Tender, succulent, perfect roast chicken
Not all roasted chickens are created equal. Surely you just pop the chook in a roasting dish and cook according to packet directions? Actually, I reckon that dries the chicken out, and this method gives far juicier results. No, the skin doesn’t end up crispy – but the meat is tender and succulent (even the breast meat). I know which I’d rather have!
This recipe is based on a size 14-16 chicken. If you’re using a large size 20-24 chicken, cook it for an extra 10 minutes at each temperature. If in doubt, check the juices are running clear (not pink) from the innermost part of the breast or thigh. If you have a meat thermometer, internal temp needs to be 74c.
Defrosting a frozen chicken
It’s very important the chicken is fully defrosted before you cook it. Defrost a frozen chicken in the fridge overnight, in its packet on a plate – don’t use the microwave. The standard rule says that every ½ a kg (500g) of chicken takes about 5 hours to defrost in the fridge. Chicken that’s been defrosted in the fridge can be safely kept there for an additional one to two days before cooking.
Prep time – 15 minutes
Cooking time – 40 minutes
Olive oil, for drizzling
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 size 14-16 chicken (preferably free-range)
50g butter, softened
Handful fresh herbs – rosemary stalks, thyme strands, sage
1 lemon, halved
1 ½ cups chicken stock
2 tsp cornflour or 1 tbsp flour mixed with 3 tbsp water
IMPORTANT: Take your (fully defrosted) chicken out of the fridge one hour before you cook it, so it’s not chilled when it goes into the oven.
Preheat the oven to 220c fan bake and set a rack in the lower half of the oven.
Arrange the onion and garlic in a small/medium metal roasting tray. Drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
Place the chicken on a clean board and pat the skin dry all over with paper towels. Tip it up and sprinkle a large pinch of salt into the cavity, then cram it full of the lemon and herbs (this helps flavour the chicken).
Carefully poke half the butter in between the breast meat and the skin (carefully so you don’t tear the skin). Rub the other half all over the legs. Transfer the chicken to the roasting dish, breast-side up, sitting on the onions and garlic. Drizzle all over with olive oil. Massage it in and season generously with salt and pepper.
Roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes – it’ll be a nice dark golden brown colour (it might make angry spitting noises and smoke a little bit but that’s all part of it.) Baste it once with the cooking juices while it cooks.
Without taking the chicken out, reduce the oven temperature to 160c regular bake and cook for a further 15 minutes.
Remove the tray from the oven. Using a metal spatula, gently turn the chicken breast-side down in the tray. Place the whole tray on a wooden chopping board (so it doesn’t lose too much heat), cover tightly with a layer of foil and lay a teatowel over top. Let it sit like that for at least 30 minutes (up to an hour). Don’t skip this step – the chicken will finish cooking while it rests. When ready to serve, turn out breast-side up onto the board and carve.
Serve with my perfect crispy roasted potatoes (roast them while the chicken is resting), gravy (see below) and green beans and peas or a salad.
To make a gravy, place the roasting tray, containing the veges and juices from the chicken, on the stovetop over a medium heat. Add the chicken stock and cornflour mixture.
Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until thickened into a gravy – about 5 minutes. Add more liquid or more cornflour mixture if need be, until it’s the right consistency. Make sure you scrape up all those lovely caramelised chicken bits off the bottom – these add colour and a real depth of flavour.
Add 1 tbsp butter, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Strain through a sieve and pour into a jug or gravy boat.
- For exceptional added flavour, chop up the roasted chicken wings and add them in. You can also add 1 tsp powdered chicken stock for extra flavour.