Soul-Warming Lemon Garlic Braised Chicken
Lemon Garlic Braised Chicken with capers is soul-warming! Crispy skin-on chicken thighs and legs seared and then braised in stock and lemon juice until they’re fork-tender. Extra delicious served with crusty bread!
Spring has sprung with these lemon garlic braised chicken thighs!
We start by seasoning the chicken and letting it hang out for a few hours so that it’s flavorful through and through. Then we’ll add the chicken to a screaming hot pan and sear the skin and render off most of the fat. We’ll add whole garlic cloves, chicken stock, herbs, and lemon juice to help make a braising liquid. Then the chicken goes into the oven and braises until fall-apart tender. And when you thought I was done, I’ll add a little butter to the sauce to thicken it up and to drizzle over mashed potatoes, rice, or to serve with grilled bread.
Crispy chicken skin, tender chicken, and a cozy homestyle braised sauce.
Check, check, and check.
What is braising?
Braising is a cooking method similar to stewing. The food is simmered in a small amount of liquid in a casserole dish or pot. The liquid that the meat is cooked in can be anything from stock, wine, or juice. The flavors intensify and blend as the meat is slowly braised on top of a range or in the oven. For the meat to develop more flavor, it is often seared in a pan before letting it braise slowly for an extended period of time. This browning process is important because it helps create more flavor. Braising poultry is also called ‘Fricasseeing.’
What ingredients do you need to make lemon garlic braised chicken?
- Chicken: Bone-in, skin-on chicken works best for this recipe. Legs and thighs are what I used, but chicken breasts will work too. The timing may vary on those, so keep an eye on them in the oven.
- Seasonings: We’re keeping things simple with this recipe, but it definitely won’t be light on flavor. You’ll need dried oregano, dried thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
- Chicken Stock: I use and suggest using low sodium chicken stock for this recipe so that it doesn’t become too salty at the end.
- Lemon Juice: just a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to help brighten up all the flavors in this dish.
- Garlic Cloves: we’re using whole cloves of garlic that we’ll saute in a little oil and then let it braise in the oven with the chicken. This will help add tons of flavor and aroma to our braised chicken dinner.
- Capers: capers cut through some of that richness with the briny flavor. If you aren’t a fan, you can replace them with Castelvetrano olives or omit them from the recipe.
- Butter: You’ll want to use cold cubed butter for this recipe. We’ll add the butter at the end to help thicken the sauce a tablespoon at a time.
- Parsley: just a hint of freshness to finish off the dish.
How to make garlic braised chicken in the oven:
- Season and let it hang out. We’ll start by patting the chicken dry and seasoning it with salt and pepper. Place the chicken on a large plate or in a bowl and allow it to chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours and ideally, at least 10-24 hours for best results.
- Sear and braise. When you’re ready to prepare this, preheat the oven and grab a large cast-iron skillet or any other oven-safe pan you’ll like to use. Add the olive oil to a skillet or braiser, and when hot, sear the chicken skin side down, undisturbed for 10 minutes. This will ensure crisp skin. Then, flip the chicken and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Keep in mind that the chicken won’t be cooked through at this point. We’ll finish it in the oven. Remove the chicken to a plate and drain most of the grease from the pan. You don’t need more than a tablespoon now. Add the whole garlic cloves and sauté them for a minute but make sure they don’t burn. Then add the chicken stock, dried oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, and finally, the lemon juice. Add the chicken pieces back to the braised and place the dish in the oven and allow it to braise until tender.
- Make that sauce. When the chicken is done, remove it from the oven and place the braiser on the stove over low heat. Add the capers, and then slowly add a tablespoon of butter at a time. Use a wooden spoon to stir the sauce as the butter gently melts in. Repeat this until all the butter is incorporated. Taste and adjust with additional salt as needed. Then add the chicken back to the pan (or place on serving plates) and drizzle the sauce on top and sprinkle with parsley.
FAQs about braised chicken:
- Why do we dry brine the chicken with salt ahead of time? Dry brining a chicken with salt helps draw out moisture from the skin, which then helps crisp up the skin faster and provides a more flavorful chicken on the inside.
- Can I use something other than chicken thighs/legs? Yes, bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (or a combination of all three parts) would also work for this recipe. If you use a whole chicken, make sure to test all parts to ensure they’ve cooked through during braising.
- I ran out of time. Do I have to dry brine? You can season the chicken and cook it immediately if you don’t have time to dry brine. I do find that the flavors are much more pronounced, and the chicken is more flavorful when you brine. However, the recipe works just fine if you season and cook immediately as well.
- How can I tell if the chicken is done? Check the chicken’s temperature using a digital thermometer inserted into the thickest part of each piece of chicken. Don’t guess here. You don’t want it to be under/overcooked.
- Why do you add cold butter at the end to the sauce? This is a French technique. Adding in cold cubes of butter to a sauce and slowly allowing it to melt into the sauce while you stir helps make a stable emulsion (which means the sauce will be homogenous.) You must add in COLD butter because warm butter won’t achieve the same results. It will leave the sauce thin and may even break if you reheat it.
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- 3-3½ pounds chicken pieces (legs, thighs, or breasts bone-in + skin-on)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¾ cup low sodium chicken stock
- ¼ teaspoon EACH: dried oregano AND dried thyme
- Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 25 whole cloves garlic
- ¼ cup non-pareil capers, drained
- 3 tablespoons cold butter, cubed into 12 pieces
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- SEASON: Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a large bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and ideally, 10-24 hours.
- SEAR + BRAISE: When you’re ready to make the dish, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, wipe dry with a paper towel. Add the olive oil to a large braiser or any stove/oven-safe wide pan over medium heat. Add the chicken in a single layer, if it doesn’t fit, do this in batches. Cook the chicken for roughly 10 minutes skin side down or until the fat is rendered from the skin, and it turns golden brown. Flip and cook for 1-2 minutes just to sear. Remove chicken to a plate. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan. Cook the garlic cloves for 1 minute, stirring as needed, don't let them burn. Deglaze the pan with chicken stock. Season with dried oregano, dried thyme, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice. Add chicken pieces back to the braiser (skin side up.) Place the dish in the oven and allow the chicken to cook, covered for 20-30 minutes or until brown and the thickest part of the chicken registers 165ºF with a meat thermometer.
- SAUCE: Place the braiser back on the stove over low heat and remove the chicken pieces. Add the capers. With the heat on the lowest setting, add a tablespoon of butter (4 small cubes) and slowly stir the sauce so that the butter gently melts in. When the first tablespoon is incorporated, repeat with the second and third tablespoon. The sauce should thicken to drizzle over the chicken when serving. Taste and adjust with salt as needed; if you used salted butter, you shouldn’t need to season it at all. Add the chicken back to the pan (or you can place the chicken on a serving dish and drizzle the sauce around the chicken.) Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve over rice or with toasted bread.