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Oktoberfest Roast Chicken

Oktoberfest Roast Chicken is a Bavarian classic recipe. The secret to tender, fall off the bone meat is to roast the chicken extra low and slow, or poach then roast. I've given two fool proof methods below.

To many Munich locals the focus of the world famous 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 the recipe I’m sharing with you today: the famous ‘Halbes Hendl’ or Oktoberfest Roast Chicken.

Oktoberfest Roast Chicken

What is an Oktoberfest Roast Chicken?

A Wiesn-Hendl, Halbes Hendl or Oktoberfest chicken is half of a rotisserie chicken, basted in a paprika marinade, and often served up completely unadorned. That’s right, just half a chook on a plate. Good old fashioned Bavarian fare.

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.

I know that most of my readers don’t have a handy rotisserie hanging around, so 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 (as the locals call the Oktoberfest grounds).

What’s the secret to this delicious chicken?

To recreate the fall off the bone texture of rotisserie chicken in your home oven, I have created two different methods for the home cook.

Method 1 – Low and slow: Slowly roasting the chicken at a low temperature ensures the meat is tender and succulent.

You’ll often find recipes online for blasting a chicken with a very high heat so it cooks quickly. I’ve found this has a tendency to toughen up the tendons making the chicken hard to get off the bone.

For perfect, fall off the bone chicken I first cut the chicken in half, baste with a flavoursome paprika marinade, then cook at just 150°C / 300°F / Gas 2 for 2 hours, basting occasionally as I go.

This is such a relaxed way to cook and makes for great tasting, tender, juicy chicken every time.

Method 2 – Poach then roast: This is an AWESOME way to ensure super juicy meat, and is a brilliant way to cook all poultry, especially fatty birds like geese.

In this method, the chicken is very, very gently poached, then cut in half and roasted at a high temperature to crisp up and brown the skin. It’s an uncommon method, but results in especially juicy chicken. Yum!

Both these methods are super popular with my readers, so pick the one you like best and try it out!

Oktoberfest Roast Chicken
So juicy and succulent!

Why I cut the chicken in half before serving

Cutting the chicken in half during the cooking process saves all the trouble of trying to chop up hot chickens at the table. Roast, then onto the plate. Win-Win my friends, a relaxed cook is a happy cook.

What to serve with Oktoberfest Roast Chicken?

I like to serve my chicken with a classic Bavarian Potato Salad, though if you fancy you can try your hand at baking some Homemade Soft Pretzels (yum!) For afters you could make up some sweet caramelised Kaiserschmarrn pancake or a plum Zwetschgendatschi.

And of course, you’ll need plenty of beer to wash it all down with!

You can click here to see even more Bavarian recipes like my classic Bavarian Roast Pork!

Do Bavarians seriously eat half a chicken? Where do they fit it all in?

They do, however this brings me to an important point. German and European chickens are usually much smaller than the enormous birds that can be found overseas. A standard chicken size is 1.2kg (2.75 lb.) 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. Alternatively, serve up a quarter of a chicken to each guest instead.

Have you ever been to the Oktoberfest? Share your favourite memory down below! Happy cooking, and Ein Prosit der Gemutlichkeit!


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. Check that the internal temperature of your chicken is at least 165°F / 75°C in the thickest part. I like to use a meat thermometer like this one.

I’m scared of cutting the chicken in half! Any tips?

It’s much easier than you think, just be sure to use a good pair of kitchen or poultry shears or a very heavy knife. Just channel your inner Julia Child and go for it!

Can I double or triple the recipe?

Absolutely! Leave a little space between the chickens on the rack so they don’t steam.

Why shouldn’t I use fan bake or convection to cook my chicken?

It is not the end of the world if you use fan bake or convection, you simply need to be aware that it has a drying effect, so it can dry out the meat.


Oktoberfest Roast Chicken

Oktoberfest Roast Chicken Recipe

Method #1 – Low and Slow

Oktoberfest Roast Chicken

Oktoberfest Roast Chicken 'Wiesnhendl'

Yield: Serves 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes

Oktoberfest isn’t just about the beer! No meal is more important to Munich’s famous festival than the Oktoberfest Roast Chicken ‘Halbes Hendl’, half a beautifully seasoned, succulent chicken cooked rotisserie style. Roasting the chicken at a low heat for longer ensures perfectly juicy, delicious meat every time.

