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Roasting a robust, free-range chicken may sound like the simplest of culinary challenges. But because this is thought of as a dish of overwhelming simplicity, it is also a dish you simply cannot afford to get wrong.


We all have our favourite barbecue techniques: you don’t have to come from Tennessee to recognise the excellence of a beer-butt chicken, and most live-fire grillers understand the infinite possibilities of a brined, butterflied and char-grilled bird.


But is there any chicken that can compare with a large – at least 2kg – whole chicken cooked with that unique degree of moistness that only a barbecue – charcoal or gas – can deliver? Not to me, there isn’t…


For this dish, select your chicken carefully: choose a sturdy and generously proportioned specimen you know to have lived an idyllic life – feeding on shoots and wild-flowers from under fences, pulling chubby earthworms from rich farm soil. A bird which, all things considered, has had only one bad day in its life.


Now, take hold of this noble bird, rinse it inside and out (respectfully), pat it dry and salt it generously. Then, leave it to collect its thoughts and, while it is doing so, return to room temperature. An hour is long enough for this.


Coat the bird lightly with EV olive oil and season with freshly-ground black pepper along with a mixture of mustard powder, onion powder and garlic powder in equal quantities. Then, stuff the cavity of the bird with a folded-over bunch of fresh French tarragon, a few stalks of fresh rosemary and a couple of fresh bay leaves. Now, position the bird, breast up, on an adjustable roasting rack – a very basic piece of kitchen kit which will cost very little in a kitchen shop. These are usually used in a baking dish but, on this occasion, you are going to cook with it right on the grill. And with the lid down, of course.


You will need to roast it at around 200C, or a touch under, for just over an hour, or until the internal temp of the chicken has reached at least 70C. A touch over, if you like.


Then, loosely tent the bird with foil and leave it in peace to finish cooking, while you make some of my glorious white barbecue sauce to serve with it:


SAUCE: Combine 2 cups mayonnaise (Best Foods, ideally) with 1 cup apple cider vinegar (I use a sweet red version), ½ cup clear apple juice, 2 tsp bottled horseradish, 2 tsp lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, plus a pinch of cayenne. Blend well.





Peter 'Grubby' Stubbs