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Tips for cooking the perfect roast chicken
Professional chefs each have their own failsafe roasting recipe for chicken. In true artiste’s fashion, they will swear allegiance to their chicken recipe for all eternity and dismiss any others as grossly inferior. Which gastronomic god you choose to emulate is a matter of taste. Here, we recommend some of the most consistently-repeated tips for cooking the perfect roast chicken:
- Buy a free-range chicken. A happy chicken makes for a happy diner. The flesh is more likely to be tender; the taste more flavourful. A 1.5-2kg bird will feed four with enough leftovers to makes a great stock.
- Truss the chicken so the bird keeps it shape and cooks evenly. About three feet of string is enough.
- To stuff or not to stuff? Delia and Jamie do, while Nigella’s partial to spatchcocking. If you do choose to stuff, don’t overdo it. Half a lemon and fresh herbs are time-honoured options.
- Lubricate the chicken skin. Whether you prefer butter, olive oil, vegetable oil or bacon fat, a roasting chicken needs it.
- Season! So many cooks neglect to sprinkle some salt – to a dish’s detriment.
- Heat the oven to 220°C/fan200°C/gas 7, then lower to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 either as soon as you’ve put the prepared chicken in the oven or 20 minutes into cooking.
- Follow this roasting formula: 20 minutes per 450g, plus an extra 20 minutes.
- Unless you’re wet roasting – baste. You can do it once, twice, thrice but don’t do it all and you’ll serve parched poultry.
- Check the chicken is cooked by piercing the thigh with a skewer or by inspecting the juices on the resting plate. Pink juice = an undercooked chicken = an unpleasant dining experience and a potentially poorly stomach.
- Use the cooking juices to make a gravy or stock. Discard this nectar and you do birds a disservice.
- Rest. Not you! Always allow a roast chicken to rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.