5 Different Ways to Cook a Chicken
Cooking Chicken Basics
There are a lot more ways to cook a whole chicken than often meets the eye. Perhaps roast chicken is a particular favourite but even roast chicken can be done in a number of different ways. It is surprising, however, given the widespread popularity and versatility of chicken as a foodstuff, that it is so often cooked unimaginatively and/or inappropriately, possibly rendering it dry and unappetising when it should be juicy and succulent. The aim of this page is to take a look at chicken and examine five very different ways in which it can be cooked, hopefully inspiring you to come up with more ideas of your own.
The methods featured below are all related to cooking chicken indoors, though outdoor grilling where possible clearly throws up a further wealth of chicken cooking opportunities and possibilities. In each instance, an example is also given of how any leftovers may be used up from the fridge the following day.
How to Prepare a Whole Chicken for Cooking
Whole chickens can be purchased from a variety of different food outlets but most people buy them either from a supermarket or butcher's shop. If you buy it from the butcher's shop, it is likely only to be wrapped in paper for you to take it home but when you buy a chicken prepackaged in plastic from a supermarket, you are likely to find that the legs have been trussed. This is only for packaging and transportation purposes. Pull or cut this trussing away and discard it as the first stage of preparing your chicken for cooking. Trussed chickens - particularly when they are to be roasted - are most likely to cook unevenly. This is due to the different body parts being crushed together and the heat being less able to penetrate particularly the insides of the thighs and the part of the main body each one touches.
Wash the chicken inside and out under running cold water. Pat the surface area completely dry with paper towels and you are ready to proceed with the first stage of your chosen cooking method.
Simple and Easy Roast Chicken
1 whole, prepared chicken
Freshly ground black pepper
Baby new potatoes (quantity as required)
Sweetcorn or vegetable accompaniment of choice
Freshly chopped parsley to garnish (optional)
How to Roast a Chicken
Chicken is often roasted stuffed, or on a bed of various different types of vegetables. While both these methods of roasting a chicken provide excellent meals if affected correctly, they and other possible roasting techniques make it all too easy to lose sight of and forget the inherent simplicity of roast chicken. This chicken roasting method could not be simpler in that the only ingredients apart from the chicken are seasoning and olive oil. In addition, there is no need for basting at any stage or altering the oven temperature during cooking.
Make sure that you know the weight of the chicken so that you can calculate the cooking time correctly. Cut off and discard the parson's nose. Season the chicken cavity with salt and freshly ground black pepper and lay it on a roasting tray, lightly oiled with olive oil, on its back. Pull the legs and thighs away from the body, gently so as not to tear the skin. Drizzle more olive oil over the top of the chicken and rub it in evenly all over with your hands. This is of course a little bit messy but is essential. Simply drizzling the oil over the top will cause the skin to cook and crisp unevenly, spoiling particularly the final presentation. Season all over with more salt only and put the tray in to the oven, preheated to 200C/400F, for twenty minutes per pound and twenty additional minutes.
The potatoes for this serving suggestion have to be started as soon as the chicken is in the oven. Wash them and add them unpeeled to a pot of cold water. Salt the water and bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for about half an hour until the potatoes are just soft. Drain through a colander, return them to the pot and cover to allow them to cool.
Just before the chicken comes out of the oven, peel the skin from the potatoes. This should be easy to do by hand.
Remove the chicken from the oven and pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a skewer. If the juices run clear, it is done. Transfer it to a large dish to rest and add the potatoes to the hot juices. Gently shake to evenly coat and return the tray to the oven for twenty minutes.
Take the potatoes from the oven and use a large slotted spoon to transfer them to a plate covered with kitchen paper to drain. Sit the chicken on a large chopping board and carefully slice through the meat and skin attaching the leg and thigh portions to the body. Pop the bones free. Remove the wings in a similar way. Starting on either side of the backbone, carefully slice through the meat, following the bones of the ribcage down the way and remove the two fillets.
