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Friday 2 June 2023 Dublin: 11°C
# kitchen secrets
Kitchen Secrets: Readers share their secret tips for perfect roast chicken
From perfect skin to stuffing to gravy.

EVERY HOME COOK has their own kitchen hacks, cheats and traditions, and we want to know yours.

Each week as part of our Kitchen Secrets series, we’ll be asking readers to share their cooking tips and go-to-dishes. From the secret to quick-and-easy dinners, to the best way to scramble an egg, we’ll have a new question every seven days.

This week, we’re asking…

What’s your tip for perfect roast chicken?

As usual, our home cooks had lots to say. If you’d like to join, drop us a mail on!

Add water to the roasting tin:

Drizzle with olive oil and season well both inside cavity and on the skin. Cut a lemon in half and put in cavity. Put chicken on a rack over a dish with 2cm water at the base. Roast in a preheated oven at 200C for 1hr -1hr 20m, depending on size of chicken. Leave to stand for 10 mins, carve & enjoy!

- Fiona Staunton

Keep it juicy with a lemon…

I pop a lemon, couple of garlic cloves and a sprig of thyme into the chicken. This keeps the meat really juicy and the smell is amazing!

- Karina McGuinness

… or mix it up with an orange:

For the perfect roast chicken, I always cut a small orange / mandarin / clementine in half, pop it into the chicken cavity, along with a few crushed garlic cloves (no need to peel & chop – just squash them a bit under the weight of a knife or a pot!), and some sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme. The orange keeps the chicken perfectly moist while cooking & the dinner smells fantastic while it’s roasting away!! Any juices left in the roasting tray can be used for making gravy & the gravy is always extra delicious! 

- Lee-Ann Ronan

Stuff it to keep the bird moist:

I don’t do whole roast chicken very often as there’s only the three of us – I usually stuff and roast a couple of chicken breasts. I find the stuffing (breadcrumbs, butter, onion, salt, pepper, thyme and sage) keeps the meat lovely and moist. I always use free range chicken, it’s a bit more expensive but I think it’s definitely worth it.

For a whole roast chicken, firstly I preheat the oven to 240. Put onions, carrots, a couple of garlic cloves and some olive oil in the bottom of the roasting dish along with about a cup of chicken stock. Rub butter on the chicken and season. Put the chicken on top of the vegetables and place in the oven. Reduce the oven to 200 and roast for about 1 hour 20 minutes (for a 1.5kg chicken). Baste the chicken half way through.

When it’s cooked, put the chicken on a board and cover it in tin foil. Leave to rest. Take out the veg and put the tin on the hob over a medium heat. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of plain flour and whisk it in along with about 2/3 more cups of stock (or just boiling water). Simmer until it’s thickened.  Carve the rested chicken and serve with the veg and roast potatoes. It’s simple, but I think there are some things that just work better as a nice simple dinner! 

- Olly Keegan

Shutterstock / Nastia Ponedelnik Shutterstock / Nastia Ponedelnik / Nastia Ponedelnik

The secret of perfect crispy skin:

Roast chicken is one of my favourite comfort foods – the wonderful aroma while it’s cooking permeates the entire house. Firstly I always stuff my roast chicken. This does two things: (1) Keeps your chicken beautifully moist and (2) It will make very tasty sandwiches the next day.

Start by gently  frying one onion in a little butter until softened, leave to cool. Mix breadcrumbs, chopped thyme, sausage meat, the cooled onion, salt and pepper. Remove any giblets that may be inside your chicken and pack the stuffing  in the cavity. It’s important not to overstuff – a small gap at the top will let the air  circulate and allow the stuffing to cook perfectly.

The next step will ensure your bird will be full of flavour and extra crispy. Lift the skin away from the breast (this is easy gently pull the skin and insert your fingers making a gap between meat and skin). Smear softened butter UNDER the skin, season well with sea salt and black pepper.

Pop the chicken into a roasting dish, and add a splash of oil. Your cooking times will vary depending on the size of the bird – remember when calculating to include the stuffing. Cover tightly with foil but remove it for the last 20 minutes and increase the temperature to crisp up the skin.

As with all meat resting your chicken is really important, cover with foil for at least 30 minutes after it comes out of the oven. It’s really worth the wait.

Your chicken will be wonderfully juicy. Top tip: slice some onions (no need to peel), arrange in the roasting tray and place chicken on top before cooking – your gravy will be even more yummy.

- Angela Nolan

Pour off the gravy juices partway through cooking:

I like to stuff the bird with a half a cut lemon, fresh sage leaves, a few rashers of smoked bacon and a half peeled onion. Pop the bird into a roasting tray and then rub the skin with oil (toasted sesame for me), salt, pepper and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.

Pop it in the oven set to 180C for 45 minutes then remove and drain any liquids (for gravy making and it also stops the bird from from stewing) from the tray. Set that aside before returning the bird to the oven for a further 30 minutes or a little longer, until fully cooked. Remove the bird from the oven. Remove from the cooking tray to a carving board and cover with foil & tea-towel which allows you and it to relax for 10-15 minutes! 

Whilst the bird is relaxing, add the earlier juices into the roasting tray and simmer on the hob. Add a little water then mix a little cornflour and water together separately, whisk, then slowly add to the roasting tray and stir well and constantly until the gravy thickens. Remove from heat for serving. (Taste and fancy depending, you could always chop the onion from the ‘stuffing’ into the gravy, or just eat separately .. or discard!)

Using a combination of a sharp knife and kitchen scissors (wings & legs) carve and then serve the chicken with your favourite veg, which of course must include roast potatoes ‘à la Journal’. If you have the time and inclination (sure, why not, the oven was on anyway) add some Yorkshire Puds, a little of the bacon stuffing and top it all off with a good lashing of gravy. Enjoy.

- Ross Boxshall


Season all over, inside and out:

When it comes to roast chicken the first important thing is that you get your hands on an Irish free range chicken. The flavour makers for my chicken are the triple threat of lemon, garlic and thyme. Season the whole bird generously (yes even the cavity) and stuff it with sprigs of fresh thyme, wedges of lemon and tonnes of smashed cloves of garlic (don’t bother peeling them).

For extra oomph laminate some butter in between the skin and breast – the skin should easily lift from the meat if you gently ease your way in with the tips of your fingers. Cover with tinfoil and roast at 180° for approx 2 hours, depending on the weight of the bird. Baste regularly and lift the tinfoil for the last half an hour to crisp up the skin. 

- Donna Connolly

More: Kitchen Secrets: What’s your tip for perfect roast potatoes every time?>

More: Kitchen Secrets: Readers share their go-to combos for delicious pasta sauce>

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