18 Apr Thomas Keller’s Roast Chicken


Thomas Keller’s Roast Chicken

18 April 2020

PREP. TIME: 10 MIN   -   COOK TIME: 50 MIN   -   SERVES: 5

This recipe should be part of everyone's cooking repertoire.

Recipe Template

I discovererd Thomas Kellers' secrets to roasting a chicken in The Age Epicure many, many years ago.  The article was about what the great chefs like to cook at home.  Kellers' recipe was by far the most approachable suggestion. From memory he recommended serving the chicken just with mustard.  I prefer to make a clear jus using Thyme or Tarragon.  A Tarragon Cream Sauce is also an excellent choice and tastes delicious.  The whole thing is a hands down class and family favourite.

The success of the dish is achieved by minimising the amount of steam in the oven and by ensuring that the oven remains hot throughout the cooking process.  For these reasons - be sure to preheat the oven, do not cook anything else with the chicken or open the oven door prematurely - these latter activities  will all create steam and will prevent the chicken from being crispy and golden brown.

Be sure to buy a free range or organic chicken for best flavour.  You should truss the chicken before cooking - though many chickens from good butchers are sold trussed these days.  By trussing the chicken - the legs and wings get secured to the body and ensure lovely even cooking. Cook the chicken in a baking dish that is only a little larger than the chicken - if it is too large all of your valuable juices will burn off in the hot oven.

In case you are not familiar with tarragon - you should try it and make a note to grow some for yourself next summer.  It is a Summer herb - and the last of it is still available.  Be sure to only use French Tarragon though - it has a curious, subtle, liquorice flavour - similar to Chervil.  Forget Russian Tarragon - it has no flavour whatsoever and has no culinary uses that I can think of.

You need to rest the chicken before carving.  In the Summer, we often cook the chicken before we go to the beach and rest it in a safe spot for a couple of hours until we return.  This is okay so long as it is covered and you eat the cooked chicken within 4 hours. I make a Ratatouille while the chicken cooks if I don't already have some.

Because you cannot use the oven to roast potatoes or other vegetables while the chicken is cooking you need to consider alternative serving options.  Here are some ideas:


  • Mashed potatoes, a separate tomato salad and a green salad or green beans
  • No potatoes - Ratatouille or a salad of Roasted Capsicum are  excellent with the            thyme jus.
  • If you insist on roast potatoes - potatoes cut up into relatively small pieces can be          roasted in about 40 minutes while you rest and carve the chicken.  Serve with any        of the other salad suggestions made above.


1.5 kg Free Range chicken

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

A bunch of fresh Tarragon or Thyme

1/4 cup Chicken Stock or water

1 - 2 tablespoons Fresh Cream optional


Kitchen String; Scissors; Baking dish; Serving Dish; Carving Knife; Cook’s Knife and large Fork for carving; Carving Board


Step 1

When you get the chicken home  -

Remove and discard all of the paper and plastic wrappings, pat the chicken dry, tip a dessertspoon of sea salt or kosher salt into your hand and rub it over all surfaces of the chicken.

Store the chicken unwrapped in a cold part of the refrigerator for up to a day or two - at least 2 hours if you can .  This allows the skin to dehydrate a little and will render an appetising, golden, crispy skin when cooked.  The salt flavours and tenderises the meat.

(If your plans change in cooking the chicken - simply wrap it in plastic, label it as salted,  freeze it, and when ready to use, thaw it in the refrigerator.)

Step 2

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 1 - 2 hours before cooking

Pat dry using kitchen paper towels.

Step 3

Preheat the oven to 220 C .

Step 4

Truss the chicken using kitchen string -  A compact bird will cook more evenly.: 

To truss the chicken - tie the ankles together, bring the string length ways along the body of the chicken, run it across the breast, flip the chicken over, secure the wings, and tie the string with a firm knot. 

Pat the chicken dry again with paper towel.

Step 5

Place the chicken in a pan that contains it well (i.e not too large). : 

Position the bird breast side up and place the pan in the centre of the preheated oven with the bird’s feet facing the back of the oven.

That is it!

Leave the bird in the oven, undisturbed for 45 - 50  minutes for a 1.5kg chicken. Do not turn the bird or open the door to check it or attempt to baste it while it is cooking. 

Step 6

Warm a serving plate and a small jug for the jus.

Step 7

After 45 - 50 minutes check that the bird is cooked. 

Remove it from the oven, place a skewer into the thigh. 

The juices should run clear and the leg should be loose in the socket.

If it needs a little longer - set the alarm for another 5 - 10 minutes and continue cooking for this time.

Step 8

Place the cooked chicken - breast side down on the warm serving plate.

Leave it out of the draught for at least 10 - 15 minutes to rest before carving.

Step 9

As soon as you remove the chicken from the baking dish, add several sprigs of fresh tarragon or thyme  to the juices left in the pan and place the pan over moderate heat on top of the stove.

Baste some of these juices over the resting bird.

Add a little water or chicken stock to the pan, continue stirring, pour in the cream if using and gently heat.

Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed and turn off the heat.

Step 10

Remove the twine and section or carve the chicken:

Place the chicken on a stable board or large plate to carve it.

Carefully remove each leg with a sharp knife; turn the leg over and cut it in half between the thigh and the drumstick.

Place each piece as you carve it - back onto the warmed serving plate.

Cut the chicken through the sternum. Remove the back bone. Cut each breast into 3 pieces, trying to keep the skin on as much as is possible.

Reserve any juices and add them into the pan with the herbs.

Step 11

Drizzle some of the juices over the chicken to moisten.

Drain the rest of the jus or tarragon cream into a small serving jug to place on the table and serve with the chicken

Step 12

To Serve 

Garnish the chicken with extra  tarragon or thyme.:


Recipe adapted from Thomas Keller by Elizabeth Peddey

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