Simon Hopkinson’s Perfect Roast Chicken – buttery heaven

Simon Hopkinson’s Perfect Roast Chicken

Recipe by Simon Hopkinson, tried & tasted by MMIL Difficulty: Easy


Total time



Marvellous Mother In Law came for lunch last week, bringing the main course with her. Told you she was marvellous! All I had to do was knock up some accompaniments and then, post pre-prandial sherry, we settled around the dining table to eat. Now, like most people in the world, we bl**dy love chicken but this was probably the best I have ever tasted.


  • 110g / 4oz good butter, at room temperature

  • 1.8kg / 4lb free range chicken

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 lemon

  • Several sprigs of thyme or tarragon, or a mix of the two

  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed


  • Preheat the oven to 450F /230C / Gas Mark 8
  • Smear the butter with your hands all over the bird. Put the chicken in a roasting tin that will accommodate it with room to spare.
  • Season liberally with salt and pepper and squeeze over the juice of the lemon. Put the herbs and garlic inside the cavity, together with the squeezed-out lemon halves – this will add a fragrant lemony flavour to the finished dish.
  • Roast the chicken in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Baste, then turn the oven temperature down to 375F / 190C / Gas Mark 5 and roast for a further 30-45 minutes with further occasional basting.
  • The bird should be golden brown all over with a crisp skin and have buttery, lemony juices of a nut-brown colour in the bottom of the tin.
  • Turn the oven off, leaving the door ajar, and leave the chicken to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. This enables the flesh to relax gently, retaining the juices in the meat and ensuring easy, trouble-free carving and a moist bird. Carve the bird to suit yourself; I like to do it in the roasting tin.
  • I see no point in making a gravy in that old-fashioned English way with the roasting fat, flour and vegetable cooking water. With this roasting method, what you end up with in the tin is an amalgamation of butter, lemon juice and chicken juices. That’s all. It is a perfect homogenisation of fats and liquids. All it needs is a light whisk or a stir, and you have the most wonderful “gravy” imaginable.
  • If you wish to add extra flavour, you can scoop the garlic and herbs out of the chicken cavity, stir them into the gravy and heat through. Strain before serving.

We ate ours with boiled Jersey Royals, microwaveable grains with steamed green beans and Courgette Salad.

Quick fact: More than 50 billion chickens are reared annually worldwide as a source of food, for both their meat and their eggs.

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Viv Oldland
Viv Oldland
1 year ago

Love this recipe – Simon’s late mother taught me many years ago at Bury Grammar School!

Annabel & Grace
1 year ago
Reply to  Viv Oldland

Hi Viv. I cooked this mouthwatering chicken again at the weekend, so easy and so succulent. Glad you love the recipe too. Best wishes, Grace