Who doesn’t love a good roast chook? Here are Sammy & Bella's top tips to achieve perfection every time.
Chicken really does warm the heart and soul, and the smell of a delicious bird roasting fills the home with the most wonderful aromas.
Everyone has their favourite recipe and technique, and just like pizza (and that pesky s-word which doesn’t quite belong here…) it can be said that even if it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. Roast chicken is always good, no matter how many beer cans you put inside it. But I’m looking for great. For perfect. For that flawless piece of flesh that melts in my mouth and makes all my troubles melt away. I want that moment where I’m transported to the happiest of times around the dinner table with my family, and a proper Sunday roast makes the world a happy place.
So what makes the perfect roast chicken? I want it to be moist, tender and evenly cooked. I want full flavour. Natural gravy. Perfectly caramelised skin. And I want to pick at the bones at the end of the meal J
So here are our top tips for the perfect roast chook:
1. Buy an Old Bird:
Of course, I always buy free range but it’s just as important to buy aged meat. Just like beef, chicken should be hung and the best chooks are dry aged for at least 10 days. Spot a well aged bird by it’s dry, matte looking skin (rather than wet and shiny) and don’t be scared to give it a poke – the proteins should be so relaxed that the flesh doesn’t bounce back. A great brand available in supermarkets is www.inglewoodfarms.com
2. Butterfly your chook:
This is all about even cooking. Using a sharp and heavy knife, cut the chicken down the back bone and push it down flat by pressing your palm on the thick part of the breast. Cooking this way allows the central cut (which is the breast) to cook slowest, and the outside cuts (thighs, legs) to get the most heat, which is perfect for even cooking. A flattened, or spatchcocked, bird is also easier to brine as it takes up less space in your fridge.
3. Brine Baby Brine:
Brining is essential to ensure the flesh is seasoned throughout and stays moist and tender. Stir 2 Tbsp un-iodised table salt and 1 Tbsp sugar into each litre of water required until dissolved. Place the chicken in a deep non reactive baking dish and pour over the cold brine until covered. Cover with cling film and allow the brine to work its magic for 12 – 18 hours in the fridge. Remove from water and discard, pat chicken dry with paper towel.
4. Add some flavour:
Mix 1/4 cup of softened butter or olive oil with whatever seasonings you like. My favourite is to add 1 Tbsp mustard, the zest of a lemon, some fresh tarragon plus plenty of salt and pepper. Using your fingers gently peel the skin off the breast through a small opening, then place 1/3 of your flavour mix between each breast and the skin. Massage it in so it distributes across the breast. Use the remaining mix to spread over the top of the skin of the whole bird, again massaging it in using your fingers.
5. Give it a bed:
Some whole unpeeled cloves of garlic, roughly chopped onions, vino, herbs such as thyme or rosemary, and even the peeled lemon from above, simply quartered, form the perfect bed and the perfect flavour base for a gravy. Simply pop the bird skin side up on top of the bed and roast away. Alternatively, you can cook veggies in the natural juices of the chicken. Pop in some blanched roots such as swede, potato and carrot into the bed. While the chicken cooks, they will absorb all the flavour and be deliciously juicy.
6. Cook it right:
Start it low and finish it high. Cook the chicken for 40 minutes at 150C, then crank up the temperature as high as your oven goes and continue to cook for another 15 minutes or until the skin is caramelised and crisp
7. Let it rest and make the sauce:
Remove chicken and set aside to rest under a piece of aluminium foil for 10 minutes before serving. In the meantime, make a gravy by squeezing out the flesh from the garlic and discarding the peel and any other inedible aromats. Place roasting tray on the stove top on high, deglaze with a glass of white wine and make sure you scrape up any bits which are stuck at the bottom. Sprinkle in a mix of equal parts plain and corn flour, allow to thicken then add some chicken stock to loosen to the desired consistency. Finish by whisking in a nob of cold butter off the heat and check for seasoning.