How To Cook The Ultimate Roast Chicken

A roast chicken is always a crowd-pleaser – especially for Sunday lunch. From stuffing, seasoning and basting tricks to what to look out for when buying a whole chicken, some of the UK’s top chefs share their tips for making the best version of the dish at home…

Kerth Gumbs, Ormer Mayfair

“When buying a chicken to roast, I look for beautifully coloured skin, free of dark blemishes or marks. There needs to be a general firmness to the meat. To roast the chicken, I usually like to brine it whole in 100g of salt and 2 litres of water along with aromatics such as garlic, thyme and rosemary. After removing from the brine, I rub it with a mix of blended garlic, oil, thyme salt and pepper as well as a pinch of curry powder, making sure to get inside the cavity. I will normally put a 1.5-2kg bird onto a wire rack above a tray of water at 175ºC for 45 minutes then let it rest for 10 minutes before carving. The water creates moisture under the chicken, and it catches the natural juices that fall from the bird, which for me is the best way to make gravy. The best side to accompany the meat would be a potato dish in almost any format. It could be roasted, mashed or sautéed. And as I am a rice lover, sometimes I will use some of the juices to cook a little side pot of rice with the simple addition of rosemary or lemongrass.”

Ryan Matheson, Sea Containers Restaurant

“Place the chicken in an aromatic brine for 24 hours before cooking. Next, pan-roast carrots, celery and onion with added rosemary, garlic and thyme for flavour. Remove the chicken from the brine, pat dry and season well with salt, pepper and oil. Once the veg are roasted, fill the chicken cavity with them, and put the bird in an oven that’s been preheated to 180ºC. Place a dripping trip filled with some of the leftover brine liquid in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until cooked through.” 

Rupert Willday, Charlie Bigham’s

“Prepare the chicken the day before by seasoning it inside and out with a little salt. Place on a plate and cover with a tea towel in the fridge overnight. On cook day, remove the chicken from the fridge at least an hour before it goes in the oven, to allow it to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Place sliced carrots in the bottom of a roasting tin. Stuff the chicken with half a lemon and a bay leaf, then evenly smother the skin with 60g of butter. Season well with black pepper and sprinkle over 2 tbsp of chopped marjoram or oregano. Roast the chicken in the centre of the oven and baste with the juices every 15-20 minutes. If there aren’t enough juices to baste, add a splash of water to sit at the bottom of the tin. Roast the chicken for 60-75 minutes until golden – when you pierce a knife into the flesh between the leg and the breast, the juices should run clear. Once cooked, leave to rest in a warm place for 15-20 minutes, ensuring you catch all the juices to add to your gravy. Remove the lemon and bay leaf, and carve to serve.”

Adam Byatt, Trinity

“A juicy chicken, stonking roast potatoes, aromatic bread sauce and watercress – now that’s what I call a cracking Sunday roast. Although I know chicken prices can be high, my advice is to buy the best you can afford (I recommend Label Anglais). I always poach my chickens before roasting. This results in a more succulent and tastier bird, and although it sounds more complex, it actually shortens the overall process. Tie the chicken tightly with string, tucking in the legs to make them the same width as the widest area of the breast. (If you are unsure how to do this, ask your butcher.) Pour the stock and water into a deep flameproof casserole or large saucepan and place over a medium heat. Add the bay leaf and peppercorns, then the chicken. Season the stock lightly with salt and pepper, and bring to the boil, then immediately lift the chicken out of the liquid and allow to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Place the cooled chicken in a roasting tray, smear with the butter and season well. Surround the bird with onion quarters and bacon-wrapped chipolatas, then roast for 35 minutes. Once cooked, remove the chicken and chipolatas from the roasting tray and leave to rest for 30 minutes before serving.”

Ligia Lugo, The Daring Kitchen

“Make sure the chicken is at room temperature before the cooking. To save time you can make the stuffing the day before and keep it in a cool place, but do not refrigerate it. Clean out and dry the cavity of the chicken before stuffing. For even more flavourful and juicy roast chicken you can brine it by soaking it in salt water or rubbing it with salt. Turn the wings so that the tips are under the bird, so it cooks more evenly. To get a crispy skin on your roast chicken but still keep it juicy on the inside, slather the bird with a butter blend or olive oil – they both work well. Most importantly, make sure the chicken reaches the minimum internal temperature needed for the meat to cook safely. Use a meat thermometer to make sure it reaches 74ºC. The juices will run clear and the meat will start to edge away from the bone at the knuckle end.”

