Roast chicken

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Chicken & Eggs River Cottage Handbook

Even the smell of a chicken roasting in the oven can turn a wet, unwelcoming Sunday into a cosy restorative one. For a perfect roast chicken, there are a few rules: choose a good free-range, preferably organic, bird; don’t overcook it; and let it rest for 15 minutes or so after roasting before carving or jointing.

Master the core recipe below and then embellish it as you like. A couple of my favourite variations are flavouring the bird with herb butter (see below), and roasting it with fennel, apples and bacon, but more often than not I’ll roast the chicken plain and simple. For a heavier bird, add an extra 3–4 minutes to the cooking time for every additional 100 g.

  • Yield: 4 to 5 Servings


  • 1 chicken, about 1.6 kg
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve
  • Chicken gravy
How to Make It
  1. Take the chicken out of the fridge about an hour before cooking to bring it to room temperature, if necessary. Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas mark 5.
  2. Smear the skin of the chicken with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Put the chicken in a roasting tray and place in the centre of the oven. Roast for 20 minutes, then lower the oven setting to 170°C/Gas mark 3 and roast for another 40 minutes. It should be nicely golden. To check that the bird is cooked, insert a skewer or knife into the thickest part, where the leg joins the body – the juices should run clear. If they are at all pink, roast the chicken for a further 10 minutes and check again.
  3. When your chicken is cooked, turn off the heat, open the oven door and leave the bird to rest for 15 minutes. Joint or carve and serve with gravy and vegetables of your choice.

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