Ingredients

  • 1.2 kg (2.5 lb) whole chicken
  • 3 Tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 Tbsp sweet paprika powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt or celery salt
  • pinch of chilli flakes
  • black pepper

to serve:

  • lemon wedges
  • potato salad, french fries or coleslaw

Instructions

    1. PREPARE: Heat the oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas 2. (Do not use fan bake or convection oven setting, it will dry out the meat). Line an oven tray with baking paper and place a roasting rack on top.
    2. REMOVE BACKBONE: Pat the chicken dry with paper towel, then place on a cutting board breast-side down. Use a small, sharp knife to cut through the skin on either side of the back bone, then use poultry or kitchen shears or a large, heavy knife to cut through the bone. Discard the backbone.
    3. TIDY CHICKEN: Turn the chicken over and cut through the breast bone - I cut any remaining breast bone away from the chicken and discard - this makes it much easier to eat. If you like, trim off the wing tips.
    4. MAKE GLAZE: Stir together the oil, paprika, garlic powder, salt, chilli flakes and a few grinds of black pepper. Lay the chicken halves on the rack, then rub the spice mixture generously and thoroughly over the chicken, front and back. Don't forget under the drumsticks and wings.
    5. ROAST CHICKEN: Roast the chicken in the oven for 2 hours until dark golden brown. After the first hour, baste the chicken occasionally with the oil that has dripped from the chicken. I find that the skin is lovely and crispy, however for extra 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.
    6. REST THEN SERVE: Allow the chicken to rest on a warm plate for 5-10 minutes before serving with potato salad, french fries or coleslaw and a slice of lemon.

Notes

  • Only use a fan-bake or convection oven for this dish if you are cooking multiple trays at the same time, otherwise it will just dry out the chicken. If you must use fan bake, pour a little water in the base of the trays to help keep the chicken moist.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: ½ a chicken
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1305Total Fat: 87gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 60gCholesterol: 470mgSodium: 2136mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 2gSugar: 0gProtein: 121g

Nutrition information is calculated automatically and isn’t always accurate.

Method #2 – Poach then Roast

Oktoberfest Roast Chicken.

Oktoberfest Roast Chicken (Poach then Roast)

Yield: Serves 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Oktoberfest isn’t just about the beer! No meal is more important to Munich’s famous festival than the the Oktoberfest Roast Chicken  ‘Halbes Hendl’, half a beautifully seasoned, succulent chicken cooked rotisserie style. I use a technique of poaching, then roasting the chicken to ensure perfectly juicy, delicious meat every time.

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken, ca. 1.2kg (2.5 lb)
  • 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

Instructions

    1. POACH CHICKEN: 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.
    2. MAKE BASTING MIXTURE: 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. 
    3. DRAIN CHICKEN: 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.
    4. REMOVE BACKBONE: 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.
    5. ROAST CHICKEN: 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.
    6. REST AND SERVE: 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.

Notes

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!

    • Can I double or triple the recipe?
    • Absolutely! Either use multiple pots or a big stock pot. Remember to keep the water barely simmering otherwise the skin can get tough.
    • 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.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: ½ chicken
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1684Total Fat: 107gSaturated Fat: 25gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 72gCholesterol: 608mgSodium: 795mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 3gSugar: 4gProtein: 159g

Nutrition information is calculated automatically and isn’t always accurate.

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Jay Wadams
Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author and food photographer. Jay is the author of two cookbooks: 'Tasty' (2017) and 'Simply Summer' (2019). Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

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8 Comments

  1. Jay, I’m going to make this for 20 people. The plan is to parboil the night before, refrigerate then grill the halves next day. Do you see any issues with this?

    • Hi Joe! Wow, that sounds like a great party you are planning! I’ve not made this dish for so many people at once, but I think it should be fine. I’d make sure to refrigerate the chicken, uncovered, on trays in one layer so it can cool down properly. It will also need a bit longer roasting / grilling time as you will be cooking from cold – it would be worth getting them out of the fridge to warm up a little before cooking so they heat through evenly. I’d love to know how you get on! J.

  2. Attended Oktoberfest years ago and spent the whole day enjoying the food, beer, and music; especially the beer. Missed the bus taking us back to Heidelberg so had to ride the train all night, sitting up in the aisle. I would love to go again but this time I would make sure I don’t miss the bus.
    This recipe looks delicious and I can’t wait to make it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Peggy! Thank you so much for your lovely comment! Oktoberfest is such an experience, isn’t it? I can just imagine what it must have been like on the train, you would have been exhausted after a day at the Wiesn! I live walking (stumbling!) distance from the Oktoberfest grounds luckily! I’d love to know how you get on with the recipe 🙂 J.

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