Andrew Scott, Miele GB

“Brining your chicken is a very simple process that will add tons of flavour and keep the chicken as juicy as possible. I use Heston Blumenthal’s basic brine recipe: 300g of salt dissolved in 5 litres of water. Mix the brine and allow to cool before submerging the chicken. Leave for 8 hours/overnight as a minimum. Cook the chicken at 170°C on a fan setting, until the core temperature of the chicken is 75°C in the thickest part. Cut a bulb of garlic in half and insert into the cavity of the chicken along with a bunch of fresh thyme. Rub a good amount of butter under the skin of each breast. Liberally season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper all over the bird. The last important stage is to rest in either a warming drawer or under a sheet of tin foil for at least 30 minutes before eating. The result will be a delicious and juicy roast chicken, perfect for a Sunday lunch.”

A juicy chicken, stonking roast potatoes, aromatic bread sauce and watercress – now that’s what I call a cracking Sunday roast.
Adam Byatt

Oriental Club 

“When purchasing, check that your chicken is pink or light red in colour – anything too pale indicates the meat has been on the shelf for too long. For a twist on the traditional roast, infuse your chicken with spices, garlic, ginger, fresh coriander and onions for the perfect autumn dish. Place all but the spices into the cavity of the chicken. Mix the spices with salt, pepper and mustard oil. Rub this all over the exterior of the chicken and roast. Serve with a spiced raw vegetable slaw, pomegranate seeds, pilau rice and cucumber and mint raita for a lighter take on a Sunday lunch.”

Mimi Morley, HelloFresh 

“Prepping the chicken with seasoning helps create the most delicious flavours. The best way to do this is to make a compound butter. Simply soften the butter, while adding herbs like rosemary and thyme, some garlic salt and black pepper, then slather it over the skin of the breast and legs of the chicken. Alternatively, you can cut a small hole in the skin at the bottom of the breast, tease the butter in and spread it out underneath the skin with your finger – be careful not to break the skin too much. Most people know about the ‘lemon in the chicken’ technique, but you can also do it with lime for something quite different. Pierce holes in the lime before putting it inside the chicken and mix sesame oil, garlic, lemongrass and ginger to make an Asian-inspired roast chicken.”

Justine Murphy, MyMuyBueno

“I love roast chicken, especially with garlic butter. To make that, you’ll need 100g of softened butter, 3 cloves of garlic – peeled and grated – and 1 sprig of fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped. In a bowl, mix three-quarters of the butter with the grated garlic, chopped parsley, a good pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. With your fingers, work slowly and carefully to loosen the chicken skin and push the flavoured butter underneath. Take care not to tear the skin. Reach all the way across each of the breasts to get the garlic butter distributed evenly. Rub all the remaining butter over the skin, then sprinkle with salt quite liberally to help it crisp up well in the oven.” 

Jimmy Garcia, Jimmy’s Pop-Up

“For a super crispy, beautiful skin and moist chicken, place a thin layer of salted butter between the skin and the flesh of the chicken in as many areas as possible without piercing the skin. This will allow the butter to run into the meat as well as crisp up the chicken and help to cook it to absolute perfection.”

Henry Russell, Belazu

“I learnt to make this stuffing on my first day working as a chef and I still find myself coming back to it – it being such a reliable but pleasing combination of flavours. Heat an oven to 175ºC. Place six garlic cloves in a small saucepan and cover with water. Place on a high heat, bring to the boil then cook for 10 minutes, until very soft. Drain, place in a bowl and mash with a fork. Add two chopped preserved lemons, parsley, spices, 2 tbsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then mix well to combine. Finely slice two onions and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken on top of the onions and, using your fingers, separate the skin from the flesh at the top of the crown. To make space for the stuffing, use a spoon to push the skin away from the breast then down the side to where the legs are. Now use the spoon to force the stuffing into the space that you’ve created, a little at a time. Once it is in, you can use your fingers to spread it out all over the top of the chicken. If the skin at the top of the crown looks very loose, use a cocktail stick to pin it in place. Add 150ml of water to the tray, wrap tightly with foil and place in the oven for 1 hour 10 minutes, then remove the foil and cook for another 20 minutes. Carefully remove the chicken and place on a plate, leaving the chicken to rest, loosely covered with foil for 20 minutes, until ready to serve.”

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