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10 ways to flavour roast chicken

A roast chicken is the ultimate comfort food. You can’t go wrong with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper but the humble chicken is also a culinary blank canvas. Whether brined, rubbed with spices, basted or marinated, there are endless ways to add more flavour to your chicken.

  1. Make a marinade

    Making a marinade takes a little forward planning but it’s an easy way to make your roast chicken that bit more special. Dairy-based marinades, such as yogurt or buttermilk, are mildly acidic so they not only flavour your meat but tenderise it, too. The pineapple juice in this fruity Hawaiian marinade does the same job, plus it has fiery sriracha and ginger for a hit of heat, just slather on the night before and let the flavours infuse into the meat.

    Make a marinade
  2. Wrap in bacon

    Get maximum flavour by wrapping your roast chicken in bacon. Arranging rashers over the skin not only adds a smoky flavour to the meat, but also helps lock in moisture for succulent meat. Watch the bacon carefully during cooking, if it becomes too dark cover it with foil so it stays lovely and crisp.

    Wrap in bacon
  3. Make a pot roast

    By cooking the meat slowly in stock, a pot roast keeps your chicken succulent as well as providing an opportunity to add in loads of different flavours. Keep it light with this Spring-inspired recipe, which uses leeks, celery, parsnip, peas and lentils. Or for a Greek spin, this whole chicken, roasted in a tomato and olive sauce and served with buttery tagliatelle, makes a satisfying supper.      

    Make a pot roast
  4. Citrus-scented

    For a tangy twist, citrus fruits such as lemon, lime or orange pair beautifully with roast chicken. Use the juice and zest to flavour the skin then pop the whole fruit in the chicken's cavity before roasting. As it cooks, the fruit will steam and infuse the whole bird with a deliciously fragrant citrus flavour. Try it with this classic lemon and thyme roast chicken recipe which has added flavour from spicy chorizo croutons, or this Mediterranean-style chicken topped with a zingy lemon and basil salsa.

  5. Use a brine

    Brining your chicken is a foolproof way to not only add flavour to your roast but also to ensure you don’t overcook the meat. Essentially a mix of salt, sugar and water, we love adding herbs, garlic or whole spices such as fennel and cumin to flavour the brine. This roast chicken recipe, uses a sweet-and-sour brine scented with lemon, thyme and red wine vinegar that will impress the whole family. 

    Use a brine
  6. Rub with spices

    Punchy, aromatic spices add a lovely contrast to the delicate flavour of roast chicken. Whether it's the subtle, fragrant flavours of the Middle East as in this shish-spiced chicken, the zingy heat of Mexico, or the rich, fiery ingredients of Asia, you can perk up your chicken with dry rubs or spice-fuelled marinades. We love this gloriously golden saffron, cumin, coriander and orange chicken for a colourful take on a Sunday roast.

    Rub with spices
  7. Fire up the barbecue

    A whole chicken is just as good for a summer barbecue as for a winter Sunday lunch, plus it's an easy and delicious way to feed a crowd. Roasting over open flames imparts a wonderfully smoky flavour to the meat, while the skins becomes crisp and charred. Follow our step-by-step guide for simple instructions on how to spatchcock and barbecue a whole chicken.  

    Fire up the barbecue
  8. Serve with gravy

    A simple roast chicken can be taken to the next flavour level with a killer gravy. Whisk flour into the meat juices and caramelised bits of skin left in the roasting tray to make a simple gravy. Bolster this by adding a generous glug of wine or sherry, perhaps some fried smoked bacon or ingredients such as sage, lemon, star arise or bay leaves.

    Serve with gravy
  9. Add a sticky glaze

    Sweet and sticky, a flavoured glaze over the chicken skin will add lots of extra flavour. A simple honey glazed chicken is the easiest way to start, but then you can ring the changes with other combinations; try balancing the sweet honey with salty soy sauce, or match maple syrup with nutty sesame. For a Texan twist, add a bold combination of ground cloves, golden syrup and a hefty glug of fiery bourbon to make a glaze with attitude. 

    Add a sticky glaze
  10. Mix it up

    Inspired by the above? Then try mixing it up with a combination of techniques and flavours. This Bombay chicken pot-roast uses a yogurt marinade to tenderise the meat, then is cooked with a spicy paste in a curry-style sauce to keep the meat moist. Meanwhile Jamie Oliver brings extra flavour to his roast chicken by mixing up different cuisines. His harissa chicken fajitas have North African-spiced roast chicken shredded up with roasted veg and a tangy slaw, all piled up in soft wraps. Yum!

    Mix it up