Heston’s latest series, How to Cook Like Heston, is probably the one that could finally convert the non-believers. It’s vintage Heston treading familiar recipes, but taking them just far enough, and just explaining enough to make them accessible for those that want to try. The best example of this is roast chicken: I’ve previously cooked his perfect roast chicken (from In Search of Perfection) and it’s a brilliant recipe. But despite its relative simplicity there are a couple of stages in it that could be intimidating: plunging into water a few times, trying to cook a whole chicken in a frying pan, and chicken wing butter. So I was intrigued to see him show an even further simplified version on the show.
The brining is still there; an absolute necessity in my book. A low solution of 6% keeps the meat moist without making it too strong and cure-like. The slow roasting is also there, “low and slow” as Heston puts it, and after a simple resting back into your hottest oven to finish off. For the roasting itself, you simply have to use a meat thermometer to be sure that it’s done. I recommend Salter’s Heston-branded one but any one will do. It is recommended that you take the meat to 75°C; Heston admits that but says 60°C gives you the perfect succulence. If you have bird of spotless provenance that would probably be fine but I took my mid-range supermarket bird to 70°C.
And it’s tremendous of course. In fact I’d possibly argue that the extra stages introduced by the Perfection version are unnecessary. You get a fabulously juicy, tasty chicken, plump with flavour and intense chickenness. It’s well worth giving a go once – it takes no more effort than a regular roast chicken, just the brining the night before and a bit longer time blocked out for the oven. If you love your Sunday roast chicken, you owe it to your dinner table to try this one out.
Heston Blumenthal’s roast chicken (serves 4–6):
6% brine (I used 240g salt dissolved in 4 litres of water)
1 bunch of thyme
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for rubbing into the skin
30ml dry white wine
- Remove the trussing from the chicken to allow it to cook more evenly then place it in a container. Pour over the brine ensuring that the chicken is submerged then place in the fridge overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 90ºC. Remove the chicken from the liquid, rinse with fresh water and pat dry with kitchen paper. Place on a wire rack over a baking tray.
- Roll and pierce the lemon then place it in the cavity of the bird with half the thyme. Rub some softened butter on top of the skin. Roast the chicken until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the breast is 60ºC (for mine to hit 70ºC took 2 hours 20 minutes but there’s so many factors involved you should check every half hour from about 2 hours onwards).
- Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest for 45 minutes. Turn the oven temperature as high as it will go. This is a good time to use the oven if you’re doing roast potatoes.
- 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 browning. Grind over some black pepper.
- Once the resting time has elapsed, put the chicken back in the roasting tray and return it to the oven for approximately 10 minutes or until golden brown, taking care that it doesn’t burn.
- Once coloured, remove the chicken from the oven and carve. Serve with Heston’s perfect carrots and my perfect roast potatoes, a combination of methods including Heston’s.