How to Roast a Chicken
April, 2014 · By Coryanne Ettiene
There is something magical about a roast chicken. The smell lingering in house immediately offer comfort in a way no other food does. The first time I recall eating a roast chicken was when I landed in London at 24 and quickly adapted a diet of what ever delight they had on offer at the deli counter or could be consumed while knocking back a few cocktails after work. Inevitably, a roast chicken dinner became my norm, it was as if suddenly the food Gods had allowed me access to Heaven and granted me full rights to just sit in front of my TV, and devour it, piece by piece with nothing more than my fingers. I was “Atkins Diet Cool” long before it hit the main stream, and became fast friends with the deli staff who knew my routine. Silly to say, but it was not until I met my husband and he suggested that we roast our own chickens that I was genuinely in Heaven. He, of course taught me how to roast a bird…. It turns out that to the English, roasting a chicken is like dotting your I’s — everyone can do it. Within a month I was chugging wine and attempting my own roast bird for my mother in law as if it was no big deal; minus all the drama that I created fretting over the gravy, watching the minutes, double checking the weight, turning on the oven light on a million times I was in my domestic groove, and in that moment, I broke up with my friends at the Deli counter and never looked back.
If you can roast a potato, you can roast a chicken. On the face of it, it can look terribly difficult but really, it is the lazies thing you can possibly cook. You simply need to follow these 10 tips to ensure that your bird is perfectly roasted.
- Temperature is everything. Before starting on your roast chicken, take it out of the fridge and let it rest for 30 mins. Cooking a cold bird will only spoil the cooking times.
- Use a roasting tray and rack. The roasting tray is vital to collecting all the drippings that make for a perfect gravy, and the rack allows the bird to roast evenly without cooking in a pool of chicken fat. Mind you, the perfect compliment to a roast chicken is roasted vegetables, so arrange them around the bird on the roasting try, they will cook beautifully in the chicken fat.
- Stuff it. Forget the traditional stuffing that you associate with poultry. When you stuff the cavity of a chicken it is for the sole purpose of infusing it; consider citrus, garlic, bacon, celery and herbs. I often wrap a whole garlic bulb with bacon, tie with a sprig of rosemary and then toss it inside the chicken.
- Truss it. It may seem daunting, but trussing chicken takes less than 30 seconds and ensures that your bird is evenly cooked. It also goes a long way to presetting a neat and tidy bird at the dinner table. Watch my video here on how to truss a chicken.
- Embrace Salt. Salt is the most vital element in roasting a bird. Be generous with it, I’ve been known to salt both the cavity and the exterior of the bird before I dress it to make sure it has been salted enough. However, if table salt is all you have, forget my advice because table salt will make it bitter and deliver a less than fabulous roast chicken.
- Go deep. Often neglected, that sweet spot between the skin and the flesh is a heavenly place to add extra aroma. I often add a few herbs or on occasion, garlic cloves. Gently use your fingers to lift up the skin, taking care not to tear it, and then insert your chosen seasoning. The result is an aromatic slice of meat and a fabulous tasting skin.
- Dress it. Dressing the chicken is key to making it brilliant. Some prefer to lather a huge amount of butter, herbs, and/ or seasoning right on top, rubbing it into the skin for an even layer. I’m a purist, I opt for salt and herbs, on rare occasions, sometimes I’ll add a small dollop of butter. The beauty with a whole chicken is that the skin has everything needed to created a delicate crispy finish without all the bells and whistles that take away from how amazing a roast chicken is.
- Cook it well. The rule of thumb for a medium size bird it to cook it at 385F for 20 minutes for every pound.
- Check it. Pierce the spot between the leg and the breast with a sharp knife, if the juices run clear, your bird is done.
- Let it rest. Once roasted, remove it from the oven and roasting tray and transfer to a carving board. Cover it with foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. This is where the magic happens, don’t rush it, carving too early will result in a dry bird.