Weeknight dinner
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Sear-Roasted Chicken Pieces with Quick Lemon Pan Sauce

As you can probably tell, I love roast chicken. I’ve already posted a couple of different ways to roast chicken pieces on the grill. But, when I was working on my White Chicken Chili recipe* I realized that I hadn’t posted this method, which is the one I use when I don’t feel like grilling.
*The white chicken chili recipe is coming, I promise.

The searing step gives this chicken recipe the crispiest skin I can make – except maybe for rotisserie chicken on a charcoal grill. As a bonus, if you use all thighs, or cut chicken breast pieces in half, you can be done in about 45 minutes, which qualifies as an ambitious weeknight dinner for me.

Recipe: Sear-Roasted Chicken Pieces with Quick Lemon Pan Sauce 


  • 3 to 4 lbs chicken pieces (Breasts, Thighs, Legs, Drumsticks all work)
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup chicken stock or water
  • Zest and Juice of 1/2 of a lemon

1. Prep the chicken: Liberally salt and pepper the chicken pieces. Preheat oven to 375F. Heat the oil a 12″ skillet (NOT nonstick) over medium-high heat, until shimmering and just starting to show wisps of smoke.

2. Cook the chicken: Put the chicken pieces in the skillet, skin side down, and cook until the skin is well browned, about 5-8 minutes. Flip the chicken, and cook the other side until lightly browned, about 2-3 minutes. Drain any excess fat out of the pan, then put the pan in the preheated oven and cook until the chicken is 160
F in breasts, or 170F in thighs, about 10 minutes (thighs, halved breasts) to 20 minutes (whole breasts), depending on the size of the pieces. Remove the chicken to a plate.

3. Make a pan sauce from the drippings: If there’s more than a teaspoon or two of fat left in the pan, pour it out (try to save any chicken juices if they’re still there.)  Put the pan back over medium heat (be careful with the handle- it will be rocket hot).  Wait until the drippings start to sizzle, then add the garlic and saute until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, and boil, scraping the pan to loosen the browned chicken drippings into the sauce. Boil until reduced by half, 3-5 minutes. Add any juices on the plate with the chicken, then remove from the heat, and add the lemon zest and juice to the pan. Stir to combine, taste for seasoning (it should be highly seasoned – add salt and pepper if necessary), and serve on the side with the chicken.

For the sauce: replace the garlic with some diced shallot

*For the sauce: add some drained capers with the garlic, or some red pepper flakes to give it some kick
*For the sauce: add a splash of alcohol (white wine, sherry, vermouth, madiera, port, etc…) to the pan, and let reduce, before adding the stock
*For the sauce: add a sprig of fresh herbs (I prefer thyme, or a small piece of rosemary) with the stock; remove before serving. Or, strip the herbs off their stems, and add them to the stock with the juices from the chicken plate
*For the sauce: to add richness to the sauce, after adding the lemon, whisk in one tablespoon of butterNotes:
*This is a quick weeknight meal – about 30 to 45 minutes end to end, depending on how long it takes to cook the chicken.

*If you have a little extra time, brine the chicken for an hour, or pre-salt at least 6 hours (but not more than 24) ahead of time, then skip the salting step in the prep.
*If cooking a mix of breasts and thighs, cut the breasts in half to speed their cooking – they’ll be finished at about the same time that way.
*I love dark meat (and it’s cheap), so I often cook this recipe with all thighs.  That’s what I was doing in the pictures shown above.  You will get a LOT of fat out of thighs in the skin-side down searing phase; make sure you pour it out before putting the pan in the oven for roasting.  I usually use my pan lid to hold the pieces in place while I pour.
*The sauce isn’t a recipe, it’s the starting point for an infinite variety of sauces.  This is a great use for homemade chicken or turkey stock, but even a sauce made out of a cup of water and some salt tastes good, if you use it to deglaze the fond in the pan*.  And…you’re going to have to clean the pan out somehow; why not make a sauce out of the tasty drippings that get left behind by roasting?
*Look at me, bringing out the big gun cooking terms!  Don’t make me drop some cooking French on you!

Cook’s Illustrated Pan Roasted Chicken recipe
Pam Anderson’s How to Cook Without a Book

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Filed under: Weeknight dinner


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.


  1. Misty H says

    This was our dinner tonight….and it was über yummy! I made the sauce as you said, but added some onions. This (in its many variations) is going to be added to our busy-weeknight menu!

    Can you also do this with pork?

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