Simple Roast Chicken and Garlic Gravy

Roast chicken is one of my favourite meals. Everything about it takes me back to my childhood. From the way the whole house smells, to the leftover sandwiches, and the culinary experience that is dunking plenty of bread into the cooking juices. It’s one of those immediately comforting dishes which I love. It also has the added benefit of being wonderfully easy to put together in a hurry and provides plenty of food.

Roast Chicken Carved

I’ve been trying out different ways of roasting a chicken since my mother gave me free reign of her kitchen (poor woman). The trouble is always finding a balance between cooking the legs properly without overcooking the breasts. To solve this I’ve tried multiple different combinations of high and low heat, changed at various intervals throughout cooking. I’ve tried brining whole chickens, cooking for 6+ hours for barely cooked chicken that I finished off in a frying pan, shoving a half filled beer can in the chicken’s cavity and roasting like that. Some results worked out better than others but nothing was so good that it stuck.

Recently I came across a video I hadn’t seen in a while of Thomas Keller’s technique for cooking a simple roasted chicken. Despite the fact that I used to work for him in that very same kitchen, I immediately dismissed this technique back then. I was still a culinary student and still hadn’t begun to understand that sometimes the simplest ways of doing things can yield some of the best results.

Using this as inspiration, I decided to turn to simplicity with a few small tweaks to get great results. Firstly, I like to fill the cavity of the chicken with aromatics like onion, thyme and lemon. This not only stops the breasts from overcooking as easily, but also permeates the breasts with the most incredible aromas. We’ll also use the aromatics as flavouring agents in our gravy after.

Secondly, I wipe the chicken down with paper towels and place it on a tray lined with a rack in the lowest exposed section of my fridge (not in a drawer). What this does is allow the skin to dry out properly overnight and take on a fantastic crust in the oven.

Lastly, before I place the chicken into the oven, I rub it down with some rendered chicken fat I have in surplus thanks to my regular batches of chicken stock. Alternatively use butter or olive oil. This allows the skin to crisp up beautifully. There will be more fat to drain off when you come to make the gravy but it’s worth it.

As with most things, use the best quality chicken that you can find. Chicken is inexpensive compared to many other meats and because of how simple the recipe is, using a quality bird is going to make a world of difference.

Serves: 4 people
Active time: 25 minutes
Total time: 1 1/2 hours
(plus optional overnight resting)


Roast Chicken
1 whole chicken
1 onion
1 lemon
7-8 sprigs of thyme
Salt to taste
Chicken fat, olive oil or butter as needed

200ml chicken stock
30g flour
1 head roasted garlic


Roast chicken in cast iron pan

1. Pat the chicken down with paper towels to dry out the skin and cavity and place on a tray lined with a wire rack on the bottom section of your fridge. Allow to chill overnight.

2. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 220C and bring your chicken out of the fridge to temper. I like to bend the wing tips underneath the carcass so that they don’t burn.

3. When the oven is hot enough, season the chicken liberally. Cut an onion into quarters through the core and place a bundle of thyme in the cross section for the onion. Plug the butthole with half a lemon. Rub your hands with chicken fat, butter or olive oil and give the skin a light coating.

4. Place the chicken onto an oven safe pan or dish and place into the centre of the oven.

5. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the thickest part of the legs registers at 70C with a thermometer. Alternatively if you don’t have an instant read thermometer, slice into the leg and if the juices run clear, you’re good to go.

6. Allow to rest for 20 minutes while getting the rest of your meal together. Don’t worry about the chicken cooling down, it will actually continue cooking gently whilst retaining a hot interior for quite some time.

7. Remove the onion, thyme and lemon from the inside of the cavity. Set them aside. Carefully lift the chicken using a pair of tongs and allow the juices inside the cavity to pour into the roasting dish or pan.

8. Remove most of the fat from the top of the roasting juices by either pouring into a measuring cylinder and pouring off the excess or using a gravy separator.

9. Add 200ml of chicken stock to the roasting dish or pan and scrape off any bits from the bottom.

10. n a separate pot, add 2 tablespoons of chicken fat and 2 tablespoons of flour and cook over medium heat while stirring for 2-3 minutes to create a roux. This will thicken our gravy.

11. Add the chicken stock and deglaze fond from the roasting dish and pour it into the pot.

12. Add the lemon, onion and thyme along with 2 tablespoons roasted garlic (or 1 head’s worth). Continue to add chicken stock until you reach a nice consistency.

13. Cook for 10 minutes over medium low heat and pass through a strainer to remove any solids. Pulse with an immersion blender for a smoother consistency.

Roast Chicken Carved

14. To portion the chicken Place the chicken on your chopping board and slice by running a sharp knife through the middle of the breasts, along the keel bone. Follow the cartilage and gently push and slice to remove the breasts. Reserve on a tray or plate.

15. Push down slightly on the legs to separate them from the carcass. Run a knife in between the thigh and the body to remove the legs. Carefully cut around the joint attaching the leg to the body.

16. Cut in between the bone of the drumstick and the thigh to separate the two and reserve on a tray or plate.

17. Cut off the wings from in between the joining connecting it to the body and reserve

18. Break the carcass down into smaller pieces and reserve for stock.

19. Wipe your board and bring the breasts back. Slice them into nice slices.

20. Present all parts of the bird onto a warm plate or serving dish with a side of gravy.To portion the chicken Place the chicken on your chopping board and slice by running a sharp knife through the middle of the breasts, along the keel bone. Follow the cartilage and gently push and slice to remove the breasts. Reserve on a tray or plate.

Roast chicken in cast iron pan

Hungry for more chef secrets?

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