I always used to avoid roasting a chicken. I think it’s because so often I have eaten unpleasant dried-out meat; the result of getting the timing wrong or simply overcooking for fear of underdone chicken and food poisoning! A little dramatic though that sounds, no-one wants to eat pink chicken, and I know the rules have recently been revised for pork (for THAT debate read here), but raw chicken is a big no-no.
Then, about a year ago I picked up one of those Waitrose food newsletters that they hand out for free on weekends and came across Delia Smith’s recipe for roast chicken with riesling, grapes and tarragon. One look at that title might put you off for fear of it being, well, a bit of a faff, but the principles she uses have completely changed my roast chicken all for the better.
Basically, every time I roast a chicken I follow these rules and the resulting meat is very tender and juicy, the skin is very crisp and it’s very quick!
Delia starts off her recipe with the following:
Now that roasting chickens are generally smaller, the absolute best way to roast them is fast. If you’ve not tried this yet, you simply have to, because once you’ve tasted the crispy outside and the succulent juiciness inside, you’ll never roast a chicken any other way.
Feel free to forget the creme fraiche, tarragon, riesling and grapes she uses in her recipe, but DO:
- Take the chicken out of the fridge to come to room temperature. This is an hour or half an hour on a hot day.
- Snip off the strings and open up the chicken.
- Pre-heat the oven well and to gas mark 8, 230 degrees C, making sure that you can place the chicken in the lower third.
- Season the chicken and smother the skin with olive oil.
- Chuck a splash of water or wine into the pan/over the chicken.
- Do not open the oven door while the chicken is cooking.
The key bit is this: Delia gives a 1.35kg chicken one hour exactly. She says that a 1.76kg chicken will take an extra 10 minutes. To start with, I would roughly calculate how much more time to give a chicken that fell in the middle of those two weights. I have, however, found that on the whole they should be given an hour and no more. Of course, test it by sticking a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh then pressing down to make sure the juices run clear and that it is cooked.
Perfect chicken every time. Lately, we’ve been eating roast chicken with a salad of lettuce picked fresh from the garden along with buttered new potatoes and chicken juices spooned over (once the fat has been skimmed off).
Read my recipe for Asian-style roast chicken, using this method.
One delicious but slightly decadent thing to do is make a cavity between the chicken skin and flesh and press in softened butter mixed with chopped tarragon or parsley. Slices of lemon and crushed garlic cloves are a nice addition stuffed into the cavity, and a halved onion in the pan will make for a tastier gravy.