Fact: There are few things I love more in life than a roast chicken.
The way it makes the house smell, the way it brings people together, the way the leftovers make banger sandwiches the next day.
But there's no doubt that it's a high-maintenance dinner - overcook it and you're gnawing on a dry hunk of meat, undercook it and you're making your friends and family ill for days.
In my tiny inner city apartment kitchen, it can be tough to get a full roast dinner exactly right. So I put several methods to the test to see which came out on top.
A slow cooker has always been a controversial call for roasting a chicken, but hear me out. Done correctly, it can result in beautifully juicy, succulent meat that simply falls off the bone. Do it wrong and you get a pile of sludge. Play carefully.
First of all, make sure your chicken is completely thawed! I recently discovered some maniacs put meat in the slow cooker half frozen, under the impression the length of cooking time makes it fine. It does not.
I like to keep my chicken inside the oven bag, so it can steam away, then slice open the top and allow it to brown for the last hour, perhaps when you get home from work.
Unlike most slow cooker situations, NO EXTRA LIQUID is needed. Instead, place it on a couple of chopped onions or some rolled balls of foil so it's slightly lifted off the bottom (allows the juices to drip nicely without mushing the chicken into sludge). Usually about six hours on low does the job
The perks of cooking a chicken in the slow cooker are numerous. You get succulent meat, you can chuck it on in the morning and barely have to think about it until eating time. But it of course has its downfalls. The softness of all things that come out of a crockpot means that you often get a universal consistency, which isn't great. I wouldn't recommend cooking your potatoes, kumara, pumpkin, chicken etc all in the same pot - you will end up with what I like to call 'roast soup'. Everything is cooked but everything all kind of also tastes the same, and its hard to separate individual flavours. This means it isn't as convenient as it initially seems.
After recently getting my hands on a new air fryer, I've been tinkering away with potatoes and the like, but didn't attempt a full roast chicken until the past weekend. To be quite honest, I was dubious - I didn't see how something with the word 'fry' in the title would be effective at producing juicy, succulent meat.
Well, I have been forced to eat my words (and a lot of chicken).
For those looking for a crispy outer skin and succulent meat, the air fryer hella delivers. While it can be hard figuring out the different settings when you first try, there is a roast chicken pre-set switch that conveniently has a little picture of a roast chicken on it. The future truly is now.
Without the use of ANY oil, the outer skin of the chicken went so crackly I was picking it off to eat myself, leaving basically none for my very upset boyfriend.
If you do love a little fat, the droppings which collect under the basket can be scooped up to make quite lovely gravy.
Another great thing about an air fryer is you can pop your potatoes and other roast veges in the basket as well l. Just have a play with the timings first. You don't get the same sort of universal flavour and texture consistency as you do in slow cooker; instead the veges go crispy on the outside and you can flavour them to your liking. It takes timing and practice. I like to add mine in halfway through cooking the chicken, but it's all about individual preference.
Ah the oven, the most classic of roasting methods. It's what your grandparents and parents probably used for all those family roasts you grew up with. While many purists consider the oven the best, I would have to disagree and call it the WORST of these three methods.
Here are my thoughts - ovens are temperamental, SO much more temperamental than say, the individual air fryer or slow cooker. You can guarantee that the moment you have a high stress situation, like in-laws over for dinner or cooking a chicken for a sick relative, your oven will turn on you quick as a flash. Fan bake, regular bake - it's a terrifying world and hard to get right. While an oven bag can make things easier, you're still battling with timings and dropping temperatures as things go in and out. It's a hellhole and anyone who says it's convenient is kidding themselves.
Having said that, there are some obvious pros, like all the vegetables and meat going in together in one hit, and the impressiveness of pulling a full roast dinner out of the oven like you're Martha Friggin Stewart.
But I can almost guarantee something will go wrong along the way, especially if, like me, you get easily distracted by the ebb and flow of conversation around you.
Without a doubt, the winner is the air fryer. All of the convenience, without losing the flavour. Nothing but wins, people.