How To Bake Chicken: The Easiest, Simplest Method

How To Bake Chicken: The Easiest, Simplest Method

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Emma Christensen
Mar 2, 2015
(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

This simple chicken recipe is, far and away, the easiest way to cook our favorite poultry that I know. You hardly need a recipe: just toss a mix of chicken breasts, thighs, and drumsticks with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roast for about a half an hour. No flipping, no fussing, no nothing — and you can pile everything on a serving tray without the bother of pulling out the carving board. So smart.

This is the kind of recipe that belongs in your core arsenal as a home cook. It's perfect for a crowd or when you want to cook a bunch of chicken for meals during the week, and it's very easy to mix it up with fun spices or marinades. Here's our step-by-step recipe for roasting chicken pieces.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Why This Method Works

As much as I love roasting a whole chicken, I've found that it's not always the best if you're cooking for more than a few people or if you want leftovers for other meals. In so many ways, roasting a bunch of chicken pieces is so much more practical — it's faster (only taking about 30 minutes), everyone gets what they want (no fighting over drumsticks), there's no carving required, and there are plenty of leftovers. You can also buy a bunch of chicken pieces when they're on sale, stash them in the freezer, and then quickly thaw and roast for an easy weeknight dinner.

You can use a mix of chicken breasts, thighs, and drumsticks, or just roast a whole sheet pan filled with your favorite. With thighs and drumsticks, you can buy bone-in, skin-on pieces or boneless, skinless pieces; the meat is rich and fatty enough to cook fine either way. However, if you're cooking chicken breasts, definitely buy bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts just become dry and stringy with this cooking method.

→ If you love boneless, skinless chicken breasts, I recommend one of these other cooking methods:

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Learn this great, easy way to cook chicken in the oven. Watch the video!/h4>

How Long to Cook Chicken Pieces

Cooking time is generally 20 to 30 minutes, or until the chicken registers 165°F in the thickest part. Amazingly, all the chicken pieces wind up cooking at about the same rate — dark meat pieces cook a bit slower than white meat, but the thickness of the breast meat means everything finishes around the same time.

If the chicken finishes cooking before the skin is as crispy as you like it, run the baking sheet under the broiler for a few minutes. This will get the skin golden and crispy without severely overcooking the meat.

Ways to Switch It Up

The recipe below is very basic — just olive oil, salt, and pepper. It's fantastic, but if you make chicken on any regular basis, you'll want to switch things up. You can marinate the chicken in a bit of olive oil and vinegar, or throw in any blend of spices that strikes your fancy. A few of our favorite combinations are in the box below.

You can also roast some vegetables along with the chicken for a very easy sheet-pan dinner. The vegetables roast in the chicken fat and juices, becoming tender and oh-so-succulent. Use less chicken (around 3 pounds) to be sure there's enough room on the tray for the veggies. I love doing this with butternut squash, potatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Favorite Ways to Make Basic Chicken Amazing

  • Minced garlic + cider vinegar + fresh rosemary + honey
  • Honey + mustard
  • Lemon + minced garlic
  • Honey + chili powder + cider vinegar
  • Yogurt + cumin + coriander
  • Soy sauce + miso + ginger + minced garlic + sesame oil

→ See our recipe for Roasted Chicken Thighs and Squash over Polenta on page 190 of The Kitchn Cookbook.

Preheat the oven to 400°F: Pat the chicken dry using paper towels and transfer to a mixing bowl.

How To Make the Easiest Baked Chicken

Makes 10 to 12 servings

What You Need

Ingredients
3 to 5 pounds mixed chicken parts (bone-in, skin-on if using chicken breasts)
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Equipment
Mixing bowl
Baking sheet

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F: Pat the chicken dry using paper towels and transfer to a mixing bowl.
  2. Toss the chicken with olive oil, salt, and pepper: Start with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add more if needed to coat each piece. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss until the pieces are evenly seasoned.
  3. Arrange the chicken on a baking sheet: Transfer the seasoned chicken pieces to a baking sheet and arrange them skin-up in a single layer with a bit of space between each piece.
  4. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes: The chicken is done when opaque all the way through and the meat registers at least 165°F in the thickest part.
  5. Broil for extra-crispy skin: If you'd like the skin to be a bit more crispy and golden, turn on the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes. Monitor the chicken closely and remove the tray when the skin is as crispy as you like it.
  6. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for 3 months.

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