This is one of my favorite ways to cook up some tasty chicken with minimal effort. This will work for thighs or drumsticks, too, but I prefer to use whole legs because they’re usually cheaper and they’re a convenient single serving size for me. Whatever you use, the dark meat cuts work best because they are so much more flavorful. Using skin on pieces also means that they are self-basting, so there is no need to add any extra fat. You don’t even need to toss the orange slices in any oil, as the chicken fat will keep those tender, too. If you’ve never tried a roasted orange, you should: they caramelize gently and yet still retain their juiciness, while their sweetness mellows out beautifully.
To season the chicken legs, you will have to pull back the skin without removing it. This is easy to do, just start by sliding a finger between the drumstick and the skin on the underside of the leg. Then follow that along the edge up to the thigh. That way you can pull back all of the skin but it is still attached at the base of the drumstick bone. Then you need to season and just pull the skin back over the meat. This will give you all the concentrated flavor of your seasonings on the meat and that great self-basting fat from the skin. If you find it hard to get a grip on the skin, try using a paper towel to hold it, that helps enormously!
The great thing about this dish is that it is super adaptable. I fit whatever seasoned chicken pieces I can onto a standard baker’s half sheet (sheet pan), then fill in the gaps with other fruits or vegetables. (Use a Silpat or similar to prevent sticking.) You can even throw another baking tray in the oven with a few sweet potatoes on it and you have a substantial meal with very little hands on time. It’s a great method to keep stashed away for weeknights – take a look here for some more inspiration!
One other note – I have a convection oven with a specific roast setting, which I used. This means that if you don’t have a convection oven, your chicken may take a little longer to cook. Check it with a digital meat thermometer like this one and make sure that all the pieces have reached at least 155F before removing from the oven. Rest for 10 minutes before serving, during which time the chicken will finish cooking and redistribute the juices nicely. This will also help you get some delicious crispy chicken skin, as will adding some salt to the outside of the skin (I like this brand).
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Zest the orange and set aside the fruit. Add the orange zest, dried garlic and fresh rosemary to a small bowl and mix together. Set aside while you prepare the chicken.
- Lay the chicken legs out on a lined baking tray. Separate the skin from the meat while still leaving it attached at the base of the drumstick.
- Divide the orange zest mixture evenly between the chicken legs, pressing it against the meat gently. Slide the chicken skin back over the meat and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Use a serrated knife to cut away the remaining orange skin or pith. Slice the oranges in half, then each half into 8 half moon shapes. Arrange the oranges around the chicken legs.
- Roast in the oven until the chicken is cooked through to at least 155F and the edges of the orange slices are beginning to caramelize, about 35 minutes.
- Rest for 10 minutes before serving.
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