Clay Baked Chicken or Duck

For years we have returned again and again to this simple savory feast… it’s like an old trusted friend.  We just tossed this chubby duck inside the clay pot along with tons of veggies, stuck it a cold oven, set it to 475 degrees and got back to the family fun.  An hour later, time to feast.  It’s that simple.  

These clay pots have been used since ancient Roman times and as they “season” and develop a beautiful patina, they become more and more remarkably efficient. No oil is need in the cooking, the meats cook in their own juices.  Much like the Tagines of Morocco, the clay pot seals in, through high heat and re-circulating juices, all the flavors and fragrance of any tasty meat.  Under high heat, the chicken or duck become really juicy and much of the natural healthy nutrients remain. And the flavor is amazing.

Just use the vegetables you like with lots of fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, and any of the herbs of Provence.  Poke tiny holes in the skin of the chicken or duck and rub a teaspoon of salt onto the skin, with some salt tossed inside the cavity. Cloves of garlic are then carefully tucked under the skin and in the body of the bird, which could be chicken, duck, pheasant or two game hens. As you can see, this duck is baked resting on a bed of carrots, mushrooms, onions and baby potatoes, with lemon chunks tossed inside the cavity. Those vegetables basted in the natural juices of the bird, and were insanely delicious. Your oven should be at the maximum temperature it can attain for about an hour, and the results are transcendent. 

With the excess skin that you will cut off a duck before baking, you can slowly simmer that skin down and make beautiful golden duck fat for lots of umami packed dishes in the future.

Often times, it seems that the ancient ways are best.


1 whole roasting chicken or duck (if you have game hens, use 2 of them.)
1 entire head of garlic, at least 10 to 15 cloves of garlic (we crush several cloves and rub them into the skin with the salt)
10 rosemary sprigs
10 thyme sprigs and we use other herbs of Provence, like French lavender
4 to 6 carrots, cut into two inch pieces, if the carrot is thick, cut longways as well
1 large onion, cut into chunks
1/2 pound of sliced cremini mushrooms or porcini (use use porcini powder on the cremini if we don’t have fresh or rehydrated porcini)
1 pound of small red or Yukon potatoes, cut in half
salt and black pepper to taste (about 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt)
I lemon, cut into four pieces

Prep Work and Cooking

Soak both lid and the bottom of the clay pot in water for half an hour. Do not pre-heat the oven or the clay pot might crack when you put it in.

Poke tiny holes all over the bird and rub in the salt and pepper, plus some crushed garlic, covering the chicken or duck thoroughly. Now stuff half of the garlic cloves beneath the skin, all over the bird, especially in the thighs and under the skin over the breasts.

Chop the vegetables and potatoes and place then in bottom of clay pot, and along the sides of the chicken or duck. Add the rest of the garlic cloves to the vegetables, and salt and pepper liberally. Drizzle everything with olive oil.

Place the chicken on the bed of vegetables, potatoes and garlic cloves. Stuff rosemary sprigs inside the skin, and into the cavity of the bird. We often put a lemon, cut into quarters, into the cavity.

Cover and cook in non-preheated oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes at 475 degrees. Because clay seals in the flavors and nutrients so well, you need a very high oven temperature.

After fully cooked, remove the lid and allow the chicken skin to brown in the oven for a few minutes.  

Serve with crusty bread. Enjoy!