Recipe Review

This Internet-Famous Chicken Has a Surprise Ingredient: Here’s How It Went When I Made It

published Aug 1, 2022
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Ali Slagle's Caramelized Lemon Chicken from New York Times Cooking.
Credit: Nicole Rufus

I’ve begrudgingly had to admit to myself that if I don’t do a bit of meal prepping at the beginning of the week, I will almost definitely blow my weekly budget. I’m always on the lookout for meal prep options that can I stretch out over the course of a few days. For this reason, roasted chickens have become one of my absolute favorite things to make in anticipation of the week ahead; they are so versatile!

Recently, as I was scrolling through TikTok, I came across this video of New York Times Cooking contributor Ali Slagle making her now-legendary caramelized lemon chicken —also known as lemon curd chicken. Fascinatingly, in lieu of using any fresh lemons, Slagle’s recipe relies solely on lemon curd to deliver that bright, citrus-y punch. I had bookmarked this recipe out of curiosity when I first saw it a few months ago, but watching Slagle’s TikTok tutorial gave me the push to finally give it a go. Here’s how it went down.

How to Make Ali Slagle’s Lemon Curd Chicken

Begin by preheating the oven. As the oven is warming up, mix the lemon curd, salt, and black pepper together in a small bowl. As Slagle says in the video, it’s not necessary to spatchcock your chicken, but doing so allows the chicken to get nice and browned all over. For those who decide to go the spatchcock route, lay the chicken breast-side down on a cutting board and — using a pair of sharp kitchen shears — cut the backbone of the chicken out. Flip the chicken over, breast-side up, and firmly press down on the breastbone until the chicken flattens out and you hear a cracking sound.

Pat the entire chicken dry and generously season it with salt and black pepper, gently separating the skin from the meat so that you can season underneath the skin as well. Spread some of the lemon curd underneath the skin of the chicken, using your fingers to gently massage and spread the curd evenly throughout. Spread the remaining lemon curd over the outside of the chicken in a thin layer and drizzle with olive oil.

Fill a skillet or roasting pan with water and lay the chicken down with the skin side up. Slagle then instructs you to tuck the wings under to prevent burning and turn the legs so that the thighs are facing up. Roast the chicken until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F. Begin checking the chicken after 30 minutes and cover with foil if it’s browning too quickly. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Get the recipe: Lemon Curd Chicken

Credit: Nicole Rufus

My Honest Review of Ali Slagle’s Lemon Curd Chicken

Winner, winner, chicken dinner! I will admit that like many folks in the comment sections, I was a bit skeptical of the lemon curd. I thought it would be far too sweet, but that actually wasn’t the case at all. The curd, mixed with that drizzle of olive oil, gorgeously caramelized on the skin as the chicken roasted. I know chicken skin freaks some people out, but it’s the most important part of any good chicken for me, and the skin on this one is sticky, crispy, sweet perfection.

Perhaps what I love most about this recipe, though, is just how easy it is to make. That’s what really great cooking is for me: finding simple ways to transform an ordinary dish into something special. All it takes is a bit of lemon curd to turn your weekly roast chicken into a noteworthy affair. I’m definitely going to be making this chicken as part of my meal prep rotation, but it’s also enough of a standout dish to make for a dinner party or to wow a new romantic interest with kitchen prowess.

Slagle says, quite adorably, at the beginning of the TikTok, “the meat is really juicy.” And let me tell you — she was not lying. The water in the skillet plus the curd spread under the skin make for a very juicy, very tender chicken. The only real issue I ran into was that the legs of my chicken didn’t cooperate when I tried to turn the thighs to face up, but the final result was still beautiful and delicious. Lemon curd chicken gets two thumbs up from me, but I do have a few thoughts below about how to jazz it up a bit.

If You Make Ali Slagle’s Lemon Curd Chicken, a Few Tips

  1. Add a squeeze of lemon. I thought this chicken could have used a bit of acidity from a fresh lemon. While the sweetness of the lemon curd is tempered by the salt and black pepper, as well as the time it spends roasting, this chicken still could benefit from a tart, bright pop of flavor via freshly squeezed lemons. Next time I’m going to squeeze a healthy splash of fresh lemon juice over the chicken immediately after removing it from the oven.
  2. Spice up your life. Another thing that would have kicked this chicken up a notch is just a pinch of heat to contrast the sweetness of the curd. I recommend mixing in either a bit of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes with the lemon curd.
  3. Baste it, baby. The pan drippings from this chicken were delectable. The lemon curd and the chicken fat meld and it’s just *chef’s kiss.* As I took the chicken out of the oven, I grabbed a spoon and basted the chicken with the piping-hot pan drippings and it helped infuse so much extra moisture and flavor into the chicken.