How To Make The Most Of A Roast Chicken

A roast chicken is always a crowd-pleaser. But how do the professionals make it better than the rest? From seasoning and basting tricks to what to look out for at the supermarket or butcher, here some of the UK’s top chefs share their tips, as well as a selection of recipes to use up the leftovers…
MELANIE DEFAZIO/STOCKSY

How To Cook The Best Roast Chicken...

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.” 

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Adam Byatt, Trinity

“A juicy chicken, stonking roast potatoes, aromatic bread sauce and watercress – now that’s a cracking roast. Although chicken prices can be high, my advice is to buy the best you can afford (Label Anglais is a personal favourite). Always poach your chicken before roasting, too. 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.”

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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.”

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Justine Murphy, MyMuyBueno

“Roast chicken is so good 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.” 

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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.”

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And Tips For Using Leftovers...

 

Ligia Lugo, The Daring Kitchen

“Once you have cooked your chicken, store it in the fridge no later than two hours after it’s come out the oven to slow the bacteria growth. The chicken leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you think you won’t use it within four days, you can freeze it to use at a later date. There are loads of ways to use these leftovers. You could mix them into a salad, or cook it into fried rice – when you end up with leftovers that aren't enough for a meal on their own, fried rice with chicken can be a cheap and easy, but filling meal. A super easy way to make tacos is to shred the cooked chicken and place it in warm tortillas. To bulk up the tacos add beans or slaw and you are set for a tasty taco night. Finally, at this time of year, you can cook the leftover meat in a warming casserole.”

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Marwa Alkhalaf, Nutshell Covent Garden 

“Elevate your chicken sandwich by turning it into a musakhan roll. Sauté a whole large onion, slice it and top with a generous amount of sumac and mix your chicken in. Season with salt, turmeric and pepper and finish it with pine nuts or almonds. You can use a flour tortilla, naan bread or flat bread – just brush it with olive oil first and fill.”

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Paul Leonard, Forest Side

“Once you have carved your bird and finished dinner, simply put your remains and carcass in a stock pan and cover with cold water. Slowly bring to the boil, then turn off the heat and leave to cool for 30 minutes before passing off through a fine sieve. You now have a chicken stock that you can freeze ready to be the base of soups and sauces in the future.”

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After a full recipe? Try one of these tasty dishes…

Chicken Laksa With Mangetout & Courgetti
Mindful Chef

Serves

Serves 2

Difficulty

Easy

Total Time

20 Minutes

Ingredients

1 fresh lemongrass stalk
1 lime
1 red chilli
1 red onion
1 tsp of turmeric
200ml of coconut milk
2 tsp of oil
2 tsp of tamari
2 x 150g cooked free-range chicken thighs
300g of courgette
4cm of fresh ginger
80g of baby sweetcorn
80g of mangetout
Medium handful of fresh coriander

Method

Step 1

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Thinly slice the red onion, then sprinkle over a pinch of sea salt and drizzle over 1 tsp of oil. Cook for 20-25 minutes.

Step 2

Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the ginger. Trim the lemongrass, remove the outer layer and finely chop. Trim the baby sweetcorn and slice in half lengthways. Trim the mangetout.

Step 3

Heat a saucepan with 1 tsp of oil on a medium heat, add the ginger and lemongrass for 2 minutes, then stir in the turmeric and add the coconut milk. Simmer gently for 5 minutes to allow the ingredients to infuse.

Step 4

Add the baby sweetcorn and mangetout and simmer gently for a further 3-4 minutes. Then stir through the juice from the lime and tamari to taste.

Step 5

Meanwhile, remove the ends of the courgettes but leave the skin on. Prepare the courgetti using a peeler and slice the courgettes into long thin strips (or use a julienne peeler or spiralizer).

Step 6

Pull the cooked chicken apart with two forks. Thinly slice the red chilli (remove the seeds for less heat) and roughly chop the coriander leaves.

Step 7

Place the raw courgetti into the pan with the coconut broth and simmer for a few minutes until tender. Add more water to thin the broth if desired. Pour into two warm bowls and top with the shredded chicken, onion, chilli slices and coriander.
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Chicken, Pea & Lemon Risotto
Sutton Hoo Chicken

Serves

Serves 3-4

Difficulty

Easy

Total Time

40 Minutes

Ingredients

1 litre of chicken stock
60g of butter
2 shallots, finely diced
1 stick of celery
300g of risotto rice
1 small glass of white wine
1 unwaxed lemon
200g of frozen peas
200g of leftover roast chicken – or as much as you like or as little as you have
4 tbsp of grated parmesan
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

Step 1

It is important when making risotto that you keep your stock hot so firstly put this onto a gentle heat and bring to a simmer. Heat half the butter and the oil in a large saucepan. Add the shallots and celery so they are lovely and soft but not too coloured. This can take a good 10 minutes as you don’t want under cooked onion in your final risotto.

