Our roast chicken recipe: hot and fast

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Go to the recipe for hot and fast roast chicken

People do fuss over a roast chicken, don’t they? Doing all sorts of things like draping bacon over the fleshiest bits to keep them moist, mucking around poking seasonings under the skin, stuffing all sorts of things inside them to add flavour, even insisting that you have to roast a chicken breast-down in the pan and then flip it over part way through cooking.

In our opinion, if you keep the cooking simple, getting a good result can be reduced to one decision: buying a decent chicken in the first place. There’s been a lot of publicity about chicken welfare lately, with the focus being on battery laying hens and intensively reared, fast-growing meat birds that can hardly stand up by themselves.

In our house we haven’t gone down the full free-range route, but have settled on buying slow-growing birds that are fed better food in more spacious barns endorsed by animal welfare authorities. In the UK the scheme is called RSPCA Freedom Foods and no doubt there are equivalents elsewhere in the world.

Why haven’t we gone free range? To be honest, Lenny and I don’t think the extra quality is there for the price compared with a Freedom bird. I know the debate is not all about quality, but we do believe a meat bird can be grown indoors without the process being inherently cruel.

Since going for the better bird I have realised just how devoid of taste and texture the average cheap chicken can be. The flesh seems slimy and dense. A bird that’s been reared in better conditions seems to have a more open texture and grain to the cooked flesh, indicating that it’s been able to get plenty of exercise.

Welfare birds will sometimes have the last joint of the leg left on (like ours in the video), which allows you to check for hock burn, a sort of rawness or callousing on the joint that can be a sign of neglectful rearing.

Lenny and I don’t worry about stuffing, nor do we generally season the bird to any great extent. Just baste it liberally with brandy mixed into melted butter. Then hit it with high heat until done.

Nothing against stuffing or seasoning, mind you. A roast bird with all the trimmings can form a charming centrepiece to your Sunday or seasonal table. But at our house we get full mileage out of our birds by using the leftover carcass to make a basic stock in our slow cooker. I think it’s a good idea not to contaminate the stock with flavours that don’t belong there.

When roasting we’ll sometimes go as far as putting a lemon inside the chicken, which may help keep it moist and add some flavour – once cooked, Lenny recommends squeezing the lemon into the pan juices when making your gravy.

Roast potatoes and other vegetables are your classic accompaniment, but for a different approach Lenny also advocates canned lentils into the pan juices along with some chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon. Heat and serve.

Hot and fast roast chicken recipe
1 quality, high-welfare chicken
Lemon (optional)
Plain flour
White wine

Preheat oven to 220C/425F. This is just below the maximum temperature on many ovens.

Remove any packaging from in or around the chicken. Check it doesn’t have plastic-wrapped neck or giblets in the cavity. If the neck is in there, you could roast it with the bird to use as part of a stock later on.

Wash the bird inside and out under a tap if it needs it. Pat dry.

Lightly oil an oven tray or dish that is deep enough to catch juices and suitable for putting on a burner or hotplate later. Put the bird in the dish.

Melt a slice of butter and splash some brandy into it. Mix together and then baste liberally over the outside of the bird. If you’re using a lemon, halve it and place inside the cavity.

Place the bird in the oven. Cook for 40 minutes, then check. A smaller bird might be done by now, but for a medium to large bird the cooking time will be more like 1 hour, or 1 hour 20 minutes.

To check for doneness, take the chicken out of the oven. If a leg can be easily pulled off, it’s usually done. If there’s sort of elastic resistance and it doesn’t break away easily, it probably needs longer. You can also check by poking a skewer into a juicy part of the chicken – if the juices run clear it’s OK. But overall, if the flesh is still obviously raw or part-cooked, put it back in until you are satisfied it’s done.

Once cooked, remove the chicken to a plate and cover with foil. Drain the pan juices into a small clear container that can take the heat. The oil floats to the top – pour it off until you are left with just the juices (a little bit of oil is OK).

Put the chicken pan over medium-high heat, pour your juices in and deglaze: pour in a goodly cup of wine and let it boil the yummy bits off the pan.

To a cup of cold water, add two teaspoons of plain flour and mix, then pour into the pan. Let it bubble away and thicken to your liking (the flour needs to cook, otherwise it will taste bland), and add salt if you want.

We won’t go into carving the chicken – generally we tend to be rustic about this, tearing the joints off, using a knife where necessary, and either slicing the breast or pulling it apart in chunks.

Serve with your side dishes and gravy. My favourite bit is the wings! On a perfectly roasted chicken they are crispy and delicious.

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21 Responses to “Our roast chicken recipe: hot and fast”

  • Hooray! New post! Looks pretty good. I have a chicken in the freezer right now (from a local farm) that I’ll be roasting this weekend. I don’t know the proper way to carve, either. 😉

    I do like the way Nigel Slater talks about roasting chicken and making garlic gravy (no need for flour) in his book, “The Kitchen Diaries.” You do use salt and pepper on the bird and he does have you flip it from breast-down to breast-up for the last 20 minutes, but it’s really not much more work at all and it’s delicious. I describe his method on my blog here, in the midst of a chicken pie recipe: http://snackreligious.blogspot.com/2009/01/chicken-pie-oh-my.html

  • nice show guys. do you all in the UK ever use cornstarch or arrowroot to thicken a sauce-gravy? i’d never seen the cold water – flour method before.

