Lemon and Rosemary Charcoal Chicken
We need to talk about this lemon and rosemary chicken.
A whole roasted chicken is almost always a showstopper, but the extra element of theatre (and flavour) that comes with cooking with fire just takes it to another level. There is something about its rustic, golden appearance and warming aroma that is just so welcoming and makes me genuinely warm and happy.
This version is so simple and full of that lemony, garlicky, rosemary flavour that is fresh, moreish and hard for anybody you serve it to to get enough of. And when that skin roasts up so crisp and buttery-salty, there is nothing else like it.
Pair it with a side of delicious roasted radishes and potatoes (duck fat? yessss…), and generously drizzle lashings of my refreshing yoghurt-based cracked pepper ranch. Then, get excited all over again when (if) you find you have leftovers, as they are perfect for easy salads, dinners, sandwiches and wraps throughout the week. This charcoal chicken truly is the warm gift that just keeps giving.
Serves 4-6 | Prep: 8 hrs (overnight dry brine) + 30 mins | Cooking: 3-4 hrs
For the charcoal chicken:
- 3-4kg whole chicken
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
- Zest and juice of 2 lemons
- Salt and pepper
For the cavity stuffing:
- 1 whole lemon, halved
- 3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 sprig rosemary
- Salt and pepper
For the roasted vegetables:
- 12 fresh radishes, washed and halved
- 500g baby potatoes, unpeeled, halved
- 2 tbsp duck fat, melted
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- Salt and pepper
For the cracked pepper ranch:
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup plain yoghurt
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 2 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
The evening before cooking, wash the chicken inside and out with cold running water. Pat dry with paper towel and season liberally with salt and pepper, including inside the cavity. Place on a wire rack over a baking tray and set in the refrigerator overnight.
When ready to cook, stuff the chicken cavity with the lemon, garlic cloves and rosemary sprig. Next, run the spit through the cavity of the bird, centre it and secure well with rotisserie claws. Tuck the wings underneath the chicken and truss legs together with kitchen twine. Ensure the bird is sturdy on the spit, tying in sections if required. If necessary, utilise a counter weight to ensure even weight on each side.
In a bowl, combine the softened butter, minced garlic, chopped rosemary, lemon zest and salt and pepper. Then, rub half of the mixture liberally over the exterior of the chicken.
Prepare the fire by lighting a chimney full of charcoal. Once charcoal is fully lit and covered with grey ash, pour and arrange in the bed of your pit. Repeat. (See note.)
Place the spit on the rotisserie and switch on. Work your coals/fire to maintain a temperature of around 220C and allow the chicken to cook until the skin has browned and an instant read thermometer shows 70C in the thickest part of the breast (approximately 45 minutes per kg of poultry). During cooking, baste with a squeeze of lemon juice and a portion of the remaining butter mixture every 20-30 mins.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200C, and prepare the vegetables by combining the radishes, potatoes, duck fat, rosemary and garlic. Season well with salt and pepper. Lay the vegetables evenly on a tray, place in the oven and roast for 45 mins–1 hr until golden and cooked through.
Once the chicken is cooked, remove the spit from the rotisserie and allow the bird to rest for 10-15 mins. While the chicken is resting, prepare the ranch sauce by combining the yoghurt, buttermilk, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper and parsley in a bowl.
Finally, serve with the chicken and vegetables and enjoy!
Many barbecue cooks will advise to cook your chicken over indirect heat by separating the coals directly underneath the bird and placing a tray in their place to catch drippings. I have found that this doesn’t produce enough heat to cook the chicken timely, nor does it allow for crispy skin. As such, I allow the fat to drip directly on to the coals which creates flares that gently lick at the skin, creating that dark, flavourful, smoky flavoured skin that bites right through. Just be mindful of the flames whilst basting!