I just put a large chicken into the oven. In two hours, it should be cooked, but I’ll have to turn it over in an hour. In the mean time, here are some tips on cooking chicken.
Probably the easiest thing to get wrong, to be honest. My nana always said the time to cook a chicken is 20 minutes per pound in a hot oven, plus twenty minutes. But that’s not exactly accurate. It really depends on how big the chicken is, how fresh it is, and how hot the oven is (is it gas, electric, both or even a fan oven?) and whether you’re cooking the chicken uncovered or not. What you put on the chicken is important as well.
The way I see it, you put the whole chicken in at Gas Mark 6-7 or 200-220C or 425-450F and you check it every twenty minutes. When you do check it, you want to check where the meatier parts are, generally on the thighs and breast. You’ll know the chicken is done when all the juices in the chicken run clear and there’s no blood leaking out when you press a knife against the thickest parts.
One nice thing to do when roasting chicken is to make some space between the chicken meat and the chicken skin. You can then slip lemon juice, butter and spices underneath, seasoning the meat directly. Also, don’t forget to put salt on the skin for the chicken equivalent of pork crackling.
If you’re really, really worried about your chicken not being cooked, pull all the meat off the bones and put the meat back in the oven for a bit longer, making sure to spread everything out so it cooks evenly. Worst case scenario, you can cook the meat in a hot frying pan on the hob.
Chicken Breasts may be expensive (they’re around €6-10 a kilo here in Cyprus) but they’re meaty and lovely and piss easy to cook. However you cook them, you know they’re done when you check in the middle and there’s no pink left. Chicken breasts always tend to go a pale white on the inside when cooked, no matter what’s on the outside.
If you’re baking chicken breasts, use some liquid. Breast tends to go dry very easily, especially if you’re cooking them for a long time. A squirt of lemon juice also goes a really long way.
Generally though I cook my chicken breasts in a (formerly) non-stick pan on the hob, with a bit of olive oil. This is way faster than baking in the oven, despite requiring more attention and stirring. It tends to remain more tender and moist. When you’re strapped for time, cut the breasts up small and they’ll cook a lot faster.
Thighs, Drumsticks and Wings
All three make for a nice alternative to chicken breasts, but really, thighs are the nicest. There’s no real meat on chicken wings and with drumsticks, you’re often just paying for bone and gristle.
Once again, to check when they’re done, you want to make sure there’s no blood and that the meat inside is not raw and pink, although since leg meat is darker, it’s good to double check.
Drumsticks and wings, despite their lack of substantial meat, are the best for BBQing and slow cooked meals. The bone does add a lot of flavour and gives you something to hold on to while eating. If you’re on a budget though, I’d recommend thighs (or chicken legs in general) since there is generally a lot more meat on them.
The giblets you get in a chicken, you can use them to make a nice stock to make a gravy. Simply remove them from a chicken, throw them in a saucepan, throw in some chopped carrot, onion, mixed herbs, salt and pepper, boil for half an hour. Once you’ve removed the giblets, add a stock cube and optionally add some balsamic vinegar, a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of mustard. When the rest of the chicken is cooked, pour some of the juices from that into the saucepan too, boil it all up then whizz it in the blender.
If your gravy (or any hot sauce) isn’t thick enough, you can add cornflour. What you should do is mix cornflour in a mug with some water, so it’s all mixed up and a liquid. Then, once your sauce is boiling on the stove, get a whisk and whisk in the cornflour and water mixture. Mix it well and don’t stop until your sauce is properly thickened, otherwise it will be lumpy.
I like to give the boiled organs to my cats (as a rare treat) and eat the liver myself, the rest of it can be chucked. You could chew on the neck yourself (my uncle and bappou do that) but it’s bony and I wouldn’t give it to an animal.
Now for some more recipe stuff. The thing with chicken is that it goes with everything, and you can do a ton with it. These are a couple of ideas that I use.
Easy BBQ Chicken – Mix up ketchup, Worchester Sauce, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce and paprika then smother it all over your assorted chicken parts and bake in the oven for 2 hours minimum on a medium heat. Check them every 30 minutes, moving them around .
Onion Garlic Messed Up Roasted Chicken – This is how I like to roast chicken. I chop up an onion and a ton of garlic up small, then separate the skin from the flesh of the chicken and shove the chopped veg inside the chicken. Basically filling it up. Roast as you would normally.
Honey Mustard Chicken – If you’re cooking chicken in the oven, mix a tablespoon of honey, a tablespoon of mustard, a stock cube and about 200ml of boiling water together in a jug, then pour that all over the chicken. Cover the tray with foil. You’ll want to turn the chicken half way through so both sides get to suck up some nice juices.
Piss Easy Fajita Chicken – Chop your chicken into strips, fry it up with red and green pepper, onion and mushroom, add Sweet Chili Sauce, Sriracha Sauce, ketchup and a bit of Hoi Sin Sauce if you have it once the chicken and veg are cooked, serve. You can also add honey instead of Hoi Sin for a bit more sweetness.
Hopefully, this is helpful.