Roasted Lemon Chicken with Bitterman's Sel Gris

by Mark Bitterman

Coarse, crunchy salts like sel gris should be a legally required addition to roast chicken.  The real question is, should the salt go on before you tuck the bird into the oven, or after you have carved it and set it on the table?  Before you don your finest wrestling gear to settle the matter with violence, consider the possibility that both are great.  The former delivers extra-crackling skin bristling with popping brittle bits of salt.  The latter lets subtler flavors of whatever seasonings you put on the skin shine forth, and then complements them with a more unctuous crystalline crunch.

Lemon chicken shows very nicely with a touch of Bitterman's Sel Gris rubbed in the poultry’s cavity, and a more generous amount of this warm, supple salt sprinkled at the end, lending a lush mineral crunch to balance the dish’s aromatic citrus zestiness and juicy sweet-sour acidity.  The Bitterman's sel gris is coarser than French sea salt’s such as Sel Gris de l’Ile de Noirmoutier, but it is also milder and somewhat silkier,making it a delicious alternative to these briny-minerally French classics. Free salt for anyone who sends me a photo of themselves in full wrestling attire.

Serves 8 


  • 1 chicken, about 4 lbs (2 kg), visible fat removed, washed and dried
  • 3 three-finger pinches Bitterman's Sel Gris (or coarse French sea salt) plus more for the table
  • 4 grinds cracked black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large lemon, cut in half, seeds removed

Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Sprinkle the interior cavity of the chicken with a three-finger pinch of sel gris the cracked black pepper. Coat the outside of the chicken with the olive oil and place the chicken breast-side down in a ceramic roasting pan.  Squeeze the lemon all over the chicken and put the spent lemon halves inside the chicken cavity.

Roast for 45 minutes and turn the chicken breast side up. It’s easiest to use large tongs with one arm inserted into the chicken cavity and the other gripping the back of the chicken. Roast for about 20 minutes more, until the skin is golden brown and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 170ºF.

Remove the chicken to a carving board and let rest for 5 minutes before carving. Carve the chicken and arrange in the center of a platter. Remove the lemon halves from the cavity and squeeze any remaining juice over the carved chicken.  Scatter the remaining tree-finger pinches of sel gris over the chicken and serve with a small bowl of sel gris for the table.


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