A juicy roast capon chicken is a fabulous centerpiece for a special occasion dinner. Bigger than a traditional chicken but smaller than a gigantic turkey, yet with more flavor than both. And because any roast capon dinner is better with gravy, I have included a simple recipe for gravy, too.
- 🐓 What is a capon chicken?
- ❓What weight capon do I need?
- 📖 Ingredients list
- ⏱ How Long To Roast Capon
- 👩🏼🍳 How To Prepare And Roast A Capon
- 🍗 How To Make Capon Gravy
- 👩🏼🍳 Chef's Tips For Roasting A Capon
- 🍷 Wine Pairing For Capon Chicken
- 🥣 Equipment
- ❄️ Storage & Freezing
- 🍽 Side Dish Recipes
- 🧁 Decadent Desserts
- 📖 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
🐓 What is a capon chicken?
A capon chicken is a castrated male chicken, typically slaughtered at around 8 or 9 months of age. They are a larger size than regular chicken (which are normally slaughtered at 3-5 months old) and are known for having very flavorful meat. They reach a weight of 2.5-5.5 kilograms (6-12 pounds). Their size makes them a good alternative to turkey or a traditional roast chicken, as they can feed a bigger group, and they have juicy meat and a delicious flavor. Roasted capon makes an ideal special dinner centerpiece as the main dish for Christmas feasts or Thanksgiving dinner. It's the perfect special occasion bird!
❓What weight capon do I need?
Allow a minimum of 0.5kg or approximately 1 pound per person. So for a group of 8 guests, you will need a capon weighing at least 4kg, which translates to roughly 9 pounds. This might sound like a lot, but remember that the weight includes the bones of the castrated rooster, too. And if you want to have leftovers, allow extra. And don't forget to use the bones to make stock/broth afterward.
📖 Ingredients list
For the capon roast
- Capon chicken - Buy a whole fresh capon large enough for your gathering or dinner party (see section above on weight and sizing).
- Lemon - Add flavor to the meat by stuffing the body cavity of the bird. Lemon is a classic way to get a delicious citrus lift that enhances all the flavors.
- Onion - Onion is a base vegetable that adds so much flavor that I just quarter it and stuff it inside. Leave the skin on; this adds flavor, too.
- Garlic - Some whole garlic cloves inside the bird also add a tasty flavor to the meat and the meat juices.
- Thyme - Fresh herbs are best, but you can use dried thyme if that is all you have available. Remember that dried herbs are more potent than fresh herbs, so you will need a little less.
- Salt and pepper - Season the bird with salt and pepper before and after cooking.
- Olive oil - I prefer to use olive oil when roasting capons (or other birds) as it has a higher smoke point than butter, so it is less likely to burn. Do not use extra virgin olive oil.
- Butter - Rub some unsalted butter on the capon skin at the last minute to crisp it up and get it golden brown.
For the capon gravy
- Butter - Always use unsalted butter with a high-fat content in cooking to stay in control of how much salt goes into a recipe.
- Flour - All purpose flour or plain flour is ideal for making the roux, which will thicken the gravy.
- Wine - This is optional, but a splash of wine to deglaze the roasting pan and scoop up all those pan drippings is an essential addition to gravy in my book.
- Meat juices or chicken stock - You will likely get a lot of juices from your bird. Save them, separate out the fat, and use them for the gravy. You may also get giblets inside the bird, and if this is the case, you can also make giblet gravy ahead of time.
See the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for full quantities and step-by-step directions on how to make this delicious roast capon recipe.
⏱ How Long To Roast Capon
Cook a capon chicken for 25 minutes per pound/half a kilogram, plus an extra 25 minutes. So, for a bird that weighs 4kg or 9 pounds, it will need 3 hours and 45 minutes in the oven. But all birds and ovens vary, so always be governed by internal temperature and check that the meat juices are running clear and not pink. The internal temperature of capon should be 74C or 165F.
👩🏼🍳 How To Prepare And Roast A Capon
Preheat the oven to 160C/325F (no fan). Place a quartered onion and lemon inside the bird's cavity, along with the garlic and thyme. Rub the skin with oil and season with salt and pepper.
Flip the bird upside down onto a roasting tray lined with parchment paper. Roast the capon for 1 hour, then flip it over again. Roast for another hour.
Flip the bird again, roast for a further hour (so three hours total by now), and then check the internal temperature. The capon will likely need an additional 30-45 minutes.
Cover the legs and breast in separate pieces of foil if they are browning too much for the final part of cooking. Check the juices run clear and that the internal temperature is 74C/165F before taking the capon from the oven to rest for 30 minutes.
🌟 Top Tip 🌟
Do not skip the 30-minute resting time after cooking; it is essential for a juicy, tender capon. Moved the roasted capon chicken to a carving board or platter and cover with foil. Then, lay several tea towels over the top and tuck them in underneath to keep the bird warm whilst it rests and you finish cooking the meal.
🍗 How To Make Capon Gravy
- Once the bird has come out of the oven and is resting, deglaze the roasting pan either with a splash of wine or a splash of chicken stock. Scrape off the sticky drippings with a wooden spoon or spatula.
- In a saucepan, melt butter and then whisk in flour to make a paste (a roux).
- Whisk in the wine/pan drippings and then the reserved meat juices.
- Bring the gravy to a gentle boil and allow it to cook down and thicken until you are ready to serve. Add more meat juices or stock as needed.
- For a super smooth and glossy gravy, strain it and then whisk in a few cubes of very cold butter.
