Roast Chicken

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The Food I Love

By Neil Perry

Published 2005

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There are a thousand and one recipes for roast chicken. Here are four to choose from. Three of them cook the bird whole but at different cooking temperatures and positions or use flavourings, and the last one roasts the bird flattened out; that is, butterflied.

All chickens are not created equal, so do spend the money and you will really notice the difference. A properly roasted chicken is one of the most delicious dishes but the chook must taste like something – you need to use sea salt and a good-quality extra virgin olive oil and people will say, ‘Why doesn’t my chicken taste like that?’.

Now that you have a meat thermometer, roasting a chicken becomes a little easier. You want the internal temperature to be around 68–70°C (154–158°F) after resting, so if you are roasting at a high temperature, take the chicken out 5°C (9°F) earlier, and if slow cooking, about 2°C (4°F) earlier. Remember that if you want to get the best results, you must rest chicken just as you do meat. There is always a concern when roasting chicken that the breast will dry out while the leg takes longer to cook. I like the butterflied method of cooking as I think it minimizes that problem. The other way around it is to truss your chicken; it is a great skill to have and is easy to do. It helps to hold the bird in good form for the cooking process and protects the thinner parts of the breast.


  • 2 kg (4 lb 8 oz) free-range chicken
  • sea salt
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper


Take the bird out of the refrigerator at least 2 hours before cooking. Cut the wing tips and neck off the bird and pull back the neck flap of skin. There you will see the wishbone. Using a sharp paring knife, cut along it and cut down into the spots where it joins the breastplate. Cut through it at these points, then move up to the top where the two ends meet. Cutting gently, carefully pull it out. You should find it comes out quite easily. It is important to remove the wishbone, as it makes it far easier to carve later on.

Season the chicken inside with sea salt and truss the chicken. Once trussed you can season the chicken on the outside (Alternatively, season the bird the night before.) Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F). Rub the bird all over with extra virgin olive oil and put in a roasting tin large enough to fit it comfortably. Put the bird on its side in the tin and put in the oven. After about 20 minutes, turn the bird over onto its other side, then after a further 20 minutes, turn it on its back and leave it to roast for the last 20 minutes. At this stage, place a meat thermometer in the thigh of the chicken, avoiding the bone. You want the final core temperature to be 68–70°C (154–158°F), so take the bird out a little before that to allow for the residual heat. I am OK with the meat a little pink around the thigh, but if it freaks you out, cook the bird for a further 5 to 10 minutes. Bare in mind though that you risk drying out the breast. Remove the bird from the tin and place it in a bowl with the breast side down and the legs in the air. Skim and discard the fat from the juices left in the roasting tin, and pour the juices over the bird. Cover with foil and rest for 20 minutes.

Put the bird on a chopping board and cut off the legs. Cut the legs in half by sliding your knife through the middle of the drumstick and thigh. Remove the breasts with the wings attached. Cut in half on the diagonal. The thicker half of the breast should have the wing attached but will not be quite as long as the other half. To plate, take four large plates and put half a leg on each plate, then half a breast. There should be some juice in the bowl you rested the bird in; add to it a little extra virgin olive oil and lots of freshly ground pepper, stir and pour some over each serving of chicken. Serve immediately.


  • Boiled or pan-fried beans with burnt butter and almonds, potato and celeriac gratin and bread sauce would make this a classic roast chook.
  • All the green vegetables – steamed, boiled or braised – go well with roast chicken. As do steamed and boiled potatoes. The steamed potatoes could be flavoured with some pesto or salsa verde. Herb mayonnaise would be a classic sauce to serve on the side.

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