Put a large portion of chicken on each plate, together with the potatoes and sweetcorn and scatter over the parsley last of all.
Bonus Recipe! - Spicy and Fruity Stuffed Roast Chicken
While the chicken roasting method featured above is designed to be as simple and easy as it gets, you may wish something a little more adventurous and flamboyant for your chicken dinner. The short video below shows how to roast chicken stuffed with plums and mushrooms and flavoured with garlic, red pepper sauce, Chinese five spice and more for a true chicken feast of epic proportions.
Click the arrow in the centre of the screen to play the video.
Roast Chicken Salad with Sweet Chilli Sauce - Leftovers Option #1
Piece of leftover roast chicken
Handful of fresh rocket/arugula
4 slices of camembert cheese
Pineapple ring (canned in own juice)
Sweet chilli sauce
This simple lunch was enjoyed the day after the roast chicken had been prepared for dinner. The leftovers were covered with a plastic food cover and allowed to cool before being refrigerated in a plastic container. They were removed again the following morning (an hour before lunch) to reach room temperature.
Lay the rocket/arugula on a plate and arrange the camembert and chopped pineapple on top. Sit the chicken alongside and squeeze on some bottled sweet chilli sauce.
Easy Tandoori Chicken with Indian Spiced Onions and Raita
Ingredients (Serves Two)
How to Chop a Chicken
Although a very sharp, heavy duty knife can be used to chop up a whole chicken, the process is much easier and therefore safer when a Chinese style cleaver is used. If you don't have a cleaver and intend preparing chicken in this way (by any specific method) a small investment will more than repay itself over time. Note also that in this instance, the washing and patting dry of the chicken is done after it is portioned.
Sit the chicken on its broad end on a chopping board on a firm surface with the backbone facing towards you. Carefully cut down either side of it with your cleaver and remove. Chop off the wings. Cut through the skin and flesh between the leg and thigh portions and the main body of the chicken and snap the bones from their sockets. Turn the chicken that the inner cavity is facing up and cut in half through the breastbone.
Important: Do be sure to take great care when chopping a raw chicken in this way. A finger can be severed very easily by a sharp cleaver! If you are in any doubt about doing this, ask in your butcher's shop or supermarket for someone to do it for you.
The chicken could be marinated overnight in this way in the fridge. If only leaving it for a couple of hours, however, do not put it in the fridge. Meat of any kind is cooked to best effect from room temperature. This also means it should be removed from the fridge (where appropriate) a couple of hours in advance of going in to the oven.
How to Make Tandoori Chicken
The main portions of the chicken should be added to a large and moderately deep dish. The backbone and the wings can be used for stock, or the wings cooked and eaten separately. Mix the tandoori powder and salt together in a small cup or bowl and scatter evenly over the chicken. Pick up each piece individually and gently massage the marinade in to the skin or exposed flesh. Cover the dish with clingfilm and leave for at least a couple of hours.
Your oven will need to be preheated to 400F/200C. Very lightly, drizzle some vegetable or other cooking oil over the base of the tray. Lay your chicken pieces on the tray and bake for forty to forty-five minutes. Remove them from the oven and ensure the juices run clear before leaving them to rest for at least fifteen minutes.
Tandoori Chicken and Cumin Raita Wrap - Leftovers Option #2
Tortilla wraps are a great way of using up leftovers of all types. The wraps are simply heated for ten seconds each side in a hot, dry frying pan before being assembled.
This leftover tandoori chicken was broken in to bite sized pieces by hand and laid firstly on a bed of shredded lettuce. Cumin raita was then drizzled over the top and the wrap folded and rolled. Soured cream, spicy tomato sauce or any one of a host of other toppings could be made to replace the raita.
