Love roast chicken but never have time to cook it? With my simple method for the best weeknight roast chicken, now you do. Just add some easy sides for a truly delicious midweek meal.
Total Time Investment: 1 Hour 5 Minutes
There is a very good reason that a roast meal is a favourite for many families. A roast takes minimal effort to prepare and, with a stint in a hot oven a boring tray of meat and vegetables turns into something truly special.
For the longest time I wouldn’t eat a roast dinner. As a child I was an extremely fussy eater, and spent many a childhood dinner staring down the plate of roast meat and vegetables placed before me rather than eat it. As I wasn’t allowed to leave the table until my plate was cleared, I never really experienced the joy of a hot roast meal. Then there were the boarding house dinners, with large tins of fatty meat and soggy vegetables. Gravy came as an optional extra on the side, but was poured over everything to disguise the lack of flavour. These early experiences led me to shun roasts for many years.
Mr Grumpy had very different memories of his childhood roast dinners, and would nag me to reproduce them. Slowly over time I relented. Whilst still not entirely sold on roast lamb or roast beef, I am pleased to report that I am now a huge fan of both roast pork and roast chicken.
A large roast chicken can fed the whole family with leftovers, and provide a carcass with which to make stock. Unfortunately a whole roast chicken takes time, and time is not something usually afforded to us in the middle of the week when everyone is clamouring to be fed.
However if you choose to cook chicken pieces rather than the whole bird, you have the secret to the most delicious weeknight roast chicken.
Tips & Tricks for a Delicious Weeknight Roast Chicken
Whilst almost any cut is suitable for roasting, I personally prefer to use the whole leg (the thigh and the drumstick). I have also used only thighs or drumsticks with great success, so use the cut of meat your family prefers. If you wish to roast the breast, use a cut with the bone attached to reduce the risk of the breast meat drying out during the cooking time.
Irrespective of the cut you choose, the key to the best tasting weeknight roast is the skin. Don’t, whatever you do, remove it before you cook the meat. The skins helps seal in the moisture, and the fat renders out during cooking, basting the meat with flavour. Forget everything you have ever been told about the skin being evil, and enjoy the delicious umami flavour hit that it provides your meal.
I prefer to cook the chicken pieces on a rack over a baking tray. A rack enables the skin of the chicken pieces to crisp evenly in the shorter cooking time. If you are concerned about the fat in the skin (don’t be), the rack will also allow the fat to drip off the chicken as it roasts.
For the fastest meal, rub the chicken pieces lightly in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and load the tray into the oven. If you want to be a little fancy, dust the skin with homemade spice rub or smoked paprika for a flavour boost.
How long to Roast Chicken Pieces?
It is extremely difficult to provide an accurate roasting time for chicken pieces. Cooking time is affected by many different factors, not least being the size of your chicken pieces, the effectiveness of your oven, or the temperature of the chicken as it goes in the oven. Over the years I have found most chicken pieces will take between 45 minutes and one hour to cook. If the chicken pieces do cook faster than expected, just remove from the oven and wrap in foil to keep the chicken warm until the sides are ready.
To test whether the chicken pieces are cooked, pierce the thickest part of the cut with a skewer or a sharp knife. If the juices run clear, the chicken is cooked. If the juices are cloudy, a little more cooking is required. Drumsticks are cooked when the meat starts to pull away from the base of the leg.Love roast #chicken but never have time to cook it? With my simple method, now you do! #dinner Click To Tweet
What to serve with Weeknight Roast Chicken
A crisp piece of weeknight roast chicken is good with pretty much anything. I like to serve it with Mini Rosemary Roasted Potatoes and Oven Roasted Broccoli, or Fried Cabbage with Pancetta. The Princess prefers sweet potato chips. Try cooking the chicken in a BBQ during the warmer months, and serve it with an easy side salad for a simple meal. Or turn the chicken pieces into a simple traybake for the easiest dinner ever.
And a final little tip for you …. cook more chicken pieces than needed for dinner, and use the meat for other dishes. Now how easy is that!
The Best Weeknight Roast Chicken
- 4 pieces free-range or organic chicken legs drumstick and thigh
- 1 Tablespoon Olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan forced).
- Place an oven proof rack over an oven dish or baking tray.
- Rub the chicken pieces with olive oil. Make sure you get the underside as well.
- Liberally season your chicken with salt & pepper, on both the top and bottom.
- Position the chicken pieces on the rack so they are not touching and then place the rack in the oven.
- Cook for 45 minutes to one hour, until the chicken is well browned, the juices run clear and the meat has started to pull away from the bone.
- Remove from the oven.
- If serving immediately, allow to rest for 5 minutes in a warm place whilst you assemble the remainder of the meal.
- Otherwise allow to cool and use as required.
* This post was originally published in June 2014, and has been substantially updated.