Feta-Brined Roast Chicken à la Melissa Clark

The ~ perfect ~ sunday night dinner

Roasted chicken. It’s a classic dish. But what recipe to choose? It’s all over the web, in every cookbook. There’s a plethora of tips, an abundance of varieties. The options are endless! Luke and I initially made your typical roast chicken – lemon and garlic in the cavity, salt and pepper, yada yada yada. But then NYT Food posted a new Melissa Clark video – Feta-Brined Roast Chicken. Of course we had to try it. Melissa makes just a few modifications to the usual recipe. The result: a roast chicken with all its wonderful traditional characteristics, but a nuance of newfangled taste.

One important lesson we’ve learned from Melissa’s recipe:

Brining makes everything better!!

You’ll find that this recipe produces an especially moist and flavorful chicken with extra crispy skin.


  • 1 3.5-4 lb whole chicken
  • 2 oz feta (plus about 2 oz more if you’d like to add to the pan drippings at the end of cooking)
  • 4-6 cups water
  • 2 tsp salt (brine) + 1 1/2 tsp salt (dry rub)
  • 1-2 TBS freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 TBS dried oregano
  • 2 large lemons
  • 1/4 cup olive oil


  1. Brine the chicken: Do this the night before serving or morning of (brine for at least 8 hours, up to 36 hours). In a blender, combine water, 2 tsp salt, and 2 oz feta and blend until smooth. But your chicken in an extra-large resealable plastic bag or container and cover with feta-brine.  Add extra water to fully submerge chicken if necessary.
  2. Prep chicken to cook: Remove chicken from the brine, pat dry, and let rest for about 1 hour so that it reaches room temperature.
  3. Make dry rub and dress chicken: Combine 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1-2 TBS black pepper (we tend towards 1 TBS), 2 TBS oregano, and zest of 2 lemons. Rub all over the bird and in the cavity.  Do not skimp on rub!! Cut one lemon into quarters and place into the cavity. Truss the chicken.
  4. Cook: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place a large, oven proof skillet (cast iron pan) over high heat.  Once heated, add oil. Place chicken breast-side up (legs in the air!). Transfer entire pan to the oven.  Cook for 50 minutes – 1 hour, basting once or twice. To test if finished, pierce chicken with a knife.  If juices run clear the chicken is ready!*
  5. Remove chicken from oven.  Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing (check out this video for carving instruction). Add some feta and juice of 1 lemon to the pan drippings to make a simple sauce. Enjoy with a baguette and green salad!

Details: Serves 4 (Luke and I love using the leftovers for chicken salads).

*Note 1: Another way to test doneness is with a meat thermometer.  Chicken is finished when the internal temperature reaches 150 – 160°F.

To print the recipe, click here: Feta-Brined Roast Chicken

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