Elevate Your Weeknight Roast Chicken With A Quick Lemon Marinade

lemon roasted chicken in a blue roasting pan
lemon roasted chicken in a blue roasting pan - Jennine Rye/Tasting Table

While roasting chicken will improve its flavor and texture by crisping its skin and layering its savory profile with smoky char, a marinade is essential for the most delicious, tender, and juicy result. Lemons will be your secret weapon to elevate a weeknight roast chicken. Tasting Table recipe developer Jennine Rye demonstrates how easily a lemon marinade comes together and how effectively it tenderizes and imparts a bright, fragrant flavor to her roasted lemon chicken recipe.

Lemon takes center stage with the addition of both juice and zest to olive oil, garlic, and a few basic seasonings. The juice brings tartness to complement the earthiness of the olive oil and the savoriness of the chicken. The zest is tantamount to infusing the chicken with a concentrated citrus flavor. Furthermore, the citric acid in the juice acts as a tenderizing agent for the meat, ensuring that the roast chicken remains juicy while it cooks at high temperatures in a dry oven.

Lemon juice is so successful at breaking down chicken meat that it'll reduce typically long marinade times. Rye warns that leaving your chicken to marinade any longer than 12 hours will result in mushy meat. That said, her recipe uses chicken thighs which take longer to marinate than boneless chicken. So, if you're using boneless chicken breasts, your chicken will be ready to go after only an hour or two of marinating in the fridge.

Read more: 12 Different Ways To Cook Chicken

Other Ideas For Lemon-Marinated Chicken

raw lemon marinated chicken thighsin baking pan
raw lemon marinated chicken thighsin baking pan - Jennine Rye/Tasting Table

Rye's recipe is certainly worth a try, but you can apply this quick lemon marinade to plenty of other chicken recipes, cuts of chicken, or even accompanying roasted vegetables. You can also customize the marinade with your favorite seasonings, herbs, and aromatics. Garlic is always a good idea for roast chicken because it'll roast and caramelize, delivering even more depth of flavor to the dish. However, you could add slices of onions or shallots instead and the result will be an even sweeter pairing for the lemon to complement.

You could swap olive oil for plain yogurt and supplement garlic with ginger and chili paste for a tasty lemon marinade for tandoori chicken. Add capers and a dash of sherry to your lemon-roasted chicken to transform it into a roasted chicken piccata. Another simple rendition would be to use a blend of olive oil and butter with lemon juice, zest, garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano in your marinade, reserving half of it as roasting liquid for potato wedges. This would make your weeknight roast a one-pan meal because you could place the marinated wedges on the bottom and the marinated bone-in chicken breasts on top to cook simultaneously. You can then spoon any marinade leftover at the bottom of the roasting pan over the chicken, potatoes, or steamed veggies you might pair with them. If you make too much marinade, you can repurpose it as a dressing for salads or grain bowls.

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