Authoritatively Telling You What To Do With… A Chicken!

Authoritatively Telling You What To Do With is a new series of articles1 where I leave a lot more of the actual cooking and whatnot up to you, but still tell you what you’re doing wrong in my own inimitable way. It assumes a basic level of cooking knowledge on your part but that you still need patronizing guidance, as opposed to the recipes, which assume you’re an utter moron who needs patronizing guidance. ATYWTDW will appear once every three or four weeks, when I can’t be bothered to write up a new recipe. No, I’m not sure about the capitalization either.

In terms of an effort invested to quality of results ratio, a whole chicken scores extremely highly. Other members of the Classic Sunday Lunch Quartet2 pay off more dividends if you know what you’re doing, but any idiot can take a chicken and turn it into something succulently delicious in a couple of hours.


Obviously there are other things you can do with this lot, but the roast is the easiest. Take a bit of butter, a slightly-manky lime that you rescued from the fruit bowl, and a bit of butter. Bash on your herbs and that. Squeeze your lime juice over it and then shove the lime where the sun don’t shine. Maybe make a marinade out of some spicy bits, garlic and oil. Look, this is ATYWTDW, the assumption is that you already know what you’re doing when it comes to roasting a chicken. Instead, I’ll move onto the section I’ve decided to call received wisdom about chicken that is actually bullshit.

Received wisdom about chicken that is actually bullshit #1: Everybody lies about time!

Pick any two recipe books off your shelf. If they’re the same recipe books that I pulled off my shelf, the otherwise excellent advisors within will tell you that your chicken needs 90 – 100 minutes’ worth of roasting. And look at this:


This guy is full of shit. You’re roasting a chicken here, not making a quick sandwich before you run out to pick up the kids. Savour it, for God’s sake! Take your bastard time. After the prescribed 1 hour and 36 minutes, the bird above looked like this:


Is it edible? Yes, it probably is. The old adage about jabbing in a skewer and seeing if the juices run clear presented a perfectly transparent-looking grease. Is it delicious, though?

Look at the pale, barely crispy skin. Look at the pallid flesh, just barely in the region of cooked. Look at those wings, resolutely not falling apart.

This is not a delicious chicken. A delicious chicken requires at least two hours’ cooking time. It should be falling off all the bones at once, the juices bubbling all over the place and the skin so crispy you could eat it as a pub snack.

Received wisdom about chicken that is actually bullshit #2: The breasts are the best bit.

This is all advertising’s fault. It’s all “100 per cent succulent chicken breast” this and “grilled breast of chicken” that and “boobs off of a chicken-bird” the other. Commercial whatsits want to sell you chicken breasts because they’re the easiest to prepare and serve.

Legs and thighs are where the flavour is. Curries, pies, stews. If you’re putting chicken in it, you use chicken thighs. If you want to give someone the most flavourful bit of a roasted chicken, you hand them the leg3. The breast is for the people who you invited for dinner but didn’t really want there.

Received wisdom about chicken that is actually bullshit #3: Peel back the skin and carve.

Peel back the skin! This is genuine carving advice I’ve seen in chicken-roasting recipes. Written by MENTALS. The following advice is all you need:

  1. Take the skin, the delicious greasy skin, and pull it from the chicken with your fingers. Feel the oils and the crunchy flavour bits as they roll between the pads of your fingers. Savour this moment.
  2. Look around the kitchen. Is anyone watching?
  3. There’s nobody watching. They’re all in the dining room, waiting for you to bring the Sunday dinner out, remember?
  4. Shove all the greasy chicken skin into your mouth. All of it. Slurp it down, coat your mouth with the deliciousness of it all.
  5. There’s grease on your chin now, but you love it. It’s the sign of a winner. As you chew the last morsels, wipe your chin with the back of your hand like a champ.
  6. Feel sick. Hang your head. Why did you do this? You’ve eaten a meal’s worth of grease in one mouthful and you now have to go sit in the dining room and eat with everyone else like you’re a normal person. You’re not a normal person, you’re a greasy sicko.

Received wisdom about chickens that is actually bullshit #4: Those weird bags they come in now.

Roast in this bag that we in the shop have provided for you. Take your recipes and your love of making delicious food and shove it. We have placed this chicken in a weird plasticy bag and you can fucking well roast it in it. And in the little foil thing too. We own you.

I don’t know where those weird bags came from, but you can’t buy a supermarket chicken without one these days. They’re there to tell you that it’s suddenly so easy to roast a chicken, but it’s always been easy to roast a chicken! They just want to control you, with their bags. It’s probably where all the plastic bags went now you have to pay for them.

Extract your chicken from the bag at the earliest opportunity. You can use the foil tray thing it came in if you must. It comes in handy if you’re using a honey-based marinade and can’t be fucked with the washing up. Just cover it in foil, making sure to take it off about twenty minutes before your two hours are up in order to crisp up the skin.


That’s the lot! This is the bit where I put a closer in there and pretend like this is a newspaper website and I want people to share their roast chicken tips in the comments section. So, yeah. Do that.

Incidentally, my favourite full-on recipe for roast chicken is this one, which has a relatively high faff-and-marinade factor, but it tastes epic. Don’t listen to this chap about roast potatoes, though, it’s difficult second album syndrome. 


  1. Articles! Hark at him! 
  2. You’ve got beef up front, obviously, with pork on the left wing and a solid midfield presence in lamb. Chicken’s in goal.4 
  3. Except for that weird gristly jelly bit on the drumstick! What is it, why is it so horrible, and why can’t butchers get rid of them? 
  4. Is this legit sports chat? It sounds like the legit sports chat that people sometimes say around me at work. Let me know in the comments if you doubt its legitimacy. 

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