Follow our top tips and cooking advice on how to achieve the ultimate roast chicken
1) Go for the best
Whether you choose a standard chicken, free range or organic is a matter of personal choice, but if possible, go for the best you can afford. Chickens are available in small, medium and large sizes. A small chicken will weigh approximately 1.2kg and will feed 2-3 people. A medium chicken weighs approximately 1.75kg and will feed 3-4 people, and a large chicken weighs approximately 2kg and will feed 4-6 people. It’s a good idea to cook a slightly bigger bird than you need, as leftover chicken can be made into all sorts of dishes during the week.
3) Season and stuff
Rub the skin on the legs and breast of the chicken with olive oil, or smear with softened butter. Sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. This will not only add flavour, but the salt will help achieve a crispy skin. Push a halved lemon and a few sprigs of herbs into the cavity – parsley, thyme and bay leaves all give chicken a good flavour.
If you want to add a stuffing to your chicken, stuff the neck end, not the cavity. Push your fingers between the skin and the flesh to loosen it a little so that you can get a good amount of stuffing in. Smooth the skin back over the top and secure it with a cocktail stick underneath. A simple lemon and thyme breadcrumb stuffing is lovely in the summer months, or try a more robust pork and nut stuffing in the winter.
4) Time to roast
Weigh your chicken and calculate the cooking time according to the guide below. Sit the bird in a roasting tin slightly larger than the chicken, and don’t cover it with foil or you won’t achieve a crisp skin.
Basting your chicken during cooking will help keep the meat moist. Tilt the tin slightly and use a spoon or turkey baster to scoop up some of the fat, and then drizzle it carefully over the chicken. Baste 2 or 3 times during cooking.
45 minutes per kg, plus 20 minutes
6) Check your meat is cooked properly
Chicken must be thoroughly cooked before serving, with no pink meat. Pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a skewer and let the juices run out. If they are clear, then it’s cooked, but if they still look pink, return it to the oven for 15 minutes, then test again. If you have a meat thermometer, push the probe into the thickest part of the thigh. The temperature should be at least 75C for cooked chicken.
7) Take a rest
Chicken needs to rest after cooking in the same way as beef, lamb and pork, to allow the juices to settle back into the meat. Cover your chicken with foil and set aside for 30 minutes. The rest of the sides can finish cooking and you can make the gravy – don't forget to add in the flavoursome juices from the chicken as it rests.
How to carve a chicken
Food editor Silvana Franco shows you the easiest way to carve a roast chicken.
What to drink with roast chicken
For a simple roast with a hint of lemon and thyme, an unoaked Chardonnay or a Pinot Noir would make a lovely match as these wines won't overpower the flavour of the chicken. If your dish is cooked using strong flavours, go for bolder reds or aromatic whites that will stand up to the herbs and spices.