2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Set chickens breast-up in a wide shallow pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 15 minutes to the pound, plus 10 minutes (about 45 to 75 minutes). Baste occasionally with pan juices and turn the birds (breast side down) halfway through cooking to evenly brown, then turn the chicken back to finish coloring the breast.
3. When an instant reading thermometer inserted into the breasts reads 170ºF, they’re done. If the skin isn’t brown enough, run them under the broiler for a few minutes, turning the birds to brown evenly.
4. Remove from oven, let rest 10 minutes for juices to settle and cooking to be completed, then chill immediately.
5. To pack for the picnic, cut the chickens up into small serving pieces, wrap, and chill. Keep cold during transport. Serve cool with lemon wedges. Sprinkling their juice onto the meat is the final seasoning.
Recipe by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. Copyright © 2012. From the An Early Summer Picnic menu.
Harold McGee, the author of Keys to Good Cooking, is an expert on the chemistry behind food and cooking. McGee recently made his first trip to China, where he learned more about rice wine.