A true crowd-pleaser, chicken makes for a great weeknight meal. Follow our guide to make the most of the tasty poultry.
Alongside a nice buttery mash and some seasonal veg, a roast chicken is the ultimate family dinner. While it can seem like an easy option to get parts of the chicken, like breasts or legs, buying the whole bird provides you with countless options on how to use the meat and can be the base of many delicious dishes.
How to cook it
To make sure you get the best quality meat, get an organic or free-range chicken from your butcher. He will be able to advise you on the cooking time depending on the size of the animal, but the general rule of thumb for roasting a chicken is 30 minutes per 500g of meat at 200°C. Count for about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes for a bird of 1kg, and 1 hour 30 minutes for 1.5kg.
Place it on a roasting tray (and no, there is no need to wash the skin before cooking it), rub it with butter and/or olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and pour a half glass of water in the tray. You can place half an onion and a few sprigs of herbs like tarragon or rosemary inside the chicken to add some flavours. Place it in the oven and let it roast until the skin gets beautifully golden. If the skin gets too dark, you can cover the meat with tin foil to prevent it from burning. It’s also a good idea to turn the bird halfway through the cooking time for about 15 minutes to make sure the bottom part gets crispy as well. When the meat is cooked, take it off the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes before cutting it.
How to break it down
There are several ways to cut down a chicken, but an easy one is to start by cutting off the legs with a large kitchen knife. If the chicken is well-cooked, it should be very easy to break it down. Then cut the chicken wings, and finally, cut out the breasts.
Once the big pieces are taken out, there is still some meat to be removed from the carcass. Allow for the chicken to cool down, but not to be completely cold as the fat will start setting and make it harder to clean, then use your (clean) hands to pick the remaining bits of meat. Don’t miss the oysters, which are exceptionally tasty parts of the chicken.
Don’t throw out the carcass and the bones just yet! Make your own chicken broth, it will be much tastier than any store-bought version. Place the carcass in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and skim the surface of the water to get rid of the impurities. Add two carrots and one onion, peeled and roughly chopped, a bay leaf, a couple of thyme sprigs and a garlic clove. Let it simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, regularly skimming off the surface. Filter, transfer into a large container (preferably a glass bottle) and keep in the fridge for up to four days.
You can keep chicken in the fridge for about three to four days, but the meat also freezes well. It is easier to shred the chicken instead of leaving it in whole pieces because the smaller pieces thaw more quickly. Separate the meat into small portions (about a cup size), wrap them in cling film or place in a freezer bag, making sure to leave as much air out as possible and label it before freezing.
How to use the leftovers
An easy way to use leftover chicken is to make a quick kitchen sink salad with it; for example green leaves, avocado, sundried tomatoes, spring onions, toasted pine nuts and chicken pieces, with a classic French dressing. Try Louise Lennox’s Chicken, Chorizo and Cranberry Rolls, or Paul Breen’s Coronation Chicken in Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia. The Chicken Croquettes from Las Tapas de Lola will be a popular bite for children or grown-ups alike.