How to Make a Perfect Roast Chicken, According to the Royal Family’s Former Personal Chef

Roast chicken with vegetables is one of those foolproof meals that everyone turns to occasionally – including the royal family. I got the chance to speak to Darren McGrady, who was the personal chef to the British royal family for 15 years, and he let me in on his secrets to cooking a simple chicken that he used to serve to brothers William and Harry and their mom, Princess Diana (without the skin for the princess). Darren also reminded me that Prince Harry did indeed propose to Meghan Markle with roast chicken – it’s good enough to impress Her Royal Highness, so take notes! “People overthink chicken,” the chef said before sharing his five steps to nailing it every time.

  1. “Heat the oven to 425°F.”
  2. “Take the chicken out of the refrigerator, and then dry it with paper towels; pat it dry.”
  3. “Then sprinkle it with salt – no fat, absolutely no fat at all.”
  4. “Then put it onto a cooling rack onto a baking sheet so that the air can circulate underneath it.”
  5. “And then put it in the oven for an hour, and don’t turn it at all. After an hour, anything from a two-and-a-half- to four-pound chicken will come out absolutely moist and perfect on the inside and crispy on the outside.”

Easy enough, right? Patting the outside dry ensures the skin has a chance to react to the heat and develop a golden-brown, crispy exterior. And because chicken skin has its own flavorful fat, it doesn’t even need butter or olive oil. Although the chef’s days of cooking in the royal family’s kitchen are over, he’s using his culinary skills for Saturday’s royal wedding by making a menu of themed treats with Kellogg’s, including Lemon Luster Wedding Cake, a Special Krown Breakfast Bowl, Stately Scones, and Majestic Pops with caramel and bananas. You can score a reservation on OpenTable for the celebratory viewing party in NYC as you gear up for Harry and Meghan’s big day.

The Queen Is a “Chocoholic,” Plus More Food Facts You Didn’t Know About the British Royals

Being the personal chef to the British royal family is undoubtedly one of the most interesting jobs in the world. Darren McGrady knows exactly what that’s like, because he cooked for Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana, and Princes William and Harry for 15 years. It’s safe to say he knows the eating habits of each of them, and it’s always fun finding out what you might have in common with the royals (such as, you know, the fact that William and Harry love pizza too). I chatted with the acclaimed chef, who created a fun royal-wedding breakfast menu with Kellogg’s, and he shared a few throwback tidbits.

The 1 Difference Between Harry and William

“When I cooked for them, they were royal princes, but they had children’s palates, so as much as [the] nanny in the nursery wanted them to eat all their green vegetables, they were happy with a bowl of cereal. They would have any sort of fried chicken, potato skins, and all those sort of things. They loved the comfort foods. I think one of the differences is William doesn’t like the spices too much; he wasn’t really into the spicier foods, whereas Harry is a big fan of curry. Also pizza – both boys love pizza.”

Princess Diana Didn’t Eat Red Meat

“The princess didn’t eat red meat at all, but William and Harry would have [beef tenderloin] quite a bit. They liked baby back ribs, so I’d have to cook those a lot.”

The Queen LOVES Chocolate

“For lunch, the queen would eat anything off the estate – salmon, venison, grouse. Also, she’s a chocoholic! She would have as much chocolate as possible.”

Roast Chicken Is a Staple

Darren shared his roast chicken recipe that he made for the family all the time. Since Prince Harry grew up on it, it’s no surprise that his proposal to Meghan Markle included roast chicken. Darren said, “I’d do roasted chicken, but I’d take the breast off and the skin off and serve that to the princess [Diana] so it would just be all protein. And then the boys got the legs and all the crispy skin. Meghan is super health-conscious, too, and I can imagine [Harry] taking the breast off and taking the skin off just like I did for his mother.”

Prince Harry Taught His Personal Chef a Funny Cooking Lesson at Just 10 Years Old

Prince Harry‘s title might as well have “bacon master” added to it. While the soon-to-be-husband of Meghan Markle has many accomplishments under his belt, he taught quite the practical cooking lesson to his own personal chef when he was only 10 years old. In a phone interview with the chef, Darren McGrady, who cooked for the British royal family for 15 years, I learned about a funny memory Darren has about Harry and breakfast. If you’re a fan of microwaving bacon instead of waiting patiently for oven-roasted bacon, you’ll totally relate.

