Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in (Butter)Milk

When Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution first aired, I was impressed by the show and thought that maybe I should try out some of his recipes. As I discussed in that post, I haven’t been a big fan of Jamie Oliver, or of celebrity chefs in general, especially ones who tout quick-n-easy “recipease” (blech); therefore I stay away from celebrity recipes in general, and had never tried one of Jamie’s. However, I was impressed enough by the show, and by Oliver’s mission to improve school food for American children, to give his cooking a try.  My friend Kim recommended his Chicken in Milk recipe; it seemed a good place to start.

Wow is a good word. So is fantastic. Delicious. Delectable.  Honestly this dish is fabulous: hardly haute cuisine, but simple roasted chicken elevated from the ordinary to the extraordinary by a braise in lemon, garlic, sage and buttermilk. The meat is meltingly tender, the sauce is as delicious as it is ugly, the recipe is straight-forward while being unique. I’ve made this recipe several times since the Food Revolution aired last Spring: I’ve tried it with less fat and a skimpy initial browning (don’t do it!), I’ve tried it with whole milk, half-and-half and buttermilk, I’ve used fresh herbs and dried, I’ve omitted cinnamon and added basil. The recipe below reflects what I think is the best version, and is not so different from Jamie’s own: I’ve upped the garlic a bit, crisped the skin on the finish, and switched buttermilk for milk. All in all, no matter how you make it, this recipe is fabulous: Tai & Tanya obviously agree.

Adapted (slightly) from Chicken in Milk by Jamie Oliver


Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in (Butter)Milk


  • one 3- to 4-lb roaster chicken
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small lemons
  • 1 head garlic (about 12 – 16 cloves), peeled
  • 3 tbsp dried crumbled sage, or “a good handful” of fresh sage leaves
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk (or milk)


  1. Rinse and season the chicken. Thoroughly rinse the chicken, inside and out, in cool, running water.  Dry well with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels; season generously with salt and pepper.  If you have time, allow the chicken to sit in the fridge, uncovered, for up to 24 hours, in order for the skin to air-dry (to produce a crispier skin).  Remove chicken from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes prior to cooking.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. Prepare seasonings. Zest both lemons.  Juice 1 and 1/2 lemons; reserve one half lemon to stuff into the chicken cavity, along with a tablespoon of dried sage (or a small bundle of fresh sage leaves and/or stems). Crumble dried sage to release essential oils.
  4. Brown chicken skin. In a Dutch oven or covered casserole that will fit the chicken snugly, heat butter and olive oil over medium-high heat until butter has frothed and oil is shimmering. Add chicken and brown skin on all sides until nicely golden (I find using two sturdy wooden spatulas the easiest way of turning the chicken in the pot; tongs just rip the skin) about 3-4 minutes/side. Transfer chicken to a clean plate; pour off melted fat & juices, reserving in a heat-safe bowl (I use the fat to flavor mashed potatoes and to sauté the greens that accompany the chicken). Be patient with this step: it really helps to develop flavor in the finished dish.
  5. Roast chicken. Return chicken to the pot. Add lemon zest & juice, sage, garlic, cinnamon and buttermilk (sauce should be boiling briskly as soon as you add it; if not, raise heat and bring to a boil). Cover pot and transfer to the preheated oven. Roast chicken for about 1 hour or until internal temperature at the breast reads at least 170 degrees F. Remove lid from pot during the last 15 minutes of roasting for a crispier skin, or raise oven temperature to broil for the last 5 minutes of cooking and keep close watch on the chicken skin to prevent burning.  Remove chicken from pot and allow to rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes prior to carving.  Meanwhile, bring the sauce in the pot to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for a few minutes, stirring frequently, to slightly reduce sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings (add a tablespoon or two of the reserved fat for richness if needed).
  6. Serve chicken over mashed potatoes, drizzle with sauce, and accompany with a side of sautéed greens.

Serves 4.


  1. Thyme, oregano or summer savory would make nice substitutes for the sage.  Fresh herbs are lovely, of course, but when it is not the season for fresh sage, I use dried.
  2. Don’t be tempted (as I was) to cut down on the oil/butter in the inital searing step; the original recipe called for 1 stick of butter and “a little” olive oil. You do need a good amount of fat to get the skin nice and crispy before the braise, and the browning of the skin develops a fond on the pot that contributes to the flavor of the sauce. I’ve tried it with less oil/butter (down to 1 tbsp of each) and it just isn’t the same.
  3. I’ve tried this dish with both milk and buttermilk and I prefer buttermilk; it lends extra tang and seems to tenderize the chicken meat that much more. Of course, one could say that milk + lemon juice is buttermilk, but I have noticed a difference in the flavor and texture when I use whole milk.
  4. I’ve tried this with and without the cinnamon stick and I can’t say I notice much difference. If I remember, I toss it in. If not, I don’t worry about it.


Refrigerated for up to 5 days.  Freeze any excess sauce for future addition to mashed potatoes.


Year round, but especially nice when friends visit.


  1. Heather

    I held the same (low) opinion of Jamie until two-ish years ago when I was given “Jaimie At Home” as a gift. Every recipe has been great, and he uses very few questionable ingredients. That cookbook has a local, seasonal theme (geared toward what would be available in Britain more than the US). I highly recommend it, although I don’t have photos of guests “cleaning” their plates after any of the dishes! Fantastic!

  2. I was never crazy about The Naked Chef, but Jamie impressed me when he actually killed and butchered a chicken on the BBC. Not pretty and considering I have my own chickens as pets and only eat their eggs…it was tough to be objective, but in all reality, he was both brave and sensible.

    He has a true sense of where his food comes from and a respect for the local scene. All of his recipes from what I’ve watched on his show Jamie at Home seem really good and worth a try.

    Just like any celebrity chef, he can have his eccentricities, but he knows his food, and certainly seems well trained and aware of more than just standing in front of a camera and making money.

  3. Laura Z

    Yep, I’m not big on “celebrity chefs” either, but Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver (to a lesser degree) get passes. “Jamie at Home” is worth watching. He focuses on seasonal, fresh, organic produce from his home garden. One episode is “eggs,” another “winter vegetables,” etc. He mostly concentrates on simple and rustic home cooking and you have to love the fact that he’s so against processed foods for kids — even though his shows on the subject strike me as a bit gimmicky. I suppose that could be down to the producers, though….

  4. Kim

    Yay I’m glad you liked it! In fact this is on my menu for tomorrow… shame I already did the shopping or I would try the buttermilk instead of whole milk! (thats ok, it just gives me an excuse to make some decadent hot cocoa with the leftovers…)

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  7. Amanda

    Could I do this with just thighs or drumsticks instead? I don’t have a big enough dish for a whole chicken and don’t need an entire chicken anyways! Do you know what temperature and cook time I should use if I did that?

    • Sure, I don’t see why not. I would use the same temp, and check on the thighs at about 30 minutes. The good thing about a braise is that it’s hard to overcook the chicken: I’ve had chickens go all the way up to 200 degrees internal temp, and they are still moist & delicious because they are cooking bathed in liquid.

  8. Terri Pepper

    Planning to try this!!! One question: How do you prep your garlic? Whole cloves? Chopped? Minced? I appreciate your time!!!

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