How-To Guides

How to cook a whole chicken

An overhead photo of a whole chicken on a wooden board.

What is whole chicken?

A whole chicken is exactly as it sounds – this is the whole bird, minus the parts that are not widely eaten in this country; the neck, head and feet. The guts have also been removed. Our chickens are of the highest quality, having been reared in a responsible way, with plenty of space to roam and time to grow naturally. The fact that these birds have the luxury of space to roam, means that the legs are well exercised and therefore the leg meat has proper structure and texture.

How long does it take to cook a whole chicken?

Whole chicken cooking times can vary depending on the cooking method and, of course, the size of the bird. There is a general fear around cooking chicken which tends to cause people to overcook them. The truth is that a chicken rarely needs more than an hour if it is cooked from room temperature – and really this is a key step to a perfect roasted chicken. The safest way to check, if you are unsure, is to probe the bird in the thickest part of the breast; a reading of 72ºC is the moment to remove the chicken from the oven and leave it to rest for at least 30 minutes.

How to cook a whole chicken in the oven

This is a simple method for cooking a whole chicken in the oven. 

  1. Take the chicken out of the fridge 3 hours before you plan to cook it.
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 210ºC.
  3. Season the bird well, both inside the cavity and on the skin, with sea salt. Place a quartered lemon, half a bunch of thyme and a halved head of garlic inside the cavity.
  4. Drizzle a little olive oil over the bird and rub into the skin.
  5. Place the chicken in a suitably sized roasting tray and place in the oven and cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Turn the temperature down to 180ºC and cook for a further 40-45 minutes. After 20 minutes, take the tray from the oven and use a spoon to baste the bird with the roasting juices and fat in the tray.
  7. Remove the bird from the oven and baste the bird once more with the fat, then leave to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Top tips

  • As mentioned previously, cooking the bird from room temperature is imperative, as is a good and proper rest.
  • Instead of a drizzle of olive oil over the skin you could use soft butter. Or, even push some soft butter under the skin of the breasts.
  • After the bird is rested, lift it with some tongs and tilt the cavity down so that the juices flow out. This will help make for the most simple and delicious gravy.
  • To make a sensational gravy, remove the bird from the tray and then set the tray, with all the juices, over a medium heat. Add a tablespoon of plain flour and stir well, cooking for a couple of minutes. Then add a glass of white wine and some homemade chicken stock and cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes.
  • Keep all the bones for a beautiful stock, although be sure to remove the lemons from the cavity to avoid a bitter taste.

Recipe ideas for a whole chicken

We think the best whole chicken recipes are the most simple. Some roast potatoes, roast carrots and some buttered cabbage. Or indeed, a simple supper of roast chicken and a green salad, perhaps with some croutons cooked in the same tray as the chicken. Or perhaps Val Warner’s classic of chicken with Dijon mustard sauce. For something a little more unusual, try this Jaffna chicken by Anna Tobias.

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