Posted on Aug 3 2023
My oh my! A roasted chicken! Now that’s a dish that brings back some fond memories. It's a classic dinner table staple that never fails to please. It’s savoury, it’s juicy, and it’s tender. The smell alone is enough to change an ordinary night into a special one. Picture this: You had a long day in the office, or maybe you spent a whole day working in your backyard. Either way, you're worn thin, and your stomach won’t stop growling. You walk into the house and come face-to-face with the tantalizing scent wafting from the oven. Not even my Border Collie, Diesel, who, mind you, can smell a bird from a kilometre away, could resist this aura.
Selecting the perfect chicken might seem like a daunting task, especially with the plethora of options available in the supermarket. But don’t fret, there's a silver bullet: opt for free-range or organic chickens. They are undeniably tastier and healthier, raised without antibiotics and allowed to peck and forage in an open-air environment, which gives a greater depth of flavour to their meat. Size matters too. A chicken weighing around 1.5-2kgs is ideal for roasting, as it feeds four generously and isn't intimidating to handle. Now, that might seem a bit hefty, but trust me. Coming from a man who's adopted lifting a Border Collie as his new fitness regimen, I can assure you that roasting such a whole bird is entirely manageable.
Once you've selected your bird, it's time to prep it. Roasting chicken is an art and, like playing a musical instrument or teaching my Canary, Goldie, new chirps, it requires practice. Start by removing the giblets from the cavity and patting the chicken dry with paper towels. This is extremely important, as the drier the bird, the crispier the skin. It's like sunbathing, except we don't want a tan; we're aiming for a beautiful brown.
Then comes the seasoning. I'm a firm believer in the power of simplicity. So, I encourage lavish use of just a few ingredients - good old salt, pepper, herbs and garlic. Rub the mixture all over the bird, inside and out, ensuring every nook and cranny gets a good sprinkle. Some folks truss the chicken, tying the legs together with kitchen twine. I usually leave them be; they seem to enjoy their freedom in the heated environment. Personal preference, folks!
Onto the next step, roasting. Like the sun is to my beautiful Goldie, the oven plays a paramount role in achieving the perfect roast. The goal here is to create a warm, dry environment in which the chicken can bask and slowly cook until it's golden brown.
Set your oven to 190°C. Meanwhile, place your seasoned bird on a rack in a size appropriate roasting pan. Once your oven is hot enough, pop in the pan. It is crucial to resist the temptation to open the oven frequently. This would let all the lovely heat escape and result in a less than optimal roast. Besides, Diesel, my loving but ever-hungry Border Collie, gets upset whenever he hears the oven's door creak. Once it's closed, it should stay that way, according to his rules!
However, an obligatory question arises. How long should we cook our poultry pal? A general guideline I follow is around 20 minutes per 500g, plus an extra 15 minutes for good measure. So, for a 1.5kg bird, it’ll be roughly about an hour and a half. That being said, all ovens are different - they're like humans, each with their unique idiosyncrasies. It takes time and familiarity with your specific oven to nail the perfect roasting time. Don't be disheartened if your first attempt doesn't come out as Golden as Goldie's singing voice, it sure didn't for me. Yet, with each roast, my chickens have become more succulent, more delectable, and dare I say it...perfect!
After the roasting ordeal, it's time for the chicken to rest. Yes, rest! A vital step often overlooked leading to many a "dry chicken" fiasco. But worry not, dear reader, for you shall not make the same mistake. As the bird cools down, the juices retreat back into the meat, ensuring it remains moist and flavorful when sliced. This also provides the perfect opportunity for you to prepare the sides. A simple salad or some roasted veggies would work wonderfully. However, do note that the roasting pan must not be disturbed during this resting period. I've received complaints about rest-time disruption, not just from Diesel, my dog but my resting chicken too!
After the chicken has had its bout of beauty sleep, it's time to serve. A sharp knife, a carving fork, and the right carving technique will reward you with succulent chicken slices. The joy of presenting a perfectly roasted chicken on your dinner table and seeing the delight on the faces of your loved ones is unparalleled. Watching Diesel drool as he sniffs the heavenly aroma is just the cherry on top!
In retrospect, roasting a chicken might seem overwhelming, but once you've mastered this skill, trust me, there's no going back. It is the perfect avenue for some happy belly times. So, why wait? Roll up your sleeves, put on your chef's hat, and embark on your roasting journey. Happy roasting, folks.