The Secret Ingredient That Gives Brie Larson's Christmas Chicken Recipe Ultra-Crispy Skin (2024)

With a whole team of experts developing, testing, tasting, and perfecting recipes in our Test Kitchen, we usually rely on our internal culinary specialists to give us our lessons in food science. However, a clever new novel—and its Apple TV+ spinoff—are teaching (or reminding) us of a few old and new cooking tricks.

In case you missed it, Bonnie Garmus’ book "Lessons in Chemistry" was rejected 98 times by literary agents before getting the green light. That agent—and Garmus—are now schooling all of those who passed, as the best-selling book went on to sell more than 6 million copies (and counting) and is now the storyline of a streaming TV show by the same name.

In the series, actor Brie Larson plays the protagonist Elizabeth Zott, a sharp and witty chemist-turned-cooking show host. We’ve previously walked you through how to make Zott/Larson’s “perfect” lasagna. That dish was so tasty, we’ve been cooking our way through all of the recipes the "Lessons in Chemistry" team kindly shared online.

“Good food is not just a hobby—it is community, it is family, and it is essential,” Zott explains on the site. “Your ability to change everything, including yourself, starts here in the kitchen.”

We wholeheartedly agree, and believe that the Christmas Chicken recipe is a beautiful example of this concept coming to life…and just in time for the holidays.

How to Get Extra Crispy Roast Chicken Using Baking Powder

No need to gather a whole arsenal of ingredients to master this roast chicken recipe. You’ll just need a whole chicken (about 5 pounds is great), a lemon, butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, and the secret ingredient: baking powder.

You’re probably more familiar with this pantry staple being used in things like Allrecipes’ most popular pancakes, biscuits, cornbread, brownies, and Christmas cookies. That’s because baking powder is a leavener made with baking soda and an acid that’s most commonly used to aerate baked goods. When it touches a liquid, it begins to bubble. Those bubbles add levity to the finished product. (On the flip side, baking soda requires that liquid to be an acid for it to activate. Check out our guide to baking soda vs. baking powder for more.)

In this Christmas Chicken recipe, it’s utilized in the same way as it is in our crispiest oven-fried chicken. A dry brine made with salt and baking powder not only helps draw out a bit of the moisture, but it also helps break down the exterior of the chicken skin. The result? Crispy-skinned, golden-brown chicken that’s ready for its moment in the spotlight: Your plate.

No need to sweat if you don’t have any baking powder on hand (or discover your container is past its prime). It’s easy to make baking powder in a pinch.

How to Make the Christmas Chicken From 'Lessons in Chemistry'

(Serves 4)


  • 1 whole chicken, 4 to 5 pounds
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 lemon, zested and quartered
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • olive oil, for brushing


  1. Combine salt, baking powder, black pepper, and lemon zest and use it to season the chicken inside and out.
  2. Refrigerate the chicken overnight, uncovered.
  3. Put a large cast iron skillet in the oven and heat it to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  4. Stuff butter and lemon quarters inside the cavity of the chicken and tie the legs of the chicken together with twine. (If you don’t have twine, you can skip this step).
  5. Brush the chicken skin with olive oil.
  6. When the oven and skillet are hot, carefully place the bird in the skillet, breast side up.
  7. Roast for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  8. Baste the chicken, then continue roasting for about 50 minutes, basting every 15 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the thigh reads 155 degrees F (about 70 degrees C). Let rest for 15 minutes.
  9. Skim about 4 tablespoons of fat from the pan, then transfer the chicken to a cutting board, tilting the cavity downward so all of the juices run out into the pan as you do so.
  10. Use tongs to remove the lemons from the cavity and squeeze the lemon juice into the pan.
  11. Use a rubber whisk or spatula to vigorously stir the buttery, lemony pan juices into a sauce. (Add a splash of chicken stock, lemon juice, or water to help it emulsify if needed).

Carve the chicken and serve with a glass of eggnog.

Courtesy of "Lessons in Chemistry"

The Secret Ingredient That Gives Brie Larson's Christmas Chicken Recipe Ultra-Crispy Skin (2024)


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