This is how I roast chicken the classic way with crispy golden skin. No schmancy techniques, no brining, no rubbing butter under the skin. Just a straight up roast chicken that’s easy enough for any night of the week and a crowd pleaser for company!
I’m the first to admit that I love discovering genius foolproof cooking techniques. Like the foolproof way to poach chicken (have you tried it, have you tried it?? Crazy easy, NO FAIL!), dry brining roast turkey (no more giant bucket logistical dramas!), brined roast chicken using a recipe by Thomas Keller (of French Laundry in San Fran and Per Se in NYC), and of course the genius way to make chicken wings in the oven that come out truly crispy (thanks to Cook’s Illustrated!).
But sometimes, you just need to forget all the technicalities and just go for a classic roast chook. Sure, the breast meat won’t be quite as juicy as when you brine the chicken for 24 hours, or spend 15 minutes making a flavoured butter and carefully spreading it under the skin, or using muslin to enclose the buttered chicken, or any number of other techniques that people swear by for juicy roast chicken.
So in this post today, I’m sharing how I make a classic roast chicken. No frills. Just a straight up classic roast chicken. Here it is, straight out of the oven. No props, no styling. Isn’t it beautiful?
This recipe is so easy, I’ll make it any night of the week. The skin is juicy and the breast is moist – no dry breast on my roast chooks! And no messing around with gravy. This is how it goes:
1. Bed of onion and carrots – To elevate the chicken (no need to dirty a rack!), to flavour the pan juices (no mucking around with gravy) and to eat with the chicken (P.S. normally I use more carrots, but I was short on this occasion!);
2. Simple stuffing of lemon quarters, garlic and herbs – Gone are the days of jamming in a dense breadcrumb pork mixture into the chook. Do this, and you are guaranteed to either end up with dry breast OR raw stuffing because the roasting time required in order for the stuffing to come up to a high enough temperature to be safe to consume means the breast ends up overcooked. So stuffing needs to be sparse, leaving enough space for hot air to circulate within the chicken too. I just use lemon quarters, garlic and herbs;
3. Rub with butter (with your normal hands rather than my Baby Hands). That plus salt and pepper are all that’s needed to great a beautiful golden flavoured skin;
4. Tie the drumsticks together with string OR twisted foil – This holds the whole bird together rather than flopping while it roasts so it helps ensure a more even roasting, and stops the drumstick ends from burning;
5. Tuck the wings under – Again, by doing this, they press closer to the body of the chicken and stops the wings from burning; and
6. Add a splash of wine (or broth) and water – This is what creates the pan juices that the chicken is served with. Without it, you’ll end up with a dry roasting pan because chickens don’t create as much drippings as other types of roasts. (PS I don’t typically make gravy for chicken for midweek meals, I use the pan juices).
Preparation aside, I think the most common question I get is around how long to roast a chicken. So here’s my answer!
HOW LONG TO ROAST A CHICKEN
– Basic Roast Chicken: 15 minutes PLUS 20 minutes per 500g / 1 lb at 180C/350F.
– Crisper Darker Skin: 10 minutes at 220C/460F PLUS 18 minutes per 500g / 1 lb at 180C/350F.
A few things to take into account when using this formula for roasting a chicken:
- Small chickens: Smaller chickens (2lb/1kg or so) need to be cooked slightly longer than the resulting answer using the “formula”;
- Bit of stuffing: the roasting tim formula is for a chicken with a small amount of stuffing inside. If you have no stuffing, the cook time is slightly less (for medium to large chickens); and
- Type of oven: this is for convectional / fan forced ovens – the ovens with a fan in the back that circulates air to help cook faster and more evenly. The cook time is slightly longer for ovens that are not fan forced.
To save you from having to do the maths in the kitchen, I’ve done table with roasting times for different size chickens which is in the recipe below. I tend not to use chickens larger than 6lb/3kg because the larger the chicken, the more the breast will dry out before the inside is cooked. I find the ideal weight is between 3lb/1.5kg and 4.5lb / 2.25kg.
A basic roast chicken.
It’s such a classic. It’s the epitome of comfort food. Of family dinners. And such proof that even the simplest of recipes done right can be something so amazing, don’t you think?
– Nagi x
PS My roast chicken is pictured here with two of my favourite Sunday Night Roast sides: Julia Child’s Potato Gratin Dauphinoise and Spinach Sautéed in Garlic (recipe below in the notes).
- 1 whole raw chicken (Note 1)
- 2 tbsp butter (salted or unsalted)
- 3 carrots, each cut into 2-3 chunks
- 1 onion (any type), cut into 6 - 8 wedges
- 1 whole garlic bulb, cut in half horizontally
- 2 - 3 lemons, 1 quartered and the other(s) halved
- Half bunch of thyme sprigs
- 2 cups dry white wine OR chicken broth (or combo of both)
- Take chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before preparing. Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels.
- Preheat oven to 180C/350F if using the Basic Method or 220C/430F if using the Crispier Skin method for crispier and darker skin. Arrange the oven shelf just below the middle. (Note 2).
- Place carrots, onion, halved lemons and half the garlic in a roasting pan.
- Stuff 1 lemon, remaining garlic and thyme inside the chicken.
- Rub butter all over the skin of the chicken AND inside. Sprinkle with salt and pepper inside and on the skin (generously).
- Tie the drumstick legs together using string or twist a piece of foil. Tuck the wings under the chicken (see steps photos in the post above).
- Pour wine/broth and water in the pan.
- Roast per Roasting Table below.
- The chicken is cooked when: you pierce 2-3"/5-7.5cm deep into the meat between the leg and breast and the juices that run out are clear, not pink OR an instant read thermometer reads 165F/74C.
- Rest for 10 - 15 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
- My roast chicken is pictured with Julia Child's Potato Dauphinois and a quick Garlic Sautéed Spinch (Note 3)
2. Arrange the oven shelf so the chicken which is slightly elevated by the bed of carrots sits in the middle of the oven. This is how I ensure the chicken browns evenly all over, rather than the top browning a lot faster than the sides.
3. Quick Sautéed Garlic Spinach: I use 1 large handful of fresh spinach leaves per person, torn into very large pieces. Remember spinach wilts a lot! Add 2 tbsp olive oil or butter in a large skillet or wok and add 2 minced garlic cloves. Place on a stove on medium high. When the garlic starts to sizzle, stir - do not let it brown! Add spinach and cook until it JUST starts to wilt - 2 minutes. Remove from stove immediately and transfer to serving bowl - it will wilt more from the residual heat.
4. ROASTING TIMES: Use the CRISPIER SKIN Method if you want darker and slightly crispier skin (pictured).
Use the table below to determine the cook time for your roast chicken. Use the STUFFED ROAST CHICKEN times - I've included the roast times for chicken with NO stuffing as an extra. It takes slightly less time to roast chicken without stuffing because more heat can get inside the chicken.
Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 servings with a net weight of 1.2kg / 2.4lb of meat (i.e. excluding bones).
Stuffing on the side….
Nowadays, I always serve stuffing on the side because of the issue I noted above about the chicken overcooking if it is stuffed inside. Here are the two ways I make stuffing:
Pork Sausage and Apple Stuffing – I featured this in my 2015 Thanksgiving / Christmas Feast spread. The photo is taken by me, as part of the menu I shared, using this Pork Sausage and Apple Stuffing recipe by Kathleen from Hapa Nom Nom.
Pork Sausage and Apple Stuffing Pancetta Cups – this recipe is based on the same Pork Sausage and Apple Stuffing recipe by Hapa Nom Nom, but I made them into little cups using Pancetta. This was featured in my 2015 Christmas Feast Menu.