Step 2

Add the rice and stir thoroughly so that the rice absorbs some of the oil and butter. Add the wine and cook until it evaporates then start to add the hot stock, a ladle at a time and continue to stir. This can take between 15-20 minutes.

Step 3

Test the rice to see if it still has a little bite, this is the time to add the peas, chicken and to grate some lemon zest into the risotto. Give this a good stir to combine, add a little more stock and heat through for another 5 minutes or until the chicken is hot.

Step 4

Take off the heat and add the parmesan again give it a good stir. Put a lid on and leave to rest for 5 minutes before you are ready to serve.
Three Rice & Chicken Salad

Serves

Serves 8

Difficulty

Easy

Total Time

1 Hour 45 Minutes

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, bones removed, and the skin and meat shredded
1 garlic bulb, halved
1 whole lemon, halved
2 springs of rosemary
4 tbsp of olive oil
100g of softened butter
1 /3 cup of wild rice
1 large cup of basmati rice
1 /3 cup of brown rice
1 white onion, diced and chopped
6 spring onions, chopped thinly
2 large handfuls of mixed salad leaves or rocket
3 mild red chillies, seeded and cut into thin strips
2 cups of fresh coriander, chopped
2 cups of mint leaves, chopped
Sea salt and black pepper to season
For the dressing:
4 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 tbsp of sesame oil
2 tbsp of Thai fish sauce

Method

Step 1

Preheat oven to 220°C/Fan 180°C/Gas Mark 8.

Step 2

Smear the butter over the chicken and season well inside and out. Place the rosemary, half bulb of garlic and half a lemon inside the cavity of the chicken. Place the chicken into a deep roasting tray. Pour over about 2 ½ tablespoons of olive oil and place in the oven for 10 mins then turn down to 190°C.

Step 3

Roast in the oven for 1 hour 20 minutes, until the chicken is thoroughly cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Step 4

While the chicken is roasting in the oven, cook the rice in a separate pan following the guidelines on the packaging. Bring to a boil and simmer gently, uncovered.

Step 5

Remove all of the chicken skin and set aside, then use two forks to strip and shred meat off the chicken. Place in a large bowl.

Step 6

Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together and gently pour over the shredded chicken meat. Heat the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, add the onion and a pinch of salt, and fry over medium heat until golden. Set aside and leave to cool.

Step 7

Add the rice, fried onion, spring onions, red chilies, and chopped herbs to the chicken. Mix well and add salt or pepper to taste.
Oriental Chicken Noodle Soup

Serves

Serves 4

Difficulty

Intermediate

Total Time

2 Hours

Ingredients

12 chicken wings, plus 1 chicken carcass
1 large chicken breast
2 large thumbs of root ginger, crushed with the back of a large knife and roughly chopped
½ red chilli, cut in half lengthways
4 spring onions, washed and ends trimmed off
1 ½ litres of water
½ tsp of salt
6 whole cloves garlic
1 small white onion, peeled and cut in half
1 stick celery, washed and cut in half
1 tbsp of light soy sauce
1 tsp of thai fish sauce
½ tsp of sesame oil
For the noodle bowl:
200g of rice or egg noodles, cooked according to pack instructions
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
½ red chilli, finely chopped
Handful of fresh and washed coriander

Method

Step 1

Firstly, prepare the stock. Place all the ingredients, apart from the chicken breast, soy, sesame oil and fish sauce, into a pot and cover with the water.

Step 2

Bring to the boil and then simmer for 90 minutes. It is important to skim off any foam and impurities during this process so have a ladle and pot next to your stockpot and keep checking. This will help produce a clear soup.

Step 3

While the stock is simmering you can prepare the noodles, according to pack instructions, and chop the spring onions, chilli and coriander.

Step 4

After an hour, place the chicken breast into the stock and continue to simmer. You can top up with a little water as you go if it is reducing too quickly.

Step 5

Remove the stock from the heat after another 30 minutes. With a ladle carefully strain the stock into another clean pot. Set the chicken breast aside and discard the rest. Place the strained stock back onto a simmering heat. Add the soy and fish sauce and taste, adjust the seasoning as required and add the sesame oil if needed.

Step 6

Divide the noodles, chopped chilli, spring onion and coriander into 4 bowls. Double check the chicken breast is cooked through, if not return to the stock for a few more minutes, tear or cut the chicken breast and add to the bowls. Pour over the stock and serve.

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