Butter, Sage & Lemon Roast Chicken

A roast chicken is a beautiful thing. The rewards are all out of proportion to the effort. It’s easy to ring the changes (though keeping things plain has a lot going for it too). And the leftovers are the best of any roast dinner.

I often smear a little butter over the skin, as recommended by Simon Hopkinson. That and some salt and pepper is as complicated as it gets much of the time.


With this corn-fed Goosnargh chicken from Farmison & Co I decided to add sage and lemon, and to cook the chicken on a rack above the potatoes, so that the delicious chicken fat dripped down onto the spuds below.

Butter, Sage & Lemon Roast Chicken


  • 1 whole chicken
  • butter
  • sage leaves
  • 1 lemon


  • Carefully tease the skin away from the breast meat with your fingers, taking care not to tear any holes in it.

  • Slide several sage leaves under the skin, against the breast meat.

  • Do the same with thin slices of butter, dotted about the breast area and add a little over the top too, if you like.

  • On the legs, it’s difficult to get under the skin, so tuck sage leaves between breast and leg and add the butter on top.

  • Cut the lemon into quarters or halves and push into both cavities with a couple of additional sage leaves.

  • Roast according to the cooking instructions for your chicken. We usually roast at 180 C, for 20 minutes per half kilo plus 20 minutes extra.

  • Check the chicken is cooked by inserting a skewer into the meat and making sure the juices run clear.

  • Remove the chicken from the oven, cover with foil (only loosely, or it will steam and the skin will lose it’s crispiness) and leave to rest for 20 minutes.

  • Turn the oven up to give the roast potatoes an extra blast of heat to finish while you cook your vegetables and gravy.

  • Carve and serve.

Once we’ve finished dinner and the chicken has cooled down, I pick every last tiny scrap of meat off the carcass to use in leftover dishes such as chicken risotto, chicken Savoyarde, chicken croquettes and sandwiches with peri peri mayo.

The carcass (bones, tendons, flaccid skin) go into the slow cooker overnight with water, to make a very simple stock. In the morning, Pete drains it and pops it into the fridge or freezer for a future soup or risotto.

What are your favourite recipes for roasting a whole chicken and how do you use your leftovers?


Kavey Eats was sent a selection of meats by Farmison & Co.

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6 Comments to "Butter, Sage & Lemon Roast Chicken"

  1. Dom

    quite literally drooling… mouth agog… roast chicken porn… divine!.. I love it just like this and would then make a chicken pilaf with the remains… if there were any!


    We often make risottos, but have a post coming soon on another dish we made recently!

  2. Paul Webb

    Looks great, can find sage a little overpowering sometimes, chicken skin on the other hand, the greasier the better in my eyes and with butter mmmmm….


    I think sage, when cooked like this, is wonderful… it’s like when you fry it cook in butter, as a garnish for calves liver. So good!

  3. Snigdha (Snig)

    Dear Kavey,
    We made this dish last night. Him Indoors was keen to do something a little different from just bunging the bird in the oven. He was a little bit concerned about putting a whole lemon quartered into the chicken, as he feared it would be too lemony. He needn’t have worried! It was LOVELY! The lemon must have gently steamed within the bird. We had a delicate lemon scent, some subtle flavour and a juicy, succulent chicken. This is a winner. Well done, as ever, Kavey!


    Really pleased you enjoyed. I’m not keen on very strong lemon either. I like it to be a note rather than overwhelming. So I’m with your husband on that one! Sounds like it came out perfectly!


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