“I remember Harry coming back from America – they’d been to one of the theme parks – and he came into the kitchen with the princess [Diana], and it was breakfast time. He said, ‘If you take the bacon and put it on a paper towel in the microwave, it makes it really crispy and even better.’ And I go, ‘What do you know? You’re like 10 years old! You have no idea how to cook,'” Darren said.

“When he was gone, I tried it, and it worked,” the chef continued. “Prince Harry taught me to make that – crispy bacon.” Can you imagine little Harry schooling a well-seasoned chef in the kitchen? Now I know that roast chicken isn’t the only thing he’s a pro at cooking.

What Really Can Go Wrong When You Rent Your Place on Airbnb

Does opening up your home to strangers sound scary? I’m here to tell you that’s it’s worth the leap of faith. For the past year, I’ve rented my San Francisco appartment on Airbnb when I head out of town, and I’ve become a true believer. I love that it inspired me to become more of a minimalist. And it’s made me trust in basic human decency, since all of my guests so far have been friendly and respectful of my home. It also helps pay for my vacations.

Despite all the upsides, let’s be real: there’s no such thing as free money. Being an Airbnb host takes work. If you’re considering it, here are the nine potential downsides you should be aware of.

It Can Add Stress to Your Vacation

Renting your home while you’re on vacation means you’re not 100 percent on vacation.

Renting your home while you’re on vacation means you’re not 100 percent on vacation. You have to be prepared to send check-in and check-out messages and answer any questions that might come up. Add in a time change, and there can be some real dread when you wake up in the morning to check your phone, hoping nothing went wrong while you were sleeping.

For me, the small inconveniences are worth it, and I always let a guest know if I’ll be offline for an extended period. In addition, I am sure to send as many details ahead of time and leave an extensive booklet of information in our home to proactively get ahead of questions. While I haven’t used it, Airbnb also has an option to add a “co-host” to help manage your account and bookings while you’re out of town.

You Can Never Predict What Might Go Wrong

Regardless of whether you handle all the communication with guests from afar, you definitely need to have someone on the ground ready to respond to any unforeseen issues should they come up. For me, this person is a local family member. A couple of times, I’ve had problems that required their attention, including a shower that malfunctioned and heating that went out! Luckily, my on-call savior was able to fix them with little more than a wrench and an extra set of batteries.

You Could Get End Up in a Legal Predicament

As a host, it’s on you to learn your local landlord-tenant laws.

This hasn’t happened to me, but I’ve read horror stories about vacation rental squatters. One guest in Palm Springs, for example, refused to leave (or pay!) after his 44-day booking and even threatened to sue the host for violating his tenant rights if she turned off the utilities.

As a host, it’s on you to learn your local landlord-tenant laws. Often these include additional rights for any guests who stay more than 30 days. To make sure I knew what I was getting myself into legally, I called my local Rent Board to find out what my rights and responsibilities were as a short-term landlord. I also reviewed Airbnb’s built-in host insurance policy, which has $1 million in liability coverage. For example, if a guest breaks their wrist after slipping on the rug, the insurance should cover any potential damages.

You Might Violate Complicated Regulations

I wanted to make sure I did everything by the book before renting out my place. So I researched my city’s rules and applied for a permit, which was very time-consuming. Thanks to the rules, I have to file regular paperwork and make sure I stay within the 90-day annual short-term rental limit. If I forget to stay on top of this, I could pay expensive fees.

You Could Owe More Taxes

You must declare the money you make on Airbnb as income, and depending on your individual tax situation, this could have implications in terms of how much you owe come April. In San Francisco, I also have to pay extra business taxes each year, which amount to about 1 percent of the total value of all the possessions in my home, including furniture and appliances.

Kids Can Leave Their Marks

Our house isn’t kid-unfriendly. But since we don’t have kids ourselves, we’ve noticed that they can leave a mark. One time, we came home to permanent marker inexplicably drawn on a window (it came off easily, thankfully). And our downstairs neighbors have complained about the constant patter of running toddlers. To make things easier for everyone, we decided to not rent to groups with kids ages 2 to 12 years old.

Your Neighbors May Lose Patience

It’s not just the kids that can wear on your neighbors. We’ve had them complain about guest parking and also music late at night (although, it did not actually come from our 60-year-old guests that time). We’ve found that the best thing to do is to respond to their concerns with real action, like no longer renting to kids, and by making sure they know the lines of communication are open, and they can contact us at any time with a big or small annoyance. We’ve also left a sign at our front door, asking guests to remove their shoes. It seems to be working out.

