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Complete the day before roasting: In a small bowl, combine the salt, black pepper, lemon zest, and fresh thyme. Rub the mixture together with your fingertips to infuse the salt completely. Remove the chicken from its packaging (discarding any excess liquid into the sink or trash) and place breast-side down (with the neck facing towards you) on a large cutting board.
Using good-quality kitchen or poultry shears and holding the neck in one hand, cut along one side of the chicken spine, separating it from the ribs. Cut closely to the spine so that you do not remove any excess meat. Continue to cut about 3/4 along the spine on one side, repeat on the other side of the spine. Grip the spine for leverage and continue cutting on both sides to remove it completely. If you are having difficulty, rotate the bird so that the tail faces you and cut from the opposite side.
Reserve the spine for homemade stock or a quick pan jus. Flip the chicken so that the breasts face upward and the chicken legs face outward on both sides. Using the palm of your hands, press along the breast bone with some force to flatten the chicken completely. You might hear a slight crack. The legs and breasts should lay completely flat. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels on both sides.
Season the chicken evenly and liberally on both sides with the salt mixture, both on top of the skin and under the skin on both the legs and breasts by gently lifting the skin (being careful not to tear it). Place the chicken, breast side up, on a wire rack set within a half sheet pan - or other suitable rimmed dish that can fit within your refrigerator. Transfer seasoned chicken to the bottom shelf of your fridge (be sure it is not touching other fridge items) and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 12 hours or up to a full day.
To roast the chicken: Remove the chicken from the fridge and allow to sit out at room temperature for an hour before roasting. This allows the chicken to come to room temperature, and will ensure it cooks more quickly, evenly, and will promote even browning and crisping of the skin. Preheat the oven, with a rack in the upper-middle position, to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Note: If you have a convection oven setting, I encourage you to use it - convection cooking uses a fan to evenly distribute hot air throughout the oven and promotes more even roasting/browning, particularly for meat.
Transfer the chicken, breast side up, onto a wire rack set within a clean, room temperature sheet pan. Tuck the wings under the breasts. Brush the chicken on all sides, with extra virgin olive oil. Roast for about 45 to 50 minutes, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh, the bird is evenly golden brown, and the thickest part of the breast reads 157-160 degrees F on an instant thermometer. The temperature of the chicken will increase as it rests as much as 10 degrees, so you do not want to remove the chicken any later, or the chicken breast will begin to dry out. During roasting, I like to rotate the pan once or twice during roasting to ensure even browning.
Allow the chicken to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving – slice away the legs. Then remove the entire breasts from the breast bone. Store for meal prep or slice against the grain and serve immediately.