Jamie Oliver's 'Tray Bake Chicken' Technique Is An Affordable Way To Impress

Chicken is the second most widely consumed meat in the world, behind pork, per USDA. Nearly every culture has a chicken dish, from chicken katsu in Japan to Spain's arroz con pollo, Brazil's galinhada, to chicken Kyiv in Ukraine, not to mention all the things we do to chicken in the U.S. It's just proof that chicken can take on all manner of different flavor profiles and is endlessly adaptable to whatever ingredients a culture or location can source. It's a versatile meat, and if done the right way, it's always delicious, whether you braise the legs and thighs, roast the whole chicken, or cut the breasts into tenders. There are endless chicken dishes to experiment with.

It's a cheap source of protein, too. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in December 2022, the average price of bone-in chicken legs was $1.94 per pound, compared to $4.31 per pound of pork chops or $4.80 per pound of ground beef. If you're looking to impress dinner guests or an affordable way to feed yourself or your family, you can't do much worse than chicken. To keep costs low, you can buy a whole chicken and break it down yourself and freeze it as you see fit. And when you need it, pull out the chicken and a roasting tray, because tray bakes are one of the easiest and most affordable ways to prepare dinner.

Tray bakes are an easy, affordable mid-week dinner idea

Jamie Oliver, king of affordable cooking at home, has released a new cookbook, "One: Simple One-Pan Wonders," which features a whole chapter dedicated to chicken. Showing off the versatility of chicken are recipes like Cajun chicken, tahini chicken, and rosemary roasted chicken, per USA Today. Oliver is a fan of tray bakes, as they're easy to whip up in the middle of a busy week. In one version of his chicken tray bake, posted to YouTube, he uses boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which are affordable without skimping on flavor. The chicken is roasted with butternut squash and Thai red curry paste and finished off with coconut milk and a large handful of cilantro. He serves it alongside jasmine rice and a quick pickled cucumber.

Tray bakes are super adaptable to whatever you have on hand at the time. You can go Chinese with tossing the chicken in some hoisin sauce, or French with some thyme, shallots and white wine. And if all you have in the refrigerator is some kale, broccoli, or fennel, throw them in there about halfway through cooking. They'll roast in the drippings and take on some of those delicious flavors. Heartier vegetables like carrots and potatoes should go in with your chicken, cut into smaller chunks in order to finish cooking at the same time. Tray bake meals encourage you to get experimental and use what you have on hand to create something delicious, filling, and impressive.