This chicken occupies a special place in my heart, as it’s my closet approximation to a roast chicken I ate in Tuscany cooked by our Italian host family. Obviously the food was terrific, but when combined with the company, the atmosphere and the surroundings, it was sublime. I intend to recreate the entire meal one day.
This is more of a method than a recipe, as cooking times and temperatures depend so much on what sort of barbeque you’re using, how hot it gets, how well it retains the heat, and the size of your chicken. Use the method as a rough guide, with a bit of common sense, and you’ll get a great result.
You’ll need a BBQ-safe chicken rack to hold your chicken upright, easily procured online or at most garden centres.
Feeds 3 – 4
1 whole chicken
Salt and pepper
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp maple syrup
Remove the chicken from the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking.
Preheat your barbeque.
Remove any trussing from the chicken and rub it all over with olive oil. Season the chicken with lots of salt and pepper, inside and out.
Position the chicken on its rack by – apologies – forcibly pressing down to ensure the cavity is sufficiently secured. The chicken should stand up by itself and not lean to one side. If you find it’s leaning, it’s not inserted far down enough, and will likely fall over during cooking. Rectify this now.
Adjust your barbeque so you can cook using indirect heat. This means the chicken will be on one side of the barbeque (with the heat off) while the flame is on the other side, allowing the chicken to gently cook and smoke away without lighting it on fire. If you’re using charcoal, you will need to manually move the coals over to one side.
Place the chicken contraption on the bars, ensuring it’s sitting comfortably.
I love the way the chicken looks like it’s relaxing, kicking back, ready to be bronzed and warmed by the barbeque.
Close the lid and check now and again to make sure it’s still standing and isn’t on fire. It will take between 45 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes, depending on all the factors I listed above. For reference, my gas barbeque hovered at approximately 175C (350F) and I roasted mine for 1 hour 10 minutes. If you’re unsure, aim to cook it for an hour and assess the situation around the 50-minute mark. Rotate the chicken every 20 minutes to ensure even cooking.
With about 20 minutes left of cooking, now is the time to glaze the bird. Combine the rosemary, honey and maple syrup in a bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir well, then use a brush to liberally baste about half the glaze all over the chicken. Close the lid and repeat the process again in 10 minutes’ time with the remaining glaze. (You may want to rotate the chicken at that point to ensure even browning.)
Give the chicken enough time to get a lovely dark, golden, crisp skin. An extra five minutes won’t overcook the bird, and it’s worth it for the bronzed result.
Remove the chicken, rack and all, to a baking dish and cover with foil. Let it rest for 15 minutes on the rack, collecting any juices that drip out. When it’s rested, dislodge the rack and carve into portions. Don’t bother with neat slices – you’ll just tear the beautiful bronze skin. Go for chunks – a leg, wing, half breast, etc.
To go with, it’s really a question of how much cooking you want to do. For me, mid-summer is not the moment for a hot oven full of roast potatoes. I like a crisp salad and some fluffy baguette to soak up all those lovely juices, but you do you.