How To Cook Roast Chicken

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Few things are as satisfying as a really good Sunday roast. And luckily chicken, that staple of many a weekend roasting tin, happens to be one of the leanest, healthiest meats you can eat. As well as being packed with protein, it contains far less saturated fat than other meats, making it perfect for anyone looking to lose weight – and it also provides vitamin B3, which helps prevent the body from storing fat. But you need to ensure you cook it right, because nothing spoils your Sunday faster than chowing down on overcooked or undercooked chicken. Here’s how it’s done.

How to make it

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C/gas 4.
  2. Remove the wishbone, then place the chicken in a terracotta roasting dish. Baste the meat with a little butter and season it with salt and black pepper.
  3. Add a little rapeseed oil to the dish, then place it in the oven and roast for between 1hr 10min and 1hr 30min.
  4. The legs take longest to cook, so make an incision on the inside of one after 1hr 10min to check its progress. Once the juices run clear (rather than bloody) when you pierce the meat, remove the chicken from the oven and place it on a large chopping board. Pull the legs away from the body and separate the drumsticks from the thighs. Slice down the breasts to carve.

Ideas For Leftovers

Make the most of your leftover chicken with one of these healthy dishes

Soups

Combine it with…

  • Carrots for calcium pectate, which helps improve cholesterol
  • Onions for quercetin, which helps reduce muscle inflammation, and sulphur, which improves blood flow
  • Potatoes for starch that can help to improve blood sugar control
  • Celery for folate to protect against cardiovascular disease

Salads

Combine it with…

  • Olive oil for heart-healthy oleic acid
  • Spinach which contains bone-strengthening vitamin K
  • Rocket which is a source of B vitamins that are essential for metabolic function, as well as cancer-fighting phytochemicals
  • Cherry tomatoes for a hit of immunity-boosting vitamin C

Sandwiches

Combine it with…

  • Tomatoes for the powerful antioxidant lycopene, which is also thought to boost bone health
  • Wholemeal bread for fibre to keep you feeling full and avoid snack cravings
  • Romaine lettuce for vitamin A, which boosts eye health
  • Cheddar cheese for casein, a high-quality muscle-protecting protein

Which Chicken Should You Buy?

Indoor

Minimum age 33-38 days (depending on size)

Guide price per kg £2.50

The cheapest chickens are totally deprived of natural light and access to the outdoors, with up to 20 birds crammed into every square metre of farm floor space. Manufacturers often deliberately confuse the issue by giving them misleading labels such as ‘farm fresh’ or ‘premium’, which are meaningless. Even the apparent value for money is a false economy, given the trade-off in nutrients and flavour.

Free range

Minimum age 56 days

Guide price per kg £4.50

These chicks have to have an outdoor area to roam about in for at least half their lives – although there’s no regulation on their diets, which means you’ll probably still inadvertently ingest additives from grain. The extra living space ensures that their meat is leaner and tastier than that of regular chickens and its vitamin and mineral content is above average, while the birds themselves live a (relatively) happy life.

Red Tractor 

Minimum age 33-38 days (depending on size)

Guide price per kg £3

This scheme sets baseline production standards for intensively farmed poultry, including a limit of no more than 17-18 chicks per square metre. While this certainly helps make their lives slightly better, the lack of natural light and open space still has a significant negative impact on the meat’s quality, making it fattier and lower in omega 3.

Organic

Minimum age 81 days

Guide price per kg £6.50

The king of chickens, albeit with a price to match. Organic birds are exclusively fed grain that’s free from synthetic fillers and additives, and live on farms where they can forage on pastureland. This improves both their quality of life and the flavour of their meat, reducing its fat content by up to 50% and providing large amounts of heart-healthy vitamin E, energy-enhancing iron and recovery-boosting omega 3.