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I have a 1.2kg whole chicken that I wish to roast, on the packet it says it'll take 1h 28m at 200°C.

The New Best Recipe book recommends cooking a 1.8kg chicken for just 60m, with temperature of 190°C for 30m and 230°C for about 30 more. Nigel Slator's Real Cooking recommends a similar 60m time for a 2kg bird, with a variation on the cooking temperatures. And Delia says to cook a 1.6kg chicken for around 60m too.

Why are the times so radically different? Accounting for the weight, it would seem that the packaging recommends almost twice the cooking time that the reliable professionals recommend. Is the shop just being overly safe?

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This is explained in the answer to Is there a general algorithm for calculating the amount of time to roast meat for? which also explains why you should never try to calculate cooking times or even pay attention to published ones. Use a thermometer. Use a thermometer. Use a thermometer. Use a thermometer. Use a thermometer –  Aaronut Sep 29 '12 at 14:29
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2 Answers

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The shops are likely going out of their way not to get sued by sticking to safety guidelines rigidly. The packet instructions usually result in a dry and overcooked bird. The various other times and temperatures are all attempts to get a safely cooked, attractively browned bird without overcooking.

However, roasting meat based on oven temperature and the weight of the joint is the wrong way to go about things, because ovens are rarely calibrated correctly (the temperature is often wildly at variance to that set on the dial) and the weight of the meat is rarely nicely rounded.

If you really want to cook any meat (and many other foods) properly, you'll invest in a digital probe thermometer. Then you can simply cook the meat until it reaches a safe internal temperature and no more. They aren't expensive, you can get them from Amazon, and once you've got one you won't know how you did without it.

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I believe the shop is being overly cautious as all manufacturers are. They have to cover themselves from being seued. In pretty much every case I've ever seen the cooking temperatures are overstated to the point the meat is pretty much inedible. Pork packages say to cook to 165 which in culinary terms is " dead pork ". Aaronut has a good point about using a thermometer as cooking times can vary from oven to oven. A little test you can do if you don't have a thermometer is check the firmness of the breast meat. If you've done it enough you can easily tell this way.

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