How to cook perfect roast chicken 

How to cook perfect roast chicken 

Fresh corn-fed, free-range chicken, weighing approximatively 1.5 kg

  • ½ unwaxed or organic lemon
  • ½ small onion
  • 2 bay leaves or a sprig of rosemary
  • 25g melted butter

Preheat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5. Remove all the wrapping from the chicken and snip the elasticated string that ties the chicken together. Wipe the chicken all over with kitchen paper to dry the skin.

Place the chicken inside the roasting tin and season inside the cavity. Push the lemon and onion inside with the herbs. These will produce steam to keep the chicken moist as well as provide flavour. Brush the chicken all over with melted butter, then season. The salt makes the skin crispy and the butter will keep the chicken moist. Tie the legs back together with chicken string to give a good shape.

Roast the chicken in the centre of the oven for 1½ -1¾   hours.To check that it is cooked, pierce the fattest part of the thigh with a fine skewer. If the juices are pink or show traces of blood, cook the chicken for a further 10-15 minutes, then check again. If the juices are pale golden, the chicken is cooked.

Using two forks, lift the chicken from the roasting tin onto a large plate and reserve the cooking juices. Cover the chicken tightly with foil and leave for 10 minutes before carving. This allows the juices, which have risen to the surface during cooking, to be reabsorbed into the meat to give a moist texture.

Cook’s tips

To add more flavour, sprinkle the breast with any of the following before roasting:

  • 2 tsp dried mixed herbs or oregano
  • 1 tsp paprika and a good pinch chilli powder
  • 1 tsp each of mustard seeds and cumin seeds

Carving the chicken

Hold the chicken steady with a fork, then insert a large sharp knife between the body and leg. Cut off the leg. Divide the leg in half at the joint to give a drumstick and thigh portion. Cut away the wing on the same side. Carve down the breast in thick slices. Repeat on the other side of the chicken.

How to make gravy

Drain all but three tablespoons of the juices from the roasting tin. Set the roasting tin on a hob and reheat the juices. Sprinkle in two teaspoons of plain flour and stir well with a wooden spoon. Gradually stir in 300ml of chicken stock. Bring to the boil, stirring until thickened and smooth. Season well. If the gravy is bland add a little mustard and a splash of soy sauce. For a special gravy, some of the stock can be replaced with red or white wine.

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