heston blumenthal’s roast chicken

heston blumenthal's ultimate roast chicken

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.

chicken roasted to 71°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.

The link to the Channel 4 recipe is here. An even more developed and detailed version of the recipe is in the book Heston Blumenthal at Home.

Heston Blumenthal’s roast chicken (serves 4–6):

6% brine (I used 240g salt dissolved in 4 litres of water)

1.4kg chicken

1 lemon

1 bunch of thyme

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for rubbing into the skin

30ml dry white wine

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.


  • Thanks for posting that Gary. I really want to try it myself, so useful to read about it. Well done!

  • Tragically I was hit by a wife-veto on doing the full length roast today, but I did do this recipe with the only difference being that I roasted as recommended by the label (80 mins at 190C.) Final temperature of the meat was 80C, so not ludicrously above the “target.”

    Either way, it came out great. Brining made lovely moist meat as always while, presumably because of the full, cut lemon (and the fact I roasted some veg including fennel in the same dish), I had enough juices that the “gravy” consisted entirely of pan juices!

    • A happy compromise. I love roasted fennel, although I’m not sure I could get away with just pan juices to serve up as gravy on a roast dinner!

      Glad to hear it went well John.

  • Did you find Heston’s updated simplified chicken recipe to produce a REALLY crispy exterior skin? Or was it just moderately crispy skin like that found on store rotisserie chicken?

    • Good point Stephen; the final blast in the oven doesn’t result in super-crispy. If that’s a dealbreaker for you, I recommend pan-frying the chicken at the last minute instead. It’s tricky but the only way you’re going to get that skin crisp.

  • Really great blog, I too love to cook dishes by Heston.

    I really recommend you to try to cook the chicken to 60 C, there’s really a big difference! Chicken is delicious at 55-60C, even though 55C might be a bit risky to try by roasting the chicken in the oven.

  • I have no meat thermometer and can’t get one before I roast a chicken tomorrow evening. It’s brining in the fridge now. How would you suggest I (fan oven) roast it to make it succulent but safe?

    • Sorry dude, I got to this comment too late. How did you get on?

      In response to the question I’m not sure how you would get the temperature without a probe. Probably the old-school technique of waiting for the juice to run clear. If you get the chance do try the probe method.

  • Hey Gary, I only found this website yesterday, but I went got a chicken, left it in brine over night and just put the chicken in the oven. While I wait I’ll run to the shop to get some potatoes just read the recipe for the x mas roasties and they sound great, will use duckfat instead and a bit of rosemary. Thanks for your blog and giving me a bit of insperation.

  • I’ve tried the recipe and the breast is just unbelievable and a total new experience of roast chicken. However, the legs look a little raw and pink. how do you get that succulence but still create that”properly cooked look” he does in the series? Help!

  • What can you use instead of butter. I need mine to be dairy free.

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  • Do you think guinea hen will go with this recipe?

    • Hi Martin, I think that should work fine. I’ve no idea of the cooking times though; keep your thermometer close by to avoid overcooking. I would reduce the brining time too.

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  • eibhlin Glenholmesl

    I didn’t cut the lemon, as johnlister did, I just rolled and pierced it with a toothpick. It’s in the oven now. Should I pull it and cut the lemon? Greetings from Ireland! Eibhlín

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