Everybody who knows anything about cooking has a recipe for roasting chicken but for some reason most people do not have a good recipe for roasting chicken. I don’t know why but people seem to regard roast chicken as too pedestrian to make something interesting with it. Most recipes just consist of rubbing salt and pepper into bad quality chicken and roasting the life out of it.
There are in fact three aspects to making good roast chicken namely the chicken itself, the moistness (that’s a word I swear), and the seasoning. To make really good roast chicken you need good quality free range chicken preferably of a slow growing variety. There is no point in using battery grown chicken as they are too fat and the meat to floppy to retain the flavours of the roasting and the seasoning. If you are going to use one of those you are actually better off buying a pre roasted bird from the supermarket. It will taste the same and cost less. Whether or not to use chicken raised on something like corn is just a matter of taste and I have no opinion either way.
Moistness is a bit of an art with chicken but it boils down to three things roasting temperature, added fat and a source of liquid during the roasting. With temperature the thing is too much and the bird shrivels up and looses all moistness and too little and it just boils. Of course you also have to keep in mind that too long and too short are no good either. I find that 170 degrees Celsius, with convection for about 1 hour fifteen minutes for a medium bird (1.5 kilos) is perfect. If the bird is smaller shorten the time and lengthen it for a bigger bird but keep in mind that the relationship between time required and weight is not linear.
Added fat is a no-no for a lot of people but I like to do one of two things either I rub butter all over the chicken (also helps to keep the seasoning in place) or I cover the bird in bacon rashes. Butter is good in that it enriches the flavour in a semi neutral way and then disappears during the cooking. Bacon on the other hand seals in the liquids of the bird, adds its own rather distinct taste and is quite good mixed with veggies or potatoes as a side. Both of them do the trick but I select one or the other depending on what I’m seasoning the bird with and what I’m having as carb and vegetable.
The last aspect is the source of liquids during roasting. Mostly this means basting the bird every 15 min or so but I find that a lemon/lime cut in half inside the cavity of the chicken does wonders. The fruit will release its liquid over the roasting process and keep the bird nice and moist. Some people stuff the bird with liver and kidney and such for the same purpose but I find that these leave a taste that I don’t care for as well as being messy.
To season a chicken I start by rubbing the insides of the cavity with butter, salt and pepper and any herb/spice I plan on using on the outside. Next I cut incisions into the skin over the chest and upper leg and stuff the skin with herbs. I like to use sage if I’m adding butter or basil if I’m using bacon. Thereafter, I rub the outside of the chicken with salt, pepper and dried herbs e.g. rosemary, parsley. If I’m using butter it goes on first and bacon after.
I serve the chicken with all manner of different sides including mash, roast potatoes and veggies, pasta and vegetable mashes. Last time I made a mushroom pasta that went down a treat.