It is that time of the year again! Unfortunately, this year the official Oktoberfest has been cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate at home. While the Oktoberfest is now famous across the world as being an excuse to drink vast quantities of beer, it actually has its origin in a horse race organised to celebrate the marriage of the crown prince Ludwig of Bavaria to his young bride Princess Therese. In fact, the meadow where the Oktoberfest is held is still named after the Princess, ‘Theresienwiese’.
To many locals, the focus of the Oktoberfest isn’t the beer at all, but rather the huge number of rides, rollercoasters, ghost trains, and other funfair attractions that line the festival’s many avenues. Certainly of equal importance to the beer is the food, and most beloved of all is the famous ‘Halbes Hendl’ or Oktoberfest Roast Chicken.
This is good old fashioned fare, half of a rotisserie chicken, usually basted in a paprika marinade, and often served up completely unadorned, just half a chook on a plate. It’s up to you to catch the attention of one the guys or gals selling a giant pretzel to go along with it. However, you can trust me when I say that after your second litre of beer, that chicken is the most delicious thing you’ve eaten in your life.
The chickens at the Oktoberfest are slowly cooked in a rotisserie grill, which is what gives them their succulent and juicy texture. After a lot of experimenting at home, I have discovered the perfect technique for juicy, flavoursome chicken, just as good as what you get at the Wiesn. The secret is poaching the chicken first to ensure the meat is tender and succulent, and then giving it a quick blast in a hot oven to brown the skin and release all the flavours. This may seem unorthodox, but it works perfectly every time.
A note on chicken sizes, German and European chickens are usually much smaller than the enormous birds that can be found overseas. A standard size is 1.2kg or size 12. This will feed two hungry people perfectly. If you can’t get smaller chickens it may be worth asking your local butcher or supermarket if they can get them in stock.
I’ll be adding lots more Oktoberfest and Bavarian recipes over the next two weeks, click here to see more recipes.
Have you ever been to the Oktoberfest? Share your favourite memory down below! Happy cooking, and Ein Prosit der Gemutlichkeit!
Let me know if you try this recipe in the comments below, or using the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram. Happy cooking!
- 1.2kg chicken
- 1 stock cube, chicken or vegetable
- 3 Tbsp neutral oil
- 2 tsp sweet paprika powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- pinch of chilli flakes
- sea salt and black pepper
- lemon wedges
- potato salad, french fries or coleslaw
- Remove any giblets or organs from the chicken, truss the legs together and set aside. Fill a saucepan large enough to hold the chicken two-thirds of the way with water, crumble in the stock cube and bring to the boil. Gently slide the chicken into the hot stock, then turn the heat to low and simmer very, very gently for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4 and place a roasting rack onto an oven tray. In a small bowl stir together the oil paprika, garlic, chilli flakes and a few grinds of black pepper.
- After half an hour, use two forks to lift the chicken out of the poaching water, tilting it to drain any liquid. Place on a paper towel-lined plate, pat dry and allow to cool for a minute or two.
- Cut the string trussing the legs together, then use a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp knife to cut through the breast bone of the chicken. Cut along both sides of the spine and discard it. Gently lay the chicken halves on the prepared rack season generously with salt, then brush the paprika mixture evenly over the chicken, making sure to get right under the drumsticks and wings.
- Roast the chicken in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden, basting once with any oil that has dripped from the chicken. For crispy skin either turn the oven right up for an extra 5 minutes of cooking time or turn the grill/broiler on until the skin is crisped to your liking.
- Allow to rest on a warm plate for 5-10 minutes before serving with potato salad, french fries or coleslaw and a slice of lemon.
Don’t throw away the stock that you poached the chicken in! It is an excellent base for soups and stews or anything else you need stock for!
Amount Per Serving:
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I can’t get a small chicken! Can I still make this recipe?
Yes, you can, though you may want to cut the chicken into quarters rather than halves as this size chicken serves two people perfectly. You will need to adjust the cooking times accordingly as a bigger chicken needs longer to cook.
I’m scared of cutting the chicken in half! Any tips?
It’s much easier than you think, especially as the bones have been softened by poaching. Just channel your inner Julia Child and go for it!
Can I double or triple the recipe?
Absolutely! Either use multiple pots or a big stockpot. Remember to keep the water barely simmering otherwise the skin can get tough.