How to Roast a Chicken, the Old Fashioned Way
- 1 Small Chicken
- 150g Lard/Dripping/Coocnut Oil
- 2 tsp Salt
- Vegetables, To Serve
- Potatoes, To Serve
- 2 tbsp Stock Paste
- Several Cloves Garlic
We’ve all had a chicken dinner at some point in our lives, a dish best cooked by our mothers (or grandmothers), sure to warm us on a frosty evening or make us feel back at home after a long trip away.
Surely we should all be able to prepare this simple dish with one of many traditional recipes?
Alas, in today’s world of fast food and microwave meals the art of roasting chicken has been lost in many, many households. Fortunately it is not a painstaking art to recover. So pop to the shops, pick up a chicken and we’re well on our way to having Chicken tonight…
Choosing Your Chicken
First, and most obvious is buying a chicken. Clearly nobody wants to go hungry but we don’t need half a bird sitting in the fridge when we’re done either. I would always recommend buying a small chicken (unless you’re feeding bodybuilders).
“Why not a large? I’m feeding seven!” I hear you cry. Well the fact is that it’s much easier to a chicken up into; two breasts, two drumsticks, two thighs and two wings than to try to de-bone the lot and serve by weight. If you have more people than there are pieces of chicken then buy two, a small chicken can be bought for as little as £1.40/kg which is less than £4 for the entire bird! (Much cheaper than buying breasts don’t you think?) divide
If your guests bring children, remember that they need much smaller portions and a drumstick is perfectly suited for them (so long as you watch them with the bones).
Prepping for the Perfect Crispy Chicken Skin
Now we have our no-longer feathered friend home from the shop, its time to prep our kitchen. Set your oven to 200C/ 400F/Gas mark 6 and preheat for about 20 minutes. While the oven is heating let’s work on the chicken itself:
First make sure the chicken skin is as dry as possible; water based moisture present on the meat will only reach 100C and prevent that lovely crispy skin from forming. Rubbing salt on the skin's surface will also encourage crispiness and add the edge that your dinner guests will adore; take a little sea or rock salt (table salt is fine but I find the coarser, more natural grains to have a superior taste) and massage into the skin.
Be careful not to use too much, salt is tasty only in small amounts and don’t rub too hard; you’re not trying to sand it down!
Roast Some Veg
While it’s cooking, chop some potatoes, carrots, courgettes (zucchinis) etc. whatever vegetables you think might be nice roasted. Potatoes are almost always used (but not essential) because they’re good both mashed, roasted or both! I prefer to keep the skin on but if picky children (or adults) won’t eat it there’s no reason not to peel first.
Simmer these vegetables for about twenty minutes (boil the water first!) and try to time them to be simmered (not fully cooked) by the time the chickens been in for about an hour and twenty minutes.
Take the chicken out of the oven and remove the tin foil, the fat should have spilled out and will now cover the bottom of the roasting tin, perfect for our veg! Add the vegetables to the tin, turning them to ensure they are completely coated in fat, sprinkle a little salt and put it all back into the oven sans-tin foil.
After 20 minutes turn your oven up SLIGHTLY to 220C/425F/Gas mark 7 for the final blast of heat.
Juicy Juicy Meat
Now your chicken skin is bone dry and ready to go we should turn our attention to the meat itself; we want to avoid dryness and achieve a beautifully tender, melt-in-your-mouth piece of chicken. Thankfully half of this work is done for you: legs, wings and any meat on the bottom will naturally tenderise during baking as they contain a higher proportion of fat than the breast.
To avoid the breast drying out or becoming tough we need to add some fat. Clearly we can’t add this to the skin, so its time to get stuck right in!
Slice some lard, beef dripping or (for a slightly alternative flavour) ; coconut oil is very hard at room temperature so it might be an idea to microwave it for five seconds before attempting to slice, the same goes for dripping. coconut oil
The reason I suggest ‘unhealthy’ animal fats is because they add a richer flavour, reach higher temperatures than most oils and are ‘real food’ (like your great-grandmother would have eaten, truly healthy natural food). If you don’t have any of these to hand then butter can be used but may not have the same wow-factor.
Mix your fat with some gelatinous stock/crushed stock cube (homemade stock should be reduced to a thick paste), a few chopped cloves of garlic and whichever other flavourings you desire; lemon is a common one, before inserting the mixture inside the chicken (remember to remove any giblets!).
Sprinkle some pepper onto the skin and place your chicken into its roasting tin. Cover with tin foil and we are ready to put it into our roaring hot oven.
While your veggies are roasting, take this opportunity to steam some alternative vegetables, make some mashed potato or whip up some Yorkshire pudding batter.
Remove the chicken and vegetables from the oven when it has been cooking for two hours (assuming a small chicken is used, see package instruction for larger sizes).
Leave the chicken to rest while you dish up your roast vegetables; kitchen roll is useful for mopping up excess fat. Prepare gravy either by simmering stock and adding a little corn flour or by using instant granules, although I thoroughly recommend making gravy from stock!
When you have your gravy, carve the chicken into portions, being careful to avoid removal of the skin, plate it all up and serve with the wine of your choice. Bon appetite!