Baked chicken and potatoes in the oven is an easy, popular Greek recipe. You can use chicken legs, drumsticks, thighs, or even a whole chicken cut into pieces.
Sheet pan Greek baked chicken and potatoes is a staple dinner in many Greek households not only because it’s easy but also because it’s delicious and healthy at the same time.
If you follow the Mediterranean Diet you may have heard that potatoes are not allowed because they contain starch, but in reality, when they’re combined with some kind of protein and vegetables they can be a great source of potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and fiber without causing blood sugar spikes.
For the meat it is best to use chicken thighs (like this Greek-style roast chicken from BBCgoodfood), drumsticks or chicken legs, but if you absolutely want to, you can also use a whole chicken cut into pieces (more about that in a while) or only breasts.
Almost all the Mediterranean recipes use fresh lemon juice, oregano and olive oil for the basic marinade ingredients (think of it like a basic chicken marinade) and then it’s up to you to add something extra like mustard, a bit of honey, some paprika or a few cloves of garlic.
How to keep the chicken moist and juicy
1. First, you should choose the right parts of the chicken. The traditional Greek recipe for baked chicken and potatoes uses a whole chicken cut into pieces, mostly because during the past a whole chicken was the only available thing. Drumsticks, thighs or chicken legs were not sold separately.
Today, things have changed and it is best to use the parts with the red meat and not chicken breasts because they can get dry very easily when baked in the oven. If you love chicken breast you can try this quick and easy honey-balsamic glazed chicken with dried fruit.
2. Salt the chicken a few hours before you plan to cook it (or even from the previous day). You could say that this is a type of dry-brining and the goal is to let the salt penetrate into the meat. Salt has the ability to absorb moisture but it also intensifies the natural flavor of our food. So, salting the meat long before cooking will not only make it more flavorful but it will also help it retain more moisture keeping it juicy. For more info about dry-brining you can this article from Serious Eats.
3. Bring it to room temperature before cooking. If you put in the oven a chicken that’s cold from the fridge, then by the time the center of each piece is cooked, the outer parts will most probably be overcooked and dry. So bring the meat to room temperature by taking it out of the fridge a couple of hours before cooking (the exact time will depend on the temperature in your kitchen) if you want to achieve even cooking without drying the outer parts of the meat.
4. Use a chicken marinade. Fresh lemon juice, olive oil and oregano are the top choices of Greeks. The marinade helps to tenderize the chicken meat and adds more flavor.
Does lemon marinade make chicken tough?
If you marinate the chicken breasts in an acidic marinade for more than 2-3 hours then they can get tough or dry. But this applies only to the parts with white meat. For the parts with red meat, I find that the marinade doesn’t toughen them.
Are chicken legs the same as drumsticks?
A chicken leg has two parts to it, the drumstick and the thigh. The drumstick is the calf part of the leg, while the thigh is the top part of the leg.
What are the best chicken parts for baking in the oven?
Typically in Greece, when you say “baked chicken and potatoes” you mean a whole chicken cut in 6-8 pieces which is placed in a pan and gets mixed with potatoes, fresh lemon juice, olive oil and oregano and then baked for 50-60 minutes or until the surface of the chicken is crispy and brown. This is the easiest method but it has some disadvantages because I find that the potatoes usually take more time to cook (especially if you cut them into large wedges) and also different chicken parts require different handling and cooking times.
Using drumsticks or chicken legs and cutting the potatoes into smaller pieces helps eliminate most of the above problems. If you want to use a whole chicken, make sure to cut each breast into two pieces so that it can cook faster.
Additionally to the chicken, I like to use a combination of potatoes and other vegetables like carrots and cauliflower because it makes for an even healthier dinner. If it’s summer, you can replace the carrots and the cauliflower with eggplant and zucchini slices for a more summery dinner.
Do you cover chicken when baking in oven?
It will depend on your oven. In most cases you won’t have to cover the chicken, in fact you may want to turn on your broiler at the end of cooking to brown the skin a little more and make it more crispy. However, if you notice that it browns too fast, it would be best to cover the pan with some foil. Remove the foil at the end of baking and broil if needed.
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 onion coarsly chopped
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice and zest from one lemon
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- freshly ground black pepper
- 8 drumsticks (or 8 thighs or a whole chicken cut in 8 pieces)
- 1.5 pounds (750 grams) potatoes diced into 1-inch pieces
- 2 carrots cut in chunks
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8-10 cauliflower florets
- extra salt
If you have the chance, salt and marinate the chicken from the previous day.
For the marinade: combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Transfer the chicken to a large bowl and pour over the marinade. Mix until everything is covered with the marinade, cover with cling film or a lid and refrigerate overnight or for a few hours.
1-2 hours before cooking, take the chicken out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature.
Preheat your oven to 430 °F (220 °C).
Transfer the potatoes and the carrots to a large baking dish, add some salt and mix. Add the chicken pieces among the vegetables, drizzle with the marinade and toss to mix everything evenly. Bake for 20 minutes.
Toss the cauliflower florets with the two tablespoons of olive oil and when the 20 minutes have passed, add it to the pan. Continue baking for another 15-20 minutes. You can turn on the broiler at the end of the baking time to make the skin crispier.
- Salt the chicken long before baking or the day before.
- Bring the chicken to room temperature for even cooking.
- Higher oven temperature 428 F (220 C) will result in crispy skin and juicy meat. Cut the potatoes in small cubes to cook faster.
- Serve this chicken with homemade tzatziki and a Greek cabbage salad (Lahanosalata)
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