How to roast a chicken
Learn how to cook an easy roast chicken with this step-by-step guide. Find out how to achieve crisp, golden skin and succulent meat, perfect for a special Sunday lunch.
How long to cook a chicken
The weight of the chicken dictates the roasting time. Most chickens weigh between 1-2 kg. A 1kg bird or smaller will need to be roasted for about 1 hr at 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Larger birds can take up to 1 hr 40 mins. The type of chicken can also have an impact, so if you’re buying from a specialist supplier, ask them about specific roasting times.
Recipes that stuff the chicken cavity with a stuffing mix, or with aromatics like whole lemon, onion and herbs, will also likely lengthen the cooking time; check the individual recipe for guidance.
How to cook a chicken safely
Chicken must be cooked through completely before serving, as the raw meat can harbour harmful bacteria that could cause food poisoning.
Ovens and chicken sizes vary, but there are two ways to make absolutely sure it's cooked. One is to use a meat thermometer; the other is to pierce the thickest part of the bird (between the leg and the breast) and check that the meat juices run clear. The breast meat should be opaque white, the leg meat should be darker and there should be no blood or pink tinge to the juices. If using a meat thermometer, the meat should reach 70C and stay at that temperature for two minutes.
One thing you must never do is wash the raw chicken before cooking. No matter how careful you are, you can splash harmful bacteria around your sink, draining board and worktop.
How to get crisp skin
To really crisp up the skin, you need an intense heat – but proceed with caution, as you don’t want to dry out the meat underneath.
There are a few ways to achieve perfectly crisp chicken skin. One way is to roast the chicken until the meat is cooked, then turn the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7 and cook for a further 15-20 mins.
A second option is to salt the chicken, then leave loosely covered in the fridge overnight and cook as normal the next day (without rinsing off any of the seasoning). This method extracts the moisture and gives the bird a crisp, golden skin.
Another option is to remove the skin from the chicken after roasting (but before carving), then dry fry the skin in a non-stick pan until crisp and a similar texture to pork scratchings.
Basic recipe for foolproof roast chicken
You only need a couple of ingredients to make this easy roast chicken. Serve with gravy, roast potatoes and veggies for a traditional Sunday dinner.
- Whole chicken
- 30-40g butter
- Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Sit the chicken in a roasting tin. Ease the skin away from the breast and push the butter underneath the skin.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Pour water into the bottom of the roasting tin, filling it about 1-2cm deep.
- Cover the chicken with foil and roast for 1 hr.
- Remove the foil and continue to roast the chicken for a further 20-30 mins until the skin is golden, the chicken is cooked and all the juices run clear. Pour the juices into a jug for use in gravy.
- Put the chicken on a board. Cover with foil and a clean towel or tea towel, then leave to rest for 15-20 mins while you finish cooking any sides. Carve and serve.
Once you've mastered this easy roast chicken, try these:
Chicken has a unique flavour that can be simply yet effectively enhanced with salt. It can also take on strong flavours extremely well. Try adding a spice rub or pushing a flavoured butter underneath the skin before roasting.
Try these recipes for inspiration:
Stuffed jollof chicken with hot peanut & tomato sauce
Spice up your Sunday roast with this African-inspired recipe, combining chicken, jollof stuffing and a peanut butter and tomato sauce
Preserved lemon roast chicken with freekeh salad
This main course is bursting with fresh flavours – think citrussy chicken, fresh mint and radish- and spring onion-spiked grains
Cumin spiced roast chicken with pork & pistachio stuffing
Looking for an alternative to turkey? The lush pistachio stuffing in this spiced roast chicken adds a festive feel, making it ideal for Christmas lunch.
One pot chicken with chorizo & new potatoes
Give your Sunday lunch a Spanish twist with this easy one-pot roast, packed with punchy chorizo, sherry, bay and thyme.