Roast Chicken: A How To Guide

A burnished bronzed bird is a kitchen classic – keep it simple for maximum impact.

If you want the cheap and cheerful option, it’s still there, but for the best flavour it is worth paying a little more for corn-fed, organic or free-range chicken. The flesh will be less spongy, too, as the bird has had a chance to roam around, building up muscle.

  • For best results, cook chicken at 220C for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 190C and allow 45 minutes per kg, plus 20 minutes.
  • Serve 300g oven-ready weight per person, slightly more if you want leftovers for chicken sandwiches the next day.
  • One of the main dangers when cooking chicken is the risk of salmonella. To avoid this, always defrost chicken thoroughly, stuff the neck end only (not the cavity) and make sure it is cooked through (to do this insert a skewer into the thickest part of the leg: if the juices run clear, the chicken is cooked).
  • A good tip is to cut through the skin between the legs and the breasts halfway through cooking.
  • Stuff the neck cavity only and add this to the total weight before roasting. A halved lemon or onion, or a few fresh herb sprigs in the cavity will add to the flavour.
  • Brush the chicken with melted butter before putting into the oven.
  • Placing the chicken breast-down in the roasting tin will allow the juices to moisten the breast meat, which otherwise can turn quite dry. Wrapping the bird in foil is another way of preventing drying.
  • Scatter unpeeled garlic cloves around the bird when roasting. Then mash some of the garlic into the gravy, removing the papery skins.
  • For crisp skin, squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the breast 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Do not baste the chicken at all after this and the skin should crisp up well.
  • Leave the chicken to rest for at least 15 minutes, covered in foil. This allows the juices which have bubbled up during cooking to sink back into the bird, leaving the meat moist.
  • The key to carving a chicken is to use a very sharp knife and work from the outside in. In other words, remove the legs and wings, then carve the breast.
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