  • Have you guys ever tried brining the chicken beforehand? It’s an extra step, but I find that it does keep the chicken much more juicy, even if you overcook a bit. I do it with nearly all my chicken and pork now. Just an idea. Fantastic episode! Glad to see you back.

  • Hey guys great vid. But the podcast doesn’t work it just jumps every second and you can’t see at thing.

  • Great video! This is so much easier than making stuffing and all the other things that have to go with it. A great video to quench or thirst for CTK vids. And to Nic, the podcast works fine for me, but i’m no techie.

  • Podcast was fine for me to.

    BUT — dear oh dear — I usually LOVE your stuff but you didn’t do that poor chicken justice. It was dry because you cooked it too high too fast.

    I know you said you don’t muck around but honestly, if you mash herbs and butter together, and add your brandy if you want, and put it under the skin and squish it down all over the breast, then put a lemon, pricked all over with a toothpick, inside the bird, you will get a lovely moist roast. The butter will melt into the flesh inside the skin and the lemon will steam inside and add moisture.

    Medium heat to start, cover it with foil, until just about cooked, then remove the foil and up the heat to brown the skin.

    To test if done, just pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a skewer, if the juices are clear it is done, if still pink, roast a little longer. By pulling the leg off you lost a lot of the natural moisture and further cooking dried it out.

    Never mind, it was still entertaining! Looking forward to the next one.


  • Yay! Another episode. Watched it eating peas and feta. I love your no-fuss-aproach. It just seems so simple and unintimidating. Could one do it in a covered pot? I have a smallish dutch oven kind of thing I don’t use a lot, would that be apropriate? We did a goose in the oven for christmas in an open pan and the stupid cheap gas oven just sends everything into the kitchen air and the kitchen smelled of goose for weeks. I’d like to avoid that happening again!

    I would thicken the sauce with cream or cream cheese, because I don’t like sauces with flour a lot. Anyway, will try this soon and will report the results!

  • Liz, I admit it was a tad overdone but can I be honest? I actually prefer my chicken a little on the dry side rather than overly moist/juicy. I know it might sound strange but I don’t like a gush of juiciness or the rubbery texture of flesh that is only just cooked.

    I was always a drumstick kind of kid but in adulthood I go for the wings, and the crispier the better, hence I like the hot blasting approach.

    As for mucking about poking stuff under the skin: no way, that’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid here.

  • You mentioned chocalate zuchinni cake on twitter could you make that?

  • There is a HUGE difference in birds, indeed, any animal that one eats should get fresh air and sunshine (have you read about vitamin D deficiencies lately?) and a little exercise certainly enhances that muscle for eating. Now, on the less selfish side, it’s just good karma to eat things that have been treated well and don’t we all want everything and everyone treated well?.

  • Nic, we always think alike. I think we/I may be a bit obsessed 😉

  • I certainly am obsessed. I rewatch over and over I start at episode 1 and watch to episode 75 or however many there are. And when I’m finish I go back and watch them all again. I just love, not only their cooking, but also their personalities.

  • We should meet someday, you seem just as obsessed as I am. I usually watch the episodes on my iPod, so I can see how many times I have played each episode. The number of times watched is quite alarming, with each episode watched at least 40 times… Man, i think i need waz and lenny addiction rehab.

  • LOL Me too. whats your email. Mines perrynic96@yahoo.com

  • Well where have I been???? I’ve just discovered Lenny and Waz !! I have a five month old who needs lots of looooong cuddles to go to sleep and watching these episodes has kept me sane lying in bed for ages. I think I’ve watched all of them this weekend :))

  • need more lenny and waz!

  • all the french masters use pats of butter and smear it all over the bird. that way it melts onto the skin and stays in contact longer. personally, i dont like butter and dont even have it in my fridge, but i never roast chicken either. i’d rather rotisserie it and let its own juices crisp up the skin. peruvian chicken is the best – you should make a video of that!

  • It’s not how I cook Chicken but that is what I like about this Podcast, it’s human and practical.
    I also like to use some garlic (quite a lot as it happens) in the butter smearing of the Chicken.
    I particularly enjoy your final assesments which very rarely include the statements “delicious” “wonderful” “what a fine chef I am”, honest.


  • Hello there! I think your oven is smoking uncontrollably because of the melted butter. It burns pretty quickly. Learnt this while trying to do an omelette and left the pan on the heat for too long while looking for eggs.

    =D chicken looks great though!

  • I was looking at your podcasts…they are interesting..
    Please remember green potatoes can be dangerous…
    I only mention as I noticed in the background when you had peeled your potatoes for your roast chicken how green some of them were…
    Anyway other than have fun continuing with your cooking..As an aussie in the UK myself and a cook getting some of the ingredients you want can be a pain

  • Hi Michelle, from my research you would need to eat approx 5kg of very green potato in a single sitting to be in any sort of danger – but thanks for the warning!

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