👩🏼🍳 Chef's Tips For Roasting A Capon
- Weigh your capon so that you can adjust the cooking time accordingly as per the section above.
- I recommend taking the capon out of the fridge for 20-30 minutes before you plan to cook it.
- Flipping the bird over prevents the need for basting and keeps the bird juicy.
- Parchment paper stops the capon breast's skin from sticking to the roasting tray when we flip it over.
- Cover each of the legs with a small piece of foil if they are browning too fast. You can cover the breast section, too, if needed, but always use individual pieces of foil for each part of the bird. Do not form a tent over the whole bird with one piece of foil.
- To really crisp up the skin, take it out of the oven and rub butter over it before placing it back in for the final 10 minutes.
- Make sure the cooked capon internal temperature is 74C/165F and the juices run clear. Use a meat thermometer and measure the thickest part of the capon, which is on the side of the breast next to the thigh.
- Make giblet gravy if you get a bag of giblets in the bird's cavity- you won't regret it! And this can be made ahead of time.
- Serve roast capon chicken with side dishes like garlic potato roses, gorgonzola baked leeks, and hassleback carrots.
🍷 Wine Pairing For Capon Chicken
Serve a light red wine with capon chicken like a Pinot Noir or Beaujolais. For white wine, an oaked chardonnay with some age on it will stand up well. For Christmas day in 2023, when I served roast capon, we enjoyed it with a vintage French chardonnay from Burgundy and a Pinot Noir (also from Burgundy).
The best roasting pan to use is one with some depth to collect meat juices, and a removable rack for the bird to rest on. This makes it much easier to take the capon out of the pan! I also like a large roasting dish that is safe to use on the stovetop to make the gravy in directly. A pan that is dishwasher safe, too, is a bonus! Having done a lot of research, I recommend this roasting pan. Otherwise, make the gravy in a saucepan.
Always cook safely and use a meat thermometer!
You will also need a jug to collect and reserve the meat juices in, and I find this fat separator jug works really well as it has a strainer, too.
❄️ Storage & Freezing
Store leftover capon chicken in the fridge, covered. I will often remove all the meat and place it into an airtight container so I can make bone broth (stock) from the carcass. And this gives me much more fridge space! I'll use the leftover meat to make a skillet pie.
You can freeze cooked capon meat, too. Double-wrap it in plastic food wrap and aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn. Use within one month.
Capon chickens are bigger than the average chicken you buy in shops but smaller than turkeys. However, capons are renowned for being a juicier bird and having a better flavor and deliciously tender meat, so they are traditionally served on special occasions.
Capon chickens are chemically castrated before they reach sexual maturity. This affects their hormone levels, and the lack of testosterone allows for them to have more fat, which makes the capon meat very juicy with a tender flavor. This also stops the white meat from becoming dry, as is often the case with turkey.
Because of a capon's size and higher fat content, roasting a capon is the best way to cook it for optimal flavor.
Yes, although capons are larger than a standard chicken so you will need to adjust the cooking time for a high-weight bird.
🍽 Side Dish Recipes
Looking for side dishes to serve with this capon chicken recipe? Try these:
🧁 Decadent Desserts
Round off the meal in style with one of these desserts.
Juicy Roast Capon Chicken Recipe (With Gravy)
- 4 kg Capon chicken (allow 0.5kg or 1 pound per person)
- 1 Onion
- 4 cloves Garlic
- 1 Lemon
- 2 tablespoon Fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon Olive oil
- 2 tablespoon Butter
- 2 tablespoon Unsalted butter (plus extra at the end)
- 2 tablespoon All-purpose flour (or plain flour)
- 150 ml Red wine
- 500 ml Meat juices or chicken stock (or low sodium broth)
- Preheat the oven to 160C/325F (no fan) and prepare a roasting tray with a piece of lightly greased baking parchment paper on top of it.
- Remove the bag of giblets from the bird's cavity (if there are any) and snip the ties if the capon is trussed. Quarter the onion and lemon, and place them inside the bird with the garlic cloves and thyme.
- Rub the olive oil all over the bird and season generously with salt and cracked black pepper. Turn the bird upside down and place it onto the parchment paper on the roasting pan. Oil and season the underside, too.
- Roast the capon for 3-4 hours, starting upside down for 1 hour.
- After 1 hour, flip the bird the right way up, peel off the parchment paper, and drain off some of the juices into a jug. Return to the oven and roast for another hour.
- Flip the capon upside down again, replacing the parchment paper under the breast. Drain off more of the meat juices. Roast for another hour.
- Flip the bird the right way up and peel off the parchment paper. Take the internal temperature with a meat thermometer to see where you are. The goal is 74C/165F. The likelihood is you will need 30-45 minutes more in the oven, but be led by meat temperature, not time.
- Roast the capon for a further 30-45 minutes,
- Take the capon from the oven, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes. Place it on a carving board or serving platter, and cover it with aluminum foil. Then, drape several tea towels over the top and tuck them around it to keep the bird warm.
- Carve and serve the capon chicken once it has rested.
- Deglaze the roasting pan with the wine and scrape off the pan drippings.
- Add the butter to a saucepan, and when it is bubbling, whisk in the flour to make a paste.
- Whisk in the wine and pan drippings, then add the meat juices (strain off the fat) and/or chicken stock and bring to a gentle boil for 10-15 minutes to cook off the flour and alcohol and allow it to thicken.
- For a smooth, glossy gravy, strain it and then whisk in a few small cubes of very cold butter before serving.