Lemon Rosemary Grilled Chicken (bone-in, white & dark meat)

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I’m telling you right now, you are going to want to put this Lemon Rosemary Grilled Chicken on repeat all summer long – it is THAT good! It has big gorgeous flavor, is universally loved, and pairs well with almost anything!

A white platter of lemon rosemary grilled chicken on an aqua blue background.

To say this is a family favorite for my crew is an understatement. We make it all summer along.

The dish begins with the flavor trifecta of garlic, lemon and rosemary, which, when done correctly, is just magical, in my opinion. Add to that, the smokiness of the grill, and the added flavor that comes from cooking the chicken with its skin and bones, and you’ve got an absolutely deliciously flavored dish.

But that’s not all! Grilling the lemons until they are well caramelized and squeezing them over the finished dish, along with chopped fresh herbs, is the perfect finishing touch.

At the end of the day, I love this recipe because it’s really simple and flexible – which, I think, is what we all crave in the summer. So grab a head of garlic, a handful of rosemary and 3 lemons and give it a go!

And if you’re looking for something delicious to serve with this grilled chicken, consider this Easy Cold Asparagus Orzo Salad with Lemon-Parmesan Vinaigrette or my favorite Grilled Zucchini with Fresh Mozzarella & Calabrian Chilies.

Why I love this recipe:

  • CROWD PLEASER – I have yet to find someone who doesn’t love this grilled chicken! Whether you’re making it for a simple weeknight dinner or entertaining a crowd – it’s perfect.
  • ONLY 5 INGREDIENTS – That’s right – only 5 simple ingredients!
  • PAIRS WELL WITH PRACTICALLY ANYTHING – The flavors in this chicken are assertive, but also complementary to so many summer side dishes, making it a perfect main course

Recipe Ingredients

You’ll need the following ingredients to make this incredible lemon rosemary grilled chicken:

An overhead view of the ingredients required to make lemon rosemary grilled chicken.

Ingredient Notes & Substitutions

The ingredients to make this grilled chicken are easy to find and readily available at most any grocery store.

Here are a few ingredient notes:

Chicken: I chose to use a whole chicken in this recipe, the reasons for which I outline below in the FAQ section. But you can choose to forego this step and buy the chicken already broken down – you will be able to find a whole chicken split into its parts OR you can buy them individually (breasts bone-in with skin, bone-in skin-on thighs, drumsticks, etc.). Should you decide to accept the challenge (wink, wink), I have included an unedited video below walking through the steps of breaking down a whole chicken.

Rosemary: This herb is key to the recipe and there really is no direct substitute. I mean, sure, you can use another herb such as thyme, but the flavor combination just isn’t the same and the flavor profile isn’t as assertive to stand up to the strong lemon and garlic flavors in this dish.

Lemons: Again, no direct substitute here – use the lemons! You will note in the recipe that we’re only using the juice of ONE lemon, but using the zest of all THREE lemons. The lemon juice ‘cooks’ the chicken with a long marinating time, which is has an undesirable effect, as it leads to a strange texture. So, we are able to use just enough to get the tenderizing effects, but also a lot of zest which gives the dish its bright and zingy flavor. And then, we grill the lemon halves until they are well caramelized and squeeze that juice over the finished dish. Serious chef’s kiss! Please note, if your lemons are small, you may need add an additional one or two.

Olive oil: You will notice that the amount of oil used, relative to the amount of chicken, is small. Any more than this is not necessary AND it has the added effect of not causing flareups on the grill. Win-win. If you want to substitute avocado oil you can, but olive oil would be my preference.

Garlic: Again, no substitutes here. For best flavor, use a whole head of garlic (not minced garlic from a jar), and be sure to only give it a rough chop (see photo below). Finely chopped garlic is not preferable in a recipe like this, as we want to be able to remove the garlic from the chicken before grilling, otherwise it is likely to burn.

A corner of a white platter with lemon rosemary grilled chicken.

Direct vs. Indirect Heat

Whether you are using a gas or charcoal grill, the idea is the same – it is best to cook the chicken over indirect heat for majority of the cooking time in order for it to be nicely cooked through inside, and not burned on the outside.

