As a British citizen, the perfect roast chicken recipe is a culinary institution. It’s comfort food: a meal that I’ve known since my childhood, through tepid school dinners and University kitchen disasters. Do you even live in England if you don’t spend at least 50% of your Sundays trying to wrestle a lemon down a naked chicken’s bottom? I THINK NOT.
Vegetarians excluded (and apologies if you’ve found yourself here as a non-meat eater), I know nobody who isn’t a fan of the perfect roast chicken recipe. It’s something I’ve cooked for my kids in various guises ever since they learned how to chew and swallow, and will be a dish I enjoy whipping up until I can whip no more.
In short: the Roast Chook is king.
But how to cook it? Googling ‘perfect roast chicken recipe’ will give you in excess of 129 million results, and as good as cooking as I assume you are it would take even Julia Child a fair few lifetimes to get through them all. My culinary hero, Felicity Cloake, did a good job of refining the best Roast Chicken recipe back in 2010, though I’m not sure I agree with her resulting instructions.
In my world a roast chicken should be a few key things. Crispy skinned, for the cook to stand and pick at with a chilled glass of white in hand while the (beef dripping) roast potatoes finish browning (we have to have some perks, am I right?). Full of flavours, whichever you like; recently we’ve been enjoying a mix of tarragon, thyme, lemon and a good handful of sea salt. And intensely moist, ready to receive a coating of proper gravy (or slick of aioli, depending on the season).
Can’t be beaten, in my opinion.
This perfect roast chicken recipe of mine indeed fulfils the trifecta of crispy skin, full flavour and utter moistness, and is one that is requested regularly by my family. Using this method of cooking is pretty foolproof and will produce a bird you’ll want to eat time and time again.
The Perfect Roast Chicken recipe
You can use any herbs that take your fancy in the butter in this recipe (or even ingredients like red chilli and lemon zest), but my current favourites are tarragon and thyme.
- 1 Chicken Use the best-quality you can afford, organic and free-range if possible
- 40 grams Butter Room temperature
- 1 large pinch Sea salt
- 2 big turns Of a pepper grinder
- 1 large handful Finely chopped herbs - I use tarragon and thyme
- 3 handfuls Sprigs of herbs - I use tarragon, thyme and rosemary
- 1 Lemon Quartered
- 1 tbsp Olive oil Extra virgin, if possible
Start by heating your oven to 230 degrees. Take a look at the suggested cooking time on your chicken and subtract 10 minutes (you'll be cooking it hotter at the start so we need to reduce the time accordingly).
In a bowl, mix your butter, sea salt, pepper and finely chopped herbs until well-combined. Pop your chicken in a large roasting dish.
Take your chicken: you'll now need to create a little pocket under the skin up to the top of the breast, so you can pop your herby butter underneath. I do this by using my fingers to loosen the skin of the neck, then using a blunt instrument to create the space. Don't use a knife - you don't want to pierce the skin. The handle of a knife works well, though!
Take your butter and spoon it under the skin, using your fingers to massage it all around and in well.
Once it's well spread throughout the skin, pop your quartered lemons in either end of the chicken along with your sprigs of herbs.
Spoon over your olive oil and once more, rub in. Sprinkle with sea salt and crack some black pepper over the top.
Pop in the oven at 230 degrees and cook for ten minutes. Turn down the oven to 170 and cook for the remainder of the recommended time, subtracting ten minutes to compensate for the extra heat.
Serve with homemade aioli in the summer and lovely gravy and beef dripping potatoes in the winter.