Ree Drummond's Go-To Chicken Legs Will Spare You The Dishwashing

"Salt Fat Acid Heat" is the title of chef Samin Nosrat's renowned book, and also what she describes as the "elements of good cooking." Preparing food is a lifelong learning experience, but it's fairly simple to work with these foundational forces of nature in everyday dishes. Case in point: Cooking meat with citrus. It's salty, savory, tart, and sweet — appealing to humans' five tastes and making Chef Nosrat proud. Citrus is a chef's close friend, helping improve taste and texture and even aiding in cleaning. According to Jean Pare, via SF Gate, acids like lemon juice help tenderize meat, enhance flavor, and make for a more pleasant eating experience.

Citrus fruits are common throughout world cuisines, but how they became so thoroughly integrated into our cooking may come as a surprise. Genetic Literacy Project explains that all our favorite modern citrus fruit cultivars — lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefuits — are hybrids crossed with 10 wild species with a single shared ancestor originating in Asia. Their handy citrus family tree illustrates that lesser-known citrus like kumquats, with their edible skin (per Heathline), pummelos, and sour oranges helped shape the familiar fruits we know and love today. 

Now that your creative juices are flowing, Ree Drummond of "The Pioneer Woman" has one of the best and easiest dinner recipes that beautifully demonstrates the harmony of meat and acid.

Ree Drummond's roast lemon chicken legs

Ree Drummond is beloved for her comfort foods, which include pizzas, pastas, and down-home classics like chicken-fried steak and grits (per The Food Network). But some of her most impactful recipes are also her lightest and most simple. One of these is Roasted Lemon Chicken Legs. To make them, Food Network says to marinate two dozen chicken legs in a Ziploc bag with the juice and rinds of six lemons, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper for 30 minutes to six hours. Then it's only a matter of baking the chicken on a sheet for 20 to 30 minutes or until the juices are clear or your meat thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chef Drummond's zesty, kid-friendly dish uses just one piece of cookware, making clean-up a breeze. For a fun presentation, serve it family-style and eat right off the pan: Drummond's got plenty of great choices to add color to your kitchen and cooking. Food Network reports (via Kitchn) that chicken legs like these are also perfect for picnics as you don't need utensils and can even enjoy them cold. Plus, cooking any kind of meat with the bone makes it especially flavorful (per Serious Eats) and eating it off the bone is plain fun.

Other citrus and meat dishes

Meat and citrus is a classic combination and is featured in Mexican dishes like carne asada and ceviche, which gently "cooks" seafood in the sweet, tangy acids and yields succulent results. In Asian cuisine, you'll find dishes like Lemon Beef Stir Fry and Crispy Orange Duck, and also ponzu sauce, which MasterClass explains is a dipping condiment traditionally made with sour Japanese fruits yuzu, kabuso, and sudachi mixed with soy sauce, vinegar, and savory kelp and fish flakes. We've got Italian-Americans to thank for Chicken Francese (per MasterClass).

Citrus juice works wonders in marinades and brines, and you can even utilize the peels like Ree Drummond does in her favorite turkey brine recipe. To infuse mild chicken breasts with fruity flavor, try Lemon Thyme Chicken or Grilled Orange-Ginger Chicken, and add zip to your fried chicken game by brining the meat with orange juice. 

Per Healthline, citrus fruits are loaded with fiber, antioxidants and vitamins — especially vitamin C. Foodies would be hard-pressed to find a reason not to squeeze citrus into their dishes.