Celeb chef tips for the perfect roast chicken

  • Share this story
Celeb chef tips for the perfect roast chicken

Think you know how to roast a chicken? Turns out there’s far more to preparing the humble bird than bunging it in the oven

If something like an official list of the top ten simple food pleasures in the universe were to exist, the smell of roast chicken wafting through the house definitely deserves a spot in the upper echelons.

My own go-to roast chicken recipe is the result of part observation, part trial and error. Season the bird with salt and pepper, put a lemon in the cavity, rub some butter under the skin and banish it to solitary confinement in the oven – which has been preheated to 180°C – for about an hour (depending on its size). Make an incision into the thickest part of a leg to see whether the juice runs clear and, if so, serve.

I always thought my method was pretty serviceable until I started doing a bit of research. Could it be that, along with doing your taxes and how to fix electrical appliances, roasting the perfect chicken should also be a compulsory module in high school (as opposed to, say, physical education)?

This curriculum change might prove tricky, however, as to my frustration, there’s no consensus amongst the pros (Marcus Samuelsson, Marco Pierre White, Thomas Keller, et. al) on how to best finesse our feathered friend to perfection. One thing thing they do seem to agree on is that a roast chicken should have a golden crispy skin and succulent flesh. And who would argue with that?

Here are some tips and tricks from some of TASTE’s international food heroes that might help you bring out the best of your bird this Sunday.

To brine for

If, like me, you are a philistine who has until now always roasted a chicken sans brining, pull up a chair. According to Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster and, more to the point, Streetbird Rotisserie fame, a whole chicken definitely benefits from a good brining (at least four hours in a mixture of three cups of water with one tablespoon sugar and two tablespoons salt), but you shouldn’t overdo it, as this could cause the bird to become “hammy”. Chef-restaurateur par excellance Daniel Boulud prescribes a brining time of 18 hours (maybe he prefers it hammy), saying “it’s flesh will be much more moist, the skin will be much more crisp and it will taste better” when left overnight in a mix of water, sugar, honey and salt.

A dry(ing) spell

Another tendency among top chefs is to let the chicken – brined or not – dry out, uncovered, in the fridge before cooking. According to the likes of Boulud, Samuelsson, René Redzepi and the late Judy Rodgers, this process not only creates a beautiful crisp skin, but also enhances the flavour of the chicken. Alice Waters believes in seasoning the bird with salt and pepper a day in advance to slightly cure it. “This produces a bird thoroughly seasoned down to the bone,” she adds. If all this sounds like a lot of unneccesary waiting around, take heart that you can also just dry your chicken really well, inside and out, with paper towels, à la Thomas Keller, who maintains, “The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.”

A matter of truss

A good question to ask when next you play “Never have I ever…” is to ask whether anyone has ever trussed a chicken. I certainly haven’t, and up until doing a bit of research, always thought it meant tying the legs of the bird together to afford it a small measure of modesty. But then, I read Keller saying, “When you truss a bird, the wings and legs stay close to the body; the ends of the drumsticks cover the top of the breast and keep it from drying out. Trussing helps the chicken to cook evenly, and it also makes for a more beautiful roasted bird.” Another proponent of The Truss is the late Julia Child, who demonstrates how to do it here. Au contraire, says chef and YouTube sensation Joel Gamoran: “Trussing will not make or break your chicken. I know everyone says truss your chicken so it cooks more evenly, but my birds are untrussed and loving it! Plus, you don’t get the ‘tan lines’ that come with trussed chickens.”

The stuff of legends

Marco Pierre White – guest judge on MasterChef Australia – likes stuffing his bird with some thyme and a whole lemon, saying, “Apart from flavouring the chicken, it slows down the cooking process. It will mean your chicken cooks from the outside in, not the inside out, and keeps it moist.” An added bonus, says Gamoran, who along with Redzepi and Heston Blumenthal also love the lemon method, is that the citrus also helps to tenderise the meat. Kitchen terror Gordon Ramsay takes the stuffing process to another level, filling the cavity of the chicken with a mixture of crispy chorizo, herbs, cannelini beans and sundried tomatoes, saying, “It’s amazing how exciting a stuffed chicken can be. It keeps the chicken incredibly moist, and gives delicious texture inside of the bird.” Then again, Keller’s now famous roast chicken is made sans any stuffing and has been hailed as one of the best.

An on the seventh day…

After sweating it out in the oven, your gorgeously bronzed beauty needs to rest. “Resting is non-negotiable,” says Gamoran. “A roasted chicken will stay warm for 30 minutes out of the oven, and you need to let it rest for 20 of those minutes. Without rest the chicken is almost impossible to carve and you will lose an incredible amount of juice if you try to carve it too soon.” After roasting his chicken for 3 hours at 90°C (ain’t nobody got time for that), Blumenthal rests it, then browns it in a piping hot oven. Delia Smith favours a resting time of 30 minutes, Samuelsson 20, Keller and Jamie Oliver 15, and Waters a risqué 10 minutes. Me? I’m usually too ravenous by the time the chook emerges from the oven (due to lack of planning, of course) that waiting even five minutes is a stretch. There’s only one way to find out if those 10 extra minutes make a difference, I suppose.










Annette Klinger Article by: Annette Klinger

Woolworths TASTE’s features writer maintains that almost any dish can be improved with butter and cream. She’s a stickler for comfort food, especially German treats that remind her of her late grandmother, such as pork schnitzel with sauerkraut and spätzlen. She is a voracious reader of food magazines and recipe books, and instinctively switches over to the cooking channel whenever she checks into a hotel or guesthouse.

Social Media

You might be interested in...