Poached Chicken with Root Vegetable Mash and Green Beans
Ingredients (Serves Four)
3 to 4lb chicken
1 medium carrot
1 medium onion
1 stick of celery
2 cloves of garlic
Small bunch of parsley
Small bunch of celery leaves
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp sea salt
2 large carrots
2 large parsnips
2 large floury/starchy potatoes
Sea salt and white pepper
4oz trimmed green beans
Little extra parsley to garnish
How to Poach a Chicken
Poached chicken is often considered to be an extremely bland and uninteresting way of cooking chicken. While there is no denyiing this can be true in both instances, this way of poaching a whole chicken is designed to minimise the likelihood of those results.
Put the chicken in to a large soup or stock pot. Peel and quarter the onion and add it to the pot along with the peeled garlic and washed and chopped carrot and celery. Wash the parsley and celery leaf and add them to the pot whole with the peppercorns and salt. Pour in enough cold water to cover the chicken. Put on a high heat until the water boils then reduce to simmer for forty-five minutes,
Check the chicken regularly as it simmers, to ensure that enough water remains to keep it fully covered. Top up with a little more boiling water if required. After the forty-five minutes are up, switch off the heat, put the lid on the pot and leave it alone for a further forty-five minutes to finish poaching in the residual heat.
Peel and roughly chop the parsnips, carrots and potatoes. Put them in to a large pot of cold, salted water. Bring the water to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer for twenty-five minutes or until soft.
When the veg are simmering, the chicken should be removed from the pot. This can be awkward. Try lifting it by inserting a carving fork in to the body cavity and slipping a large slotted spoon or deep frying spider underneath. Sit it on a platter to rest for fifteen minutes before chopping in to portions.
Put the beans in to a pot of simmering water just before the vegetables are drained and returned to the empty pot. Season the veg with white pepper, add the butter and mash to combine.
Drain the beans and plate your meals for service. When it is cool, the stock should be strained and either used to make soup or refrigerated or frozen for use at a later time.
Chicken Omelette with Simple Salad - Leftovers Option #3
Ingredients per Serving
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Few small pieces of leftover chicken
Salt and white pepper
2 large lettuce leaves
½ medium tomato
4 or 5 slices of cucumber
Small parsley sprig to garnish
A basic omelette like this is an incredibly quick and easy way of using up leftover chicken and preparing a tasty lunch. It is so quick, in fact, that it is important to have your salad prepared and plated and your chicken ready to use before you so much as crack an egg for the omelette. The quick cooking omelette will need your full attention, leaving you no time for making other preparations after the eggs have been put in the pan.
Shred the lettuce leaves and lay them on the plate. Slice the tomato half and intersperse tomato and cucumber slices on top of the lettuce.
Beat the eggs lightly in a small bowl and bring the oil gently up to a medium heat in a small omelette pan. Pour the egg mix in to the pan and begin pulling the egg from the edges in to the centre with a spatula. Stop doing this as soon as the eggs begin to set. When the omelette is almost but not quite set all the way to the top, season with salt and white pepper and lay the chicken pieces on one half only before folding the other half over the top. Plate the omelette, garnish with the parsley and you are ready to eat.
Chicken and Root Vegetable One Pot Stew
Ingredients (Serves Two)
3 or 4lb chicken
1 large carrot
1 large onion
1 large potato (or quantity as desired)
½ tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp dried thyme
2 pints fresh chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped chives to garnish (optional)
How to Make Chicken Stew
The chicken is portioned in the first instance in a similar sense to the tandoori recipe further up the page. Again, the wings and backbone are used for an alternative purpose. The leg portions are then separated by cutting off the bottom sections if still attached and cutting through the skin and flesh at the joint between the leg and thigh. By pulling the leg and thigh back the way by hand, the bone joint should easily pop free. The body halves should be chopped in half again.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and seal what should be the eight portions of chicken all over. You will probably need to do this in two batches. Lay the chicken portions in the bottom of a large pot.
The quantity of potato used here will depend how you intend serving this meal. In this instance, only one potato was used and four portions of chicken were served per person. More potato could be included to serve four people. Peel and chop the vegetables and add to the pot. Season with the dried herbs, salt and pepper and pour in the chicken stock. Top up the liquid level with water if needed and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer gently for forty-five minutes.
