How to roast a chicken

The perfect roast chicken has golden skin with tender, flavourful meat. Here are all the tips you need to master this classic roast dinner favourite.

How long to cook a chicken

The weight of the chicken dictates the roasting time. Most chickens weigh between 1-2 kg. A 1kg bird or smaller will need to be roasted for about 1 hr at 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Larger birds can take up to 1 hr 40 mins. The type of chicken can also have an impact, so if you’re buying from a specialist supplier, ask them about specific roasting times.

Recipes that stuff the chicken cavity with a stuffing mix, or with aromatics like whole lemon, onion and herbs, will also likely lengthen the cooking time; check the individual recipe for guidance.

How to cook a chicken safely

Chicken must be cooked through completely before serving, as the raw meat can harbour harmful bacteria that could cause food poisoning.

Ovens and chicken sizes vary, but there are two ways to make absolutely sure it’s cooked. One is to use a meat thermometer; the other is to pierce the thickest part of the bird (between the leg and the breast) and check that the meat juices run clear. The breast meat should be opaque white, the leg meat should be darker and there should be no blood or pink tinge to the juices. If using a meat thermometer, the meat should reach 70C and stay at that temperature for two minutes.

One thing you must never do is wash the raw chicken before cooking. No matter how careful you are, you can splash harmful bacteria around your sink, draining board and worktop.

How to get crisp skin

To really crisp up the skin, you need an intense heat – but proceed with caution, as you don’t want to dry out the meat underneath.

There are a few ways to achieve perfectly crisp chicken skin. One way is to roast the chicken until the meat is cooked, then turn the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7 and cook for a further 15-20 mins.

A second option is to salt the chicken, then leave loosely covered in the fridge overnight and cook as normal the next day (without rinsing off any of the seasoning). This method extracts the moisture and gives the bird a crisp, golden skin.

Another option is to remove the skin from the chicken after roasting (but before carving), then dry fry the skin in a non-stick pan until crisp and a similar texture to pork scratchings.

Basic recipe for foolproof roast chicken

You only need a couple of ingredients to make this easy roast chicken. Serve with gravy, roast potatoes and veggies for a traditional Sunday dinner.

Serves 4

  • Whole chicken
  • 30-40g butter
  1. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Sit the chicken in a roasting tin. Ease the skin away from the breast and push the butter underneath the skin.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Pour water into the bottom of the roasting tin, filling it about 1-2cm deep.
  4. Cover the chicken with foil and roast for 1 hr.
  5. Remove the foil and continue to roast the chicken for a further 20-30 mins until the skin is golden, the chicken is cooked and all the juices run clear. Pour the juices into a jug for use in gravy.
  6. Put the chicken on a board. Cover with foil and a clean towel or tea towel, then leave to rest for 15-20 mins while you finish cooking any sides. Carve and serve.

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