Roast Chicken Legs and Thighs

If there’s a meal my kids will reminisce about someday when Jason and I are racing wheelchairs in the nursing home, it will be this roast chicken. With its crackly skin and tender, juicy meat, it has appeared on the dinner table many times, too many to count, to the rave reviews of six year olds and out-of-town guests alike. This chicken is, hands-down, the easiest, most inexpensive meal in my dinner arsenal.

For those of you who strive to eat hormone-free, antibiotic-free meat but cringe at the cost, you should seek out chicken legs, thighs or drumsticks, which are significantly lighter on the wallet than their much sought-after counterpart, the chicken breast, and are arguably more delicious. 

The only prep time required here is drying off the chicken. You want the skin as dry as possible. Rain salt over it. Stick it in the oven. That is all. The cooking technique is borrowed from Thomas Keller’s Favorite Simple Roast Chicken, my go-to recipe for cooking a whole chicken.    

If you absolutely must, you can gussy up this dish. Tuck a few plump garlic cloves under the skin – they’ll roast and caramelize as the chicken cooks, and afterward, with the gentle touch of a fork, collapse and melt into the meat.

You could also position a pat of butter and some freshly chopped herbs between the meat and the skin. Use your imagination but don’t create too much work for yourself, as the beauty of this dish lies in its simplicity.


This recipe requires skin-on chicken. It’s a must.


Skin-on, bone-in chicken legs or thighs or combination of both
Salt and Pepper


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. With paper towels, dry off the chicken pieces on all sides. Place chicken in a large baking dish, making sure they have a little bit of space in between them. Season the chicken with salt and pepper — don’t be stingy on the salt, as you want the chicken skin to be evenly seasoned. Bake for 45 - 55 minutes until skin is crispy and golden. Ladle the juices over the chicken. Serve with dijon mustard on the side, if desired.

Optional: Prior to baking, place a few garlic cloves (outer skins removed) under the skin of the chicken. Alternatively, place a 1/2 tablespoon of butter and some freshly chopped herbs under the skin. Make sure the chicken skin is repositioned snugly over the garlic cloves or butter and herbs.

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23 Responses to “Roast Chicken Legs and Thighs”

  1. Stephanie — June 3, 2013 at 1:21 am

    Omg this was the best chicken I ever made. And easiest! Thank you! How did it take me 35 years to stumble on such a deliciously simple chicken recipe? LOVE!

  2. Laura — July 11, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    This turned out delicious! It was so easy too. Thank you for providing a busy mom with something other than more work in the kitchen.

    • Ashley replied: — July 12th, 2013 @ 1:16 am

      Laura, thank you for the comment. Glad you and your family enjoyed this recipe!

  3. Liz — August 28, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    What an easy yet delicious recipe. We enjoyed it very much. Thanks!

    • Ashley replied: — August 29th, 2013 @ 1:03 am

      Glad to hear it!

  4. Kady — October 30, 2013 at 1:50 am

    So moist! I was skeptical but this turned out so well! Thanks.

  5. Russell — June 5, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    I am a single guy cooking for himself and this was by far the best recipe and best chicken I ever made. I always wanted to make chicken that tasted just like the roast chicken places do. Awesome!

    • Ashley replied: — June 19th, 2014 @ 6:26 pm

      Russell, I’m a big fan, too, because the recipe works great for entertaining 12 or feeding 1.

  6. Angela — June 9, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    I can’t believe how simple this was, but just perfect! Usually my whole chicken legs come out dry, but they were juicy and just perfect. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Wendy M. — January 10, 2015 at 12:54 am

    I made your recipe tonight for the first time, and it was phenomenal!! I never would have thought to pair dijon mustard with chicken in this way, but I am so glad that I did. SO SO SO delicious!! I am sharing this with everyone I know.

  8. Karen — January 17, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    I love this recipe. Wicked easy, most delicious and juicy. Wondering if anyone has used it for whole chicken breast-skin on. Feeding a crowd and don’t have enough room in oven for individual leg/thighs.

  9. Kahea — January 25, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    I can’t believe it took me so long to find this! Delicious and simple! Thank you so much for making my life easier!

  10. Maria — January 30, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    I love this. I usually throw a few potatoes in the roasting pan too, as it is the perfect temp and time for baked potatoes. Dinner, Done!

  11. Arah-Lynda — April 8, 2015 at 11:37 pm

    Simple, delicious, bad cook proof. Thank you.

    • Ashley replied: — May 27th, 2015 @ 1:52 pm


  12. Sarahjane — December 30, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    I’ve now made this twice in the last week; first time with a nob of butter in each chicken piece, and the second? Welllll … courtesy of Christmas (and leftovers from the Beef Wellington we enjoyed), I snuck (sneaked?) an almond-sized piece of foie gras under the skin of each leg … and it was absolutely amazing. I made a sauce in the roasting pan using roux + chicken stock and WOW! So decadent. Thank you for the recipe! It’s a keeper. PS. Greetings and Happy New Year from Dubai. 🙂

    • Ashley replied: — January 5th, 2016 @ 2:29 pm

      Sarah, the foie gras addition sounds wonderful. I will have to try that!

  13. Sarahjane — January 10, 2016 at 4:13 am

    Ashley, it truly was! I also (sorry, forgot to mention first time around) deglazed with a suggestion of Madeira, and it was the absolute business. *Grins*

  14. corrie Ostermiller — January 22, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    Just wondering why you don’t turn the chicken over?

  15. hey — February 17, 2016 at 7:27 am


  16. Fae — March 22, 2016 at 10:46 am

    This recipe is delicious! It’s so crispy on the outside and so moist and tender inside. I usually rub butter and loads of herbs all over my chicken pieces when I roast them but I was so pleased this time because I opted to try the recipe using only garlic cloves salt and pepper (no butter) and I was very impressed with the results!


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