Remove the chicken portions from the pot first with cooking tongs and ensure they are cooked. Divide between serving plates, ladle in the veg and some stock and scatter if desired with the chopped chives.
Chicken and Mushroom Pie with Chips - Leftovers Option #4
Ingredients per Serving
4oz puff pastry
Little flour for rolling pastry
2oz leftover chicken
2 medium closed cup mushrooms
Pinch dried sage
½ pint chicken stock
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp blackeye beans
Chicken and mushroom pies are delicious and can be a great way of using up leftover chicken. Roll the pastry out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface to a square large enough to cut a disc from it with a 4" pie dish. Cut around the dish as the pastry will shrink slightly during cooking and fit inside when done. Lay the pastry disc on a lightly greased baking sheet and glaze with beaten egg. Put the tray in to the oven preheated to 200C/400F, for twenty to twenty-five minutes until risen and golden.
Pour a little olive oil in to a small pot and gently heat. Slice the mushrooms and add them to the oil with the sage and pieces of chicken. Season and sautee for a minute or so before pouring in the chicken stock. Heat until the stock reaches a simmer.
Use a slotted spoon to add the chicken and mushroom to the pie dish and pour in a little stock. Plate the chips and the beans and take the pastry tray from the oven. Lift the pastry with a spatula on to the top of the chicken and mushrooms to compete the dish.
Chicken and Pineapple Casserole with Cashew Nuts
Ingredients (Serves Two to Four)
Olive oil for browning
1 large white onion
2 rings of pineapple, canned in pineapple juice
1 tsp fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
1 pint fresh chicken stock
2oz basmati rice per person
Freshly chopped coriander/cilantro for rice and garnish
Cashew nuts (unsalted) to garnish
How to Make Chicken Casserole
Chop the chicken in to pieces exactly as in the casserole recipe further up the page and brown the pieces in the same way in a frying pan. Put the pieces in to a large, deep casserole dish.
Peel and quarter the onion down through the centre and quarter each pineapple ring. Add to the casserole dish and season with thyme, salt and pepper. Heat the chicken stock to a simmer in a saucepan and pour over to cover the chicken. Add a little boiling water if necessary. Put the lid on the dish and in to a preheated to 180C/350F oven for one hour.
When the casserole is ready, take it out the oven, place it on a heat proof surface and carefully remove the lid. Leave it to cool slightly while the rice is prepared and the chicken will be served juicier and more tender. Wash the rice in a sieve under running cold water. Add it to a pot of boiling, salted water and stir well. Simmer for twelve minutes and drain again through the sieve. Return it to the empty pot and stir through some coriander/cilantro.
Line a small serving bowl with plastic film and pack in the rice. Tip it on to the serving plate, lift the bowl clear and peel off the film.
Plate some chicken, pineapple and onion from the casserole with cooking tongs. Scatter some cashew nuts over the casserole and then more fresh herb immediately before service.
Sweet and Sour Chicken Noodles - Leftovers Option #5
Ingredients per Serving
1 portion of dried egg noodles
4oz leftover roast chicken
1 medium white onion
1 green bell pepper
1 medium closed cup mushroom
1 clove of garlic
1 pack of sweet and sour stir fry sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp sunflower oil for stir frying
The first step is to reconstitute the dried noodles. Alternatively, of course, you could use fresh egg noodles from a deli. These noodles came dried in portions which had to be added to boiling water for four minutes. They were then drained in a colander and set aside until required for the stir fry.
To prepare, peel and quarter the onion. Deseed and slice the pepper. Peel and slice the garlic and slice the mushroom. The chicken should be pulled apart in to bite sized pieces.
Get your wok smoking hot before adding the oil to heat. Begin by stir frying the onion and bell pepper for about a minute before adding the garlic, mushrooms and chicken. Remember, the chicken is only to be heated through so the sauce can be added after a further minute of frying. Add the noodles and stir to combine as best you can before transferring to a deep plate and tucking in.