The secret to an easy juicy roast chicken is to slow cook it first, then just pop it into a hot oven for 10 minutes to brown the skin and whisk up a quick gravy. It takes mere minutes to prepare to put in the slow cooker making Sunday Roast Chicken a dinner you can serve up any day of the week!
When I first started taking an interest in cooking, roast chicken was probably the dish I cooked the most. I was on a Perfect Roast Chicken Mission to find the ultimate recipe to make roast chicken without the breast meat drying out. These are some of the various methods I tried:
- protecting the breast with foil for some of the cooking time (didn’t think it made a huge difference);
- covering it with bacon or prosciutto (didn’t really work. Tasty crispy bacon though);
- spreading butter between the skin and the flesh (fiddly. Tore the flesh every time);
- spreading ricotta under the skin (even more fiddly);
- basting it 5 times during roasting (way too high maintenance);
- searing the chicken before roasting it (I had temporarily lost my mind. Have you ever tried to sear a whole chicken evenly? It’s impossible.);
- covering the baking dish with foil (worked ok after browning the skin. Cooking time was 50% longer); and
- using oven bags (super juicy chicken. But it sweats so much inside the bag that there’s pretty much no point having any seasoning on the chicken skin at all because it runs off. It also takes longer to brown and crisp up the skin because it is so wet.)
Most of these still made a tasty chicken. But none were The One. Then I came across Thomas Keller’s brined roast chicken (PS he is a super star “serious” chef, owner of Per Se in New York and the French Laundry in San Fran). Brining infuses the chicken with amazing flavour as well as trapping the juices. You will be amazed how juicy the chicken breast is. I’ve shared a recipe using this brining method – Succulent Roast Chicken. It’s dead easy, and making the brine is quick but then you need to wait for it to cool then leave the chicken in it at least overnight.
So for all those days that I want to make roast chicken but don’t have the time to brine, I make this Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Roast Chicken. It’s a recipe I came up when I got my first slow cooker, just one of those things you throw together that’s actually a success and ends up being a keeper for life. I change up the herbs, sometimes I omit the lemon and use onion instead, sometimes I rub the chicken with other spices. But I always use this same method.
It is insanely easy to make. It will take you 5 minutes to prepare to put in the slow cooker, then set and forget. You can serve up the chicken straight out of the slow cooker if you want, but for me, the extra 10 minutes to brown the skin in a hot oven is a “must do”. You can see in the above photo the difference it makes to the look of the chicken but it’s not just about aesthetics, it’s flavour as well. Browning the skin caramelises it and crisps it up. And because the fat renders out during the slow cooking, it takes hardly any time to brown and crisp the skin – just 10 minutes in a hot oven. Besides, you can multi task and make the gravy while the chicken is in the oven!
So, moving onto the gravy. I am quite dubious when I read recipes claiming an “amazing gravy” made from slow cooker juices because the key to a great gravy is scraping up all the burnt brown bits at the bottom of the roasting pan and you just don’t get that from slow cooking. The best way around this for slow cooking is to sear the meat first, then deglaze the pan (which is just adding a splash of stock or water so the brown bits stuck to the pan dissolve into the liquid) and pour the liquid into the slow cooker.
But you can’t do this for a chicken. Have you ever tried to sear a chicken? I have, during my Perfect Roast Chicken Mission. Eerm…it doesn’t work. Why I thought it would work is beyond me. Maybe I was tipsy when I came up with the idea. Must have been.
So my secret weapon for a great gravy made from slow cooker juices is Worcestershire Sauce and soy sauce. You don’t even need that much, just 1/4 tsp of each (for 2 cups of gravy). But they make all the difference, they add depth to the flavour as well as a bit of colour (because there’s no burnt bits, the gravy is much lighter in colour).
OK, so that’s it from me! Longer than usual post, but I have a lot to say when it comes to roast chicken :). Hope you enjoy this recipe. I’d love to hear if you try it, and be sure to give me a shout if you have any questions!
- 1.5kg/3lb whole chicken
- 2 lemons (medium), 1 cut into 4 wedges and 1 cut in half.
- 1 head of garlic, cut horizontally
- 10 sprigs of thyme
- 1½ tbsp olive oil
- 1½ tsp salt
- Black pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- ¾ cup chicken stock / broth
- ¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ tsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Extra lemon wedges
- Parsley, chopped
- Rinse chicken and pat dry. Season inside and outside of chicken with salt and pepper.
- Rub 1½ tbsp olive oil over skin of chicken.
- Reserve 2 garlic cloves (being 4 halves), then stuff the remaining garlic into the cavity along with the 4 lemon wedges and half the sprigs of thyme.
- Place a rack inside the slow cooker so the chicken is elevated off the base. If you don't have a rack, then get some foil and scrunch into balls (about the size of a golf ball) and place these on the bottom of the slow cooker. You will need 5 foil balls.
- Place the chicken into the slow cooker on the rack (or foil balls).
- Squeeze the juice of the 2 lemon halves over the chicken
- Mince the 2 garlic cloves (reserved from step 3) straight onto the top of the chicken. Top with remaining thyme sprigs on top then slow cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.
- Preheat oven to 220C/430F.
- Remove chicken from slow cooker carefully and place on a baking tray. Cover loosely with foil and rest for 20 minutes. If your slow cooker finished cooking more than 1 hour ago (which is most of the time in my case), you won't need to do this step as your chicken is already rested.
- Remove foil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle over 1 tbsp olive oil and place in oven.
- Roast for 10 to 15 minutes until skin is browned and slightly crisp.
- If your slow cooker has a sauté setting, you can make the gravy in your slow cooker. If you don't, simply pour the juice into a small saucepan and make the gravy on the stove.
- Remove some of the juice in the slow cooker so you are left with 1½ cups of liquid.
- Add the butter, stock, soy sauce and worcestershire sauce, bring to simmer then add flour and whisk until combined and no lumps remain.
- Simmer for 30 seconds to 1 minute until the sauce thickens. If it is too thick (which depends on how much fat was in the liquid) just add a splash of water until you achieve your desired consistency.
- Optional: strain before use.
- Pour gravy into gravy boat. Place chicken on a serving platter. Scatter over parsley and serve with lemon wedges, if desired.
2. You can make this ahead by slow cooking the chicken first then roasting it just before serving. To do this, leave the chicken in the slow cooker pot (including the juices) but remove the pot from the slow cooker. Cover with foil and let it come to room temperature. Then cover with cling wrap and refrigerate. To serve, reheat the chicken in the microwave first (put it in a microwave proof dish and cover with cling wrap), then follow the directions to oven roast to make the skin brown and make the gravy.