This recipe is a firm family favourite. The roast chicken is made extra juicy by brining the chicken before roasting it, then cooking it for a long time at a gentle temperature. Brining is a fantastic technique for keeping moisture in food and it is incredibly simple to do. It involves a little forethought but minimum effort and it will guarantee a juicy and succulent bird every time.
- 1.5–2 kg whole chicken
- 6% brine (300 g salt dissolved in 5 litres water)
- 1 lemon
- 1 bunch thyme
- 125 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for rubbing into the skin
- 30 ml dry white wine
For the gravy (optional)
- 20 ml dry white wine
- 250 ml (1 cup) chicken stock
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 sprig tarragon
- 1 sprig parsley
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time 45 minutes
Brining time overnight
Warning In this recipe, while Heston cooks his chicken to an internal temperature of 60°C, if you want to stick to safety guidelines your chicken should reach 75°C in the thickest part of the breast.
Remove the trussing from the chicken then place it in a clean container. Pour over the brine, ensuring that the chicken is submerged, then cover the container with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.
Remove the chicken from the liquid and dry well with paper towel. Remove the wishbone and place on a wire rack set over a tray.
Preheat the oven to 90ºC (about 70°C fan or gas mark ¼, but use an oven thermometer to get an accurate temperature).
Roll and pierce the lemon, then place it in the cavity of the bird with half of the thyme. Rub some butter on top of the skin.
Place the chicken on the rack in a roasting tray and place in the oven. Roast the chicken for about 3–4 hours or until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the breast is 60ºC.
Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest for 45 minutes. Turn the oven temperature as high as it will go.
In the meantime, melt the butter in a pan and add the wine and a few sprigs of thyme. Bring to the boil then remove the pan from the heat and use the melted butter to baste the chicken before and during browning.
Once the resting time has elapsed, put the chicken back in the roasting tray and return it to the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown, taking care that it doesn’t burn.
Once coloured, remove the chicken from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
To carve the chicken, remove the legs by slicing down where they meet the breast and splaying them outwards to expose the joint, which you can then sever.
Remove the breast by running a sharp knife deeply into the flesh along one side of the centre bone that extends the length of the bird, making a deep vertical cut. Then cut horizontally through the flesh at the bottom of the breast until the horizontal cut meets the vertical, separating the breast from the ribcage. Repeat the procedure on the other side of the centre bone. The breasts can then be laid cut-side down on the chopping board and sliced.
Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
If making the gravy, when the chicken has been browned and removed from the roasting tray, place the tray containing the juices on the cooktop over medium-high heat. Add the white wine and scrape and stir to deglaze the pan. Add the chicken stock and cook until reduced to a sauce. Strain into a small saucepan.
Before serving, stir in the mustard and warm through. Finish with freshly chopped tarragon and parsley and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.