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Best Lemon Bars

Published March 2018 Get the Story

Why This Recipe Works

For lemon bars with sweet-tart flavor and a crisp, well-browned crust, we started at the bottom. Our pat-in-the-pan crust is made with melted—not cold—butter and can therefore be stirred together instead of requiring a food processor. For a truly crisp texture, we used granulated sugar instead of the usual confectioners' sugar and baked the crust until it was dark golden brown to ensure that it retained its crispness even after we topped it with the lemon filling.

We cooked our lemon filling on the stove to shorten the oven time and keep it from curdling or browning at the edges when it baked. The combination of lemon juice and lemon zest provides complex flavor, and a couple of teaspoons of cream of tartar (tartaric acid) give it a bright, lingering finish.

Ingredients

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Crust

1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling

1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs plus 3 large yolks
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest plus 2/3 cup juice (4 lemons)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
Confectioners' sugar (optional)

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Instructions

Makes 12 bars

Do not substitute bottled lemon juice for fresh here.

1. FOR THE CRUST: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Make foil sling for 8-inch square baking pan by folding 2 long sheets of aluminum foil so each is 8 inches wide. Lay sheets of foil in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges of pan. Push foil into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing foil flush to pan.

2. Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in bowl. Add melted butter and stir until combined. Transfer mixture to prepared pan and press into even layer over entire bottom of pan (do not wash bowl). Bake crust until dark golden brown, 19 to 24 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.

3. FOR THE FILLING: While crust bakes, whisk sugar, flour, cream of tartar, and salt together in now-empty bowl. Whisk in eggs and yolks until no streaks of egg remain. Whisk in lemon zest and juice. Transfer mixture to saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and registers 160 degrees, 5 to 8 minutes. Off heat, stir in butter. Strain filling through fine-mesh strainer set over bowl.

4. Pour filling over hot crust and tilt pan to spread evenly. Bake until filling is set and barely jiggles when pan is shaken, 8 to 12 minutes. (Filling around perimeter of pan may be slightly raised.) Let bars cool completely, at least 1½ hours. Using foil overhang, lift bars out of pan and transfer to cutting board. Cut into bars, wiping knife clean between cuts as necessary. Before serving, dust bars with confectioners' sugar, if using.

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Technique: Pat-in-the-Pan Crust

Most lemon bar crust recipes call for using a food processor to cut cold butter into flour. Our stripped-down approach calls for simply stirring melted butter into a mixture of flour, sugar, and salt. The upshot: a no-fuss, pliable dough that's easy to press into an even layer.

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JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.