You’ll Notice Regular Wear and Tear Sooner

The extra money we make will more than cover a new kitchen item or eventual paint refresh.

Usually, our place feels just like we left it when we come home. Over time, however, I have noticed some scratched cooking pans or scuffed walls. I try not to be uptight about it though, since I know the extra money we make will more than cover a new kitchen item or eventual paint refresh down the line.

Your Place Could Get Badly Damaged

Beyond small nicks and scratches, there is always the possibility that you end up in a nightmare scenario: a totally trashed home. That recently happened in London, where a first-time host had trouble getting reimbursed by Airbnb for about $8,000 in damages caused by a 200-person rager. She eventually succeeded. Before you host, it’s important to understand Airbnb’s insurance policy, as well as any renters’ or homeowners’ policy you might have. And keep in mind that the odds of a horrible tenant are low.

Renting the home you regularly live in on Airbnb is a “lifestyle.” You have to keep things organized and guest-friendly and be ready to roll with whatever may come up while you’re gone. But if you can handle that, the benefits of getting paid while you’re on vacation are worth it. Take it from me.

Move Over, Nashville – 18 Reasons to Check Out Chattanooga Instead

Move over, Nashville – there’s a new kid in town . . . Chattanooga, TN . . . and it’s ready to charm the sh*t out of you. Chattanooga is a delight-inducing destination for the Spring and Summer. A small, Southern-charm-packed city, Chatty is filled to the brim with so much delicious food (and drink), you won’t know what to do with yourself. MoonPies and Lil Debbie were created here, so you know it’s doing something right. A pretty pedestrian walking bridge, homemade doughnuts, and street art galore, oh my! ‘Nooga, as lovingly referred to by the locals, remains a bit of a hidden gem, but not for long. It’s been overshadowed by its talented brother city, Nashville, but is currently bursting onto the popular city destination scene with gusto. With a perfectly placed riverfront setting, and the fact that it’s pedestrian-, foodie-, and cocktail-loving-friendly, Chatty is also an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Good thing, too, as you’ll need somewhere to work off all those enticing Chattanooga culinary treats. Stay, drink, explore, eat, and did I mention . . . eat? You may have to roll yourself onto the plane afterwards, but it’ll be well worth it.

Pssst! Here’s the Best Place to Score a Trendy Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree For Cheap

While there are a handful of trendy plants dominating design-driven Instagram accounts, there’s no denying the staying power of one in particular: the fiddle leaf fig tree. Even popular plant ladies like Joanna Gaines can’t resist this pillar plant of the design world. I myself can’t seem to quit this large-leaf beauty. If you’re like me and your love for this overused plant has trumped your desire to avoid being basic, welcome to the club. Now that we’re owning it, let’s talk about the silver lining of the increasing popularity of this omnipresent plant: better availability and more affordable prices.

Gone are the days where your only option of owning a fiddle leaf fig tree involved a triple-digit price tag and stalking local nurseries for refreshed inventory. We’ve caught wind of fiddle leaf fig trees being sold at Costco for $47, but I’ve had even better luck finding them at another affordable retailer: The Home Depot. Besides being able to score smaller fiddle leaf fig trees for as little as $10, The Home Depot also has an unbelievably fantastic plant return policy. I purchased a five-foot fiddle leaf fig tree from The Home Depot for $50 a few months ago and it’s going strong, despite the fact that I have a subpar green thumb. If you’re in the market for one, be sure to check out your local Home Depot and follow these pro tips for keeping your fiddle leaf fig tree healthy.

There Are Royal Wedding Doughnuts For When Harry and Meghan Tie the Dough-Knot

Look, I’m pretty stinkin’ excited about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding, but that enthusiasm hasn’t affected my culinary tastes . . . up until now. When I discovered that UK pastry shop Doughnut Time has celebratory flavors inspired by the couple, I was even more tempted to book a flight to London and visit one of the six Doughnut Time locations to pick a few up for myself. (Oh, and to be closer to the wedding, of course!)

The Meghan-inspired treat, named the “Meghan Sparkle,” has a buttered popcorn glaze topped with marshmallow popcorn and patriotic red, white, and blue star sprinkles. Appropriately, it’s all finished off with a mini tiara garnish – because what’s a fairy-tale wedding without a crown fit for a princess?

