it of course), it tenderizes and seasons as well. And the herbs and garlic lend fresh flavor.

It’s an absolute breeze to prepare, they key is just to plan ahead. The night before you plan to make it, begin soaking it in the brine. A lengthy brining is a must for juicy chicken. No shortcuts.

Then the next evening when you get home from work or running errands, simply transfer it to a cast iron pan (you don’t even need to truss the bird) and roast in a hot oven.

You can serve it with some simple sides. I suggest going with the classic meat and potatoes pairing for a hearty meal.

Parmesan roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes (or slow cooker potatoes) are great options. Or for something quick you can do on the stovetop go with a lemony couscous.

Carved roast chicken shown on an oval serving platter.

Buttermilk Roast Chicken Recipe Ingredients

  • 4 to 4.5 lb whole chicken (preferably organic or air chilled)
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic

Photo of ingredients used in making a buttermilk brined and roasted chicken.

How to Brine and Roast a Whole Chicken

  1. Prep the chicken: Remove the neck and any giblets from the cavity of the chicken. Freeze for a later use or discard.
  2. Place in a large bag: Place a gallon size resealable freezer bag in a large bowl then place the chicken in the bag with the upper portion of the chicken toward the bottom of the bag and the legs toward the opening of the bag.
  3. Make buttermilk brine: In a mixing bowl,  whisk together buttermilk, salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary and thyme for about 30 seconds.
  4. Pour brine over chicken: Pour mixture over the chicken while also pouring some into the rib cavity of the chicken. Seal bag while pressing out as much excess air as possible. Rub marinade over chicken.
  5. Rest in fridge: Transfer to fridge and let marinate at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. If you have the chance, turn the chicken halfway through – if not I recommend marinating breast side down.
  6. Heat oven: When ready to roast preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  7. Transfer chicken to pan: Remove chicken from marinade and scrape off buttermilk mixture. Transfer to a 12-inch cast iron skillet (or a small roasting pan).
  8. Adjust wings, optionally tie ankles: Turn and tuck the wings inward underneath the chicken. If desired, truss the legs together at the ankles with kitchen twine (this is more for presentation and is completely optional, I don’t always truss).
  9. Set sheet of foil aside: Have a sheet of foil ready to tent the chicken at any point of baking as needed to prevent excess browning once it’s reached the desired level of browning (depending on your oven you may find it’s reached the color your looking for around 30 to 50 minutes of roasting, then tent with the foil).
  10. Roast chicken until cooked through: Place pan in the center of the oven and roast 40 minutes, then rotate the pan to the opposite side (for even browning and cooking. The back of the oven is generally hotter). Continue to roast until the chicken is cooked through about 30 to 45 minutes longer (internal temps are listed below).
  11. Rest off heat then carve: Transfer chicken to a cutting board, rest 15 minutes then carve. After carving I like to season slices with a little salt.

Buttermilk, salt, herbs, garlic and pepper shown before mixing in a glass measuring cup. Whole chicken shown in brine in a large bag in a bowl.

How Long to Bake a Whole Chicken

  • At 400 degrees it takes about 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes to roast a 4 lb. to 4.5 lb. whole chicken.
  • This time can vary a bit depending on your oven so I highly recommend using an oven probe thermometer or instant read food thermometer to monitor the temperature.
  • You can also roast at a slightly lower temperature, the skin just won’t be quite as crisp.
  • At 350 degrees the general guideline is that it takes 20 minutes per pound plus and additional 15 minutes added.
  • With this recipe if the chicken your using is larger than 4.5 lbs. I would roast using the 350 degree guideline.

Raw chicken that's legs are trussed in a cast iron skillet before roasting.Photo of a browned whole chicken roasting in the oven with a food thermometer inserted into the thigh.

What temperature should a whole roast chicken cook to?

  • The final temperature of chicken should be 165 degrees in the thickest portion for food safety.
  • For the chicken breast I like to cook to 160 in the thickest portion (and let it rest and rise to 165 out of the oven for 15 minutes), for the thigh cook to 175 degrees (or a little higher is fine but the breast needs to be at least 160).

How to Carve a Chicken

If you are new to carving a whole chicken you may find it helpful to watch a video tutorial before you begin.