So what exactly is indirect heat? In the case of a gas grill, It is preheating your entire grill over high heat, and then turning off the burners (or turning them the lowest they will go) for half of the grill. This half of the grill is where you will place your chicken, skin-side down. At the end of the cooking process, you are able to move the chicken over to the direct heat side to do any last minute crisping up.

For a charcoal grill, after your charcoal chimney is fully lit, turned white, and ready to pour out, you will simply pour the charcoal on only one side of the grill, keeping your fire to once side – simple.

The Technique: How To Break Down A Whole Chicken

If you decide that you want to try your hand at breaking down a whole chicken, this is an unedited video showing from start to finish, how to do so. It is based on the classic French technique of breaking down a whole chicken into its classic eight pieces, that I learned in culinary school. I hope you find it helpful. Feel free to reach out with any questions.

You can find more video tutorials on my Youtube Channel

Let’s Make Lemon Rosemary Grilled Chicken Together: STEP BY STEP

Be sure to check out the full recipe and ingredient list in the recipe card below

Steps 1 & 2:

First, if you are going to break down a whole chicken, reference the video above for a full tutorial on how to do so, otherwise, proceed with the steps below.

Second, separate a whole head of garlic into individual cloves and then smash them with the side of your knife to remove the skin. Next, roughly chop and add to a bowl.

A head of garlic separated into its individual cloves.
Garlic cloves roughly chopped on a cutting board for the marinade.

Steps 3 & 4:

Into the bowl with the garlic, add the zest of 3 lemons and the juice only 1 lemon. Be sure to reserve the lemon halves for later.

A lemon being zested over a bowl containing other marinade ingredients.
Lemons being juiced into the bowl of marinade ingredients for lemon rosemary grilled chicken.

Steps 5 & 6:

Remove the leaves from fresh sprigs of rosemary and give it a rough chop and add it to the bowl.

Next, add the olive oil and then mix everything together.

Rosemary being chopped to add to the grilled chicken marinade.
Olive oil being added to a bowl with other marinade ingredients for lemon rosemary grilled chicken.

Steps 7 & 8:

Pour the marinade over the chicken, along with the juiced lemon. Cover and let marinade for at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight, and up to 48 hours.

Preheat grill to high heat and remove chicken from marinade, scraping off any pieces of garlic, and lay it on a sheet pan along with the reserved lemon halves. Brush the lemon halves with a little olive oil and then season everything on both sides (generously) with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Marinade poured over chicken pieces in a deep pan.
Marinated chicken pieces and lemon halves spread out on a sheet pan, ready to be grilled.

Steps 9 & 10:

On one side of the grill, turn the heat to the lowest setting and add the chicken, skin side down. On the other side of the grill, turn the heat down to medium-high and add the lemon halves, cut side down.

Grill for about 25 minutes, turning once half way. When the lemons are good and charred, remove them to a platter, and then transfer the chicken, skin side down, to the direct heat side of the grill, and cook until skin is nice and crisped up – about 4-5 minutes. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes.

Chicken being grilled over indirect heat and lemon halves being grilled over direct heat.
Chicken flipped over and grilled over indirect heat and lemon halves cooking over direct heat.

Chef Natalie Marble in her home kitchen.

Natalie’s Notes & Tips

  • Use bone-in chicken. It really does make a difference in flavor and moisture to cook chicken that has skin and bones.
  • Marinade time. Marinate the chicken for at least one hour, but preferably overnight and even up to 48 hours, for best flavor.
  • Direct vs Indirect Heat. Resist the urge to cook the chicken over direct heat — the outside will only burn and be past the point of tasting good by the time the inside is fully cooked.
  • Only use the juice of 1 lemon! Using any more juice than that of one lemon will start to actually cook the chicken, leading to a strange and unpleasant texture. Instead, much of the lemon flavor in this recipe comes from the large flavor provided by the zest of the lemons.
  • Roughly chop the garlic – no mincing! – When grilling the chicken, you don’t want pieces of garlic from the marinade to remain, as it will only burn. Roughly chopping, keeps the pieces of garlic sizeable enough that they shouldn’t remain. And, with a long enough marinade time (ideally, overnight), you will still get the benefit of full garlic flavor.

A white platter of lemon rosemary grilled chicken next to a bowl of lemons on an aqua blue background.