The Prince Harry doughnut is a bit more traditional. Dubbed the “When Harry Met Meghan,” the doughnut’s creme glaze mimics the prince’s blue uniform and is finished with a golden hazelnut-chocolate Ferrero Rocher candy.

Yum! They both sound incredible – it’s a good thing they’re tying the dough-knot so I can justify devouring both. Keep scrolling to see the drool-worthy royal wedding doughnuts, then follow along with the rest of our coverage of the big day!

Is the $2,400 VIP Tour at Disneyland Really Worth It? We Asked Someone Who’s Done It Twice

When visiting the happiest place on earth, you go in accepting the fact that you’ll be standing in line longer than you’ll be enjoying the attractions. But how much would you pay to have your group cut straight to the front? With Disneyland’s VIP Tours, guests can enjoy the most magical day ever free of lines, alongside their own “personal concierge,” and with many other perks – but with a hefty price tag, of course.

For up to a group of 10 and a minimum of six hours, a VIP Tour reservation starts at $2,400, and that doesn’t include admission to California Adventure. To see if the insane ticket price is really worth it, I spoke with a family friend who’s done the experience twice with her family and paid $3,200 for their Christmas-Day trip.

The Perks

“The biggest perk is not waiting in line!” Stefanie Howarth told POPSUGAR. “Your guide will escort you through the FastPass line.”

In addition, VIP guests also get to enter the park one hour before it opens to the public – which is pretty awesome – as well as preferred VIP parade seating.

Your Personal Guide

From start to finish, your guide will take you through the park and every ride and even help customize an itinerary for you beforehand.

“The guides are really your personal concierge,” Stefanie said. “They will escort you to both Disneyland and California Adventure if you have passes for both. They organize the day and tailor it to your specific wants and needs; they can make lunch reservations and recommendations.”

Stefanie shared that the best guides are also park historians who are knowledgeable about every detail, down to the hidden messages in design left by Walt Disney himself, so your experience really depends on who you get.

“I must say all guides are not created equal,” she said. “Our first year, all our guide did was get us on the rides. Last year, the guide was fantastic and was a park/ride historian.”

Is It Worth It?

“Yes, it is worth it, especially if it’s a crowded time of year. If we went during an off time, we would not use one, but on Christmas, it’s a must.”

When you break it down, $2,400 for a group of 10 comes out to $240 per person, a little over $100 more than normal admission. If you and your friends are paying individually, the cost seems more manageable, especially for all the benefits included in the package. There are also plenty of ways you can save at the parks, including bringing your own food. While it’s not financially realistic for every group or family, it is an option to explore if you’re willing to drop some cash to avoid those lines.

Store-Bought Cream Didn’t Stop My Mosquito Bites From Itching, but This Kitchen Item Did

I don’t want to brag or anything, but mosquitos freaking love me – so much, in fact, that I woke up with nine bites the other morning because I stupidly left my trusty DIY repellent spray at the office. To keep the itching at a minimum, I bought anti-itch cream specifically made for bug and mosquito bites. Unfortunately, it didn’t really make a difference and I found myself clawing at my arms and legs soon after applying.

So, I searched for natural remedies I might’ve had around my house as an alternative to returning to the store. Turns out, good ol’ apple cider vinegar is great for more than just aiding in weight loss and boosting immunity. The versatile kitchen ingredient was the answer to my bites.

I soaked a cotton pad and applied it directly to the areas, rubbing it in for several seconds before moving onto the next one. It immediately began to soothe the bites and stop the itching! I reapplied throughout the day as soon as the itching returned and concluded that it was much more effective than the store-bought ointment. Another suggestion is to dilute the solution into a bath and soak for full-body relief.

Moral of the story: always keep ACV in your pantry for everything.

5 Gorgeous Royal Wedding Spots You Can Visit Right Now

All royal roads might lead to Windsor right now with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle celebrating their marriage there on May 19, but you don’t have to join the crowds to get your royal wedding fix. There are plenty of pretty places in England that have hosted the marriages of kings, queens, princes, and princesses that won’t be standing room only in the coming weeks. If you’ve got royal wedding fever, then these are five gorgeous places where you can get a taste of history without wading through the crowds at Windsor.