  • Use a sharp chefs knife for clean slices. Paper towels are helpful if the chicken is too hot to manage.
  • With the knife, separate the leg from the breast by slicing down right between them, then pull the leg back and cut between the joint at the hip.
  • Slice the thigh and drumstick apart at the knee joint (unless someone wants a whole leg).
  • Then cut away the wings (if anyone wants them), again cutting between joints where the wing meet the carcass.
  • Cut away each whole breast, just cutting barely to the side and along keel bone that runs the length of the chicken between the breasts. Cut down at a slight angle and pull the chicken breast away as you cut to see where to continue cutting.
  • Once the breasts are cut away from the bones slice each breast against the grain into desired thickness of slices.

Helpful Tips when Roasting a Chicken

  • Don’t forget to pour some of the brine into the cavity of the chicken so it’s seasoned from the inside as well. Pour it all out before roasting.
  • Use a food thermometer rather than guessing or going by the color of the chicken or its juices. It takes out the guess work and no need to slice into the chicken early and release juices.
  • Let the chicken rest 15 minutes out of the oven before slicing. This allows the juices to more evenly redistribute before cutting into it.
  • Foil is a must here so the skin doesn’t burn. I’ve baked this in three different ovens and with each one the chicken was well browned by 50 minutes (one of them by 30 minutes), that’s where the foil comes in to drape over the chicken to dramatically reduce further browning.

Whole roasted chicken shown in a cast iron skillet with fresh herbs.

Possible Variations

  • The first 3 ingredients (chicken, buttermilk and salt) are key here. If you don’t have the others, they can be omitted and you’ll still have a tasty chicken.
  • Try with other herbs. Sage, basil, oregano, cilantro and chives are all great options.
  • Add a few tablespoons of lemon zest to the marinade.
  • Optionally, try rubbing some of the herbs, garlic and salt under the skin of the chicken before brining if you want that flavor to soak deeper into the chicken.

More Delicious Oven Roasted Chicken Recipes You’ll Love

Whole brined and roast chicken shown overhead in a cast iron skillet.
5 from 1 vote

Buttermilk Roast Chicken Recipe

A whole chicken is brined in a well salted, buttermilk, garlic and herb mixture then it's oven roasted until beautifully browned and amazingly tender! It's likely to become your new favorite way to prepare and roast a chicken!
Servings: 6
Prep15 minutes
Cook1 hour 30 minutes
Marinating12 hours
Ready in: 13 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 to 4.5 lb whole chicken (preferably organic or free range)
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves

Instructions

  • Remove the neck and any giblets (if there are any) from the cavity of the chicken. Freeze for a later use or discard.
  • Place a gallon size resealable freezer bag in a large bowl. Place the chicken in the bag with the upper portion of the chicken facing toward the bottom of the bag and the legs toward the opening of the bag.
  • In a mixing bowl whisk together buttermilk, salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary and thyme for about 30 seconds.
  • Pour mixture over the chicken while also pouring some into the rib cavity of the chicken.
  • Seal bag while pressing out as much excess air as possible. Rub the marinade mixture over chicken.
  • Transfer to fridge and let marinate at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. If you have the chance turn the chicken halfway through - if not I recommend marinating breast side down.
  • When ready to roast preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Remove chicken from marinade (while pouring any out from the cavity as well) and scrape off buttermilk mixture.
  • Transfer to a 12-inch cast iron skillet (or a small roasting pan). Turn and tuck the wings inward underneath the chicken. If desired truss the legs together at the ankles with kitchen twine (this is more for presentation and is completely optional, I don't always truss).
  • Have a sheet of foil ready to tent the chicken at any point of baking as needed to prevent excess browning once it's reached the desired level of browning (depending on your oven you may find it's reached the color your looking for around 30 to 45 minutes of roasting, then tent with the foil).
  • Place pan in the center of the oven and roast 40 minutes, then rotate the pan to the opposite side (for even browning and cooking. The back of the oven is generally hotter). Continue to roast until the thigh registers 175 degrees and the breast registers 160 degrees in the thickest portion of each, about 30 to 45 minutes longer.
  • Transfer chicken to a cutting board, rest 15 minutes then carve. After carving I like to sprinkle slices with a little salt.
Recipe inspired by NYT.