How to choose and roast a chicken
Roasting is one of the most popular methods of cooking chicken. This is not surprising as it is an extremely simple dish to prepare – although it is important to ensure that it is cooked thoroughly before eating (the use of a meat thermometer is recommended). The two most important factors in succeeding with roast chicken are choosing a good quality chicken and choosing a roasting technique that will prevent the chicken from becoming dry.
Sourcing a chicken to roast
As always when choosing meat to roast, quality matters. Try to buy a free range or organic chicken (although, sadly, these terms are not always a guarantee of quality). Local butchers, farmers markets, and specialist internet suppliers, would normally be top of my list of sources for good quality chickens for roasting. If you are lucky enough to live in the countryside, you may even be able to buy a chicken directly from a farmer. Whichever source you use, it is worth asking a few questions about the provenance of the chicken you are buying – e..g “is it genuinely free range?” “what was it fed on?” etc…
Preparing the chicken
Before starting to prepare the chicken, remember to preheat the oven to to 210°C (Gas Mark 6).
Chickens are rarely sold with the giblets inside the carcass these days. However it is always worth checking, just in case. If you do find a bag of giblets inside the chicken either throw them away or put them aside for making gravy.
The cavity of the chicken should be filled with ingredients chosen to impart flavour and retain moisture. My personal favourite is to use a lemon cut into quarters mixed with a few cloves of bruised garlic and a handful of thyme and/or rosemary.
Rub a little olive oil over the whole chicken. Then rub in a generous amount of ground pepper mixed with 1/2 tsp of salt.
Roast the chicken
Place the chicken into a lightly oiled roasting tin.
1. Roast for 20 minutes at 210°C (Gas Mark 6).
2. Reduce oven temperature to 180 °C (Gas Mark4) and continue to roast for 45 minutes (small chicken) to 70 minutes (large chicken)
3. Remove the joint from the oven and check that juices run clear
4. Rest for 20 minutes before carving.