Storage & Reheating

STORAGE: Store the grilled chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

REHEATING: You can reheat the chicken in the oven, covered, at 350 degrees until heated through. Alternatively, you can reheat it in the microwave in 30 second intervals until heated through.

FREEZING: The grilled chicken can be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.

Frequently Asked Questions for this Lemon Rosemary Grilled Chicken

You don’t have to use bone-in chicken, but I do highly recommend it. If you do decide to use boneless chicken, you can use a mix of breasts and thighs.

The only real way to know if chicken is truly done is to use a thermometer, inserted into the thickest part of the chicken – both the white and dark meat (dark meat takes a little longer to cook). The USDA recommends that all poultry should reach a minimum temperature of 165 degrees. And always remember that your chicken will continue to cook a little more when you remove it from the grill and let it rest.

Using a whole chicken and learning to break it down yourself can save you money. You also have the added benefit of having the chicken backs, which you can freeze and use to make chicken stock at a later date.

I hope you love this LEMON ROSEMARY GRILLED CHICKEN! If you make it, be sure to leave a rating below so I know how you liked it!


A white platter of lemon rosemary grilled chicken on an aqua blue background.

Lemon Rosemary Grilled Chicken (bone-in, white & dark meat)

I'm telling you right now, you are going to want to put this Lemon Rosemary Grilled Chicken on repeat all summer long – it is THAT good! It has big gorgeous flavor, is universally loved, and pairs well with almost anything!
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Marinating Time 1 day
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6
Calories 105 kcal


  • 1 chicken (skin-on, bone-in, cut into 8 pieces)
  • 1 head garlic
  • 3 lemons
  • 1 bunch rosemary
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (plus more to brush the lemon halves before grilling and an optional finishing drizzle)
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 tbsp parsley (or other fresh herbs of your choice)


  • Prepare the marinade. Separate the cloves of garlic and smash them with the side of your knife to release the skins. Remove the skins, roughly chop it, and then place it into a large bowl or container.
  • Next, add the zest of all 3 lemons to the garlic. Then add the juice of only 1 lemon. Cut the remaining lemons in half and set them aside (they will get grilled wiht the chicken, later).
  • Remove the leaves of the rosemary and roughly chop it – then add it to the bowl with the lemon and garlic.
  • Lastly, add the 1/4 cup of olive oil to the bowl and mix all of the ingredients well. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and turn to coat well with the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight.
  • Grill the chicken. If you're using a gas grill, preheat the grill over high heat. If you're using a charcoal grill, light your coals and when ready, pour them out over one side of the grill, setting up zones for direct and indirect heat.
  • Remove the marinated chicken from the refrigerator and place it on a sheet pan. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper.
  • At this time, grab the lemon halves and brush the cut sides lightly with olive oil.
  • Bring everything out to the grill and for a gas grill, reduce the heat of one side of the grill to the lowest heat it has (or no heat at all) to set up indirect heat. Reduce the other side to medium-high to set up for direct heat.
  • Add the chicken pieces, skin side down, to the indirect heat side of the grill, and add the lemons, cut side down, to the direct heat side of the grill. Total grilling time will be about 25 minutes, but will depend ultimately on how large your pieces are. Flip pieces about half way through.
  • Once the lemons are well caramelized, you can move them off of the direct heat.
  • When the chicken is almost done, move the pieces, skin side down, to the direct heat side of the grill to finish any caramelization or crisping of the skin for a few minutes.
  • Remove the chicken to a platter and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Squeeze some of the grilled lemons over the chicken and finish with an optional drizzle of olive oil and chopped fresh herbs. ENJOY!


  • Use a whole chicken and break it down yourself (see video) or buy a whole chicken already broken down into its pieces.  For best flavor, use chicken that is skin-on and bone-in.
  • If you can, marinate the chicken overnight and up to 48 hours, for best flavor.
  • Before grilling, make sure to remove any pieces of chopped garlic from the chicken, as it will burn on the grill, and lend a bitter flavor to the dish.
  • Be sure to cook the chicken over indirect heat to ensure the chicken is cooked through before the outside is burned.
  • Don’t skip grilling the lemons – they provide a wonderful acidity to the finished dish.


Calories: 105kcalCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 1gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 0.1mgSodium: 3mgPotassium: 104mgFiber: 2gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 135IUVitamin C: 32mgCalcium: 29mgIron: 1mg
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