Sunday, March 14, 2010

Recipe: Cast Iron Skillet Roasted Chicken

Cast iron skillet roasted chicken, fresh from the oven

Cast iron and roast chicken were meant for each other.  Roasting your chicken in a cast iron skillet lets you make an amazing gravy right in the skillet while the chicken rests before carving.  This recipe uses high heat to crisp the skin and speed up the cooking time.

In our family, we roast a bird at least twice a month.  It's classy enough to serve to guests, but quick enough for a weeknight family meal. The leftovers are quick to disappear, and are also easily incorporated into lots of other dishes. 

I'm a big fan of brining the chicken before roasting, but if you've got a raw chicken ready to go, just salt and pepper it liberally (more on this below).


For the roasted chicken:
  • 1 3-4 lb. whole chicken (two are pictured above, of course)
  • oil
  • salt
  • pepper
For the gravy:
  • 2 tablespoons gluten free all-purpose flour (or wheat flour)
  • 1 cup water
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dry white wine
Making the Chicken
Remove packaging from your chicken, take out the bag of giblets from inside the cavity, and then rinse the bird in cold water. Brine the chicken for 24 hours (give or take) in a brine consisting of 1 cup kosher salt (or 1/2 cup table salt) to 1 gallon of water.  You can also use beer for the liquid instead of water, or mix water and beer.  Don't be afraid to add herbs and spices to the brine if you like. Choices might include thyme, bay leaves, black pepper, or even chili powder. 

If you don't have 24 hours to spare before roasting, double the salt and brine the bird for 4 hours. If you don't have time to brine at all, simply salt and pepper the bird heavily, inside and out, before roasting. IN this scenario, you'll use a solid 5 teaspoons of kosher salt and 2 teaspoons of black pepper for a 3-4 lb. chicken. Kosher salt makes it easier to get an even spread and helps prevent over-salting. If using traditional (more finely-ground) table salt, reduce quantities by half.

Half an hour before your ready to roast the chicken, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Remove the chicken from the brine, and pat it dry with paper towels.  Oil a large cast iron skillet lightly, salt and pepper the chicken inside and out (lightly if you brined it, heavily per the above if you didn't), and place it in the cast iron skillet breast side down.

Roast the chicken for 45-75 minutes—until the center of the thickest part of the breast registers 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Check the thigh as well to make sure it has come up to at least 160 degrees F.  Baste the bird while it is roasting every 5-10 minutes with a brush or turkey baster. The final temperature of the meat should be 165 degrees F.  It will continue cooking up to this temperature after you remove it from the oven.

Important notes about using an instant-read meat thermometer:
  1. Begin checking the temperature of your chicken well before it could possibly be done (at about 35 minutes of cooking time in this recipe).  Oven temperatures and the starting temperature of the chicken will vary from kitchen to kitchen—and you will get surprised by an over-achieving oven once in a while.   
  2. The point of using a meat thermometer is to nail the temperature perfectly.  If you don't know the rate at which the meat temperature is rising, you won't be able to nail it perfectly. The only way to obtain the rate at which the temperature is rising is to take multiple readings over time.  Check the temperature every 5-10 minutes, depending on how fast the temperature is rising, and how close to the end point you are.
  3. Stay away from the bones when checking temperature, and be sure to move the thermometer deeper and shallower in the hole you've made to ensure you are measuring the lowest temperature.  Don't be afraid to try a few spots to find the lowest temperature.

Pull the chicken from the oven when it's ready, and place it on a cutting board. Tent it with aluminum foil and let it sit for 15 minutes while you make the gravy.

Making the Gravy
You want to begin with 2 tablespoons of "liquid gold," which is the rendered fat, juices, and browned bits of goodness left in the skillet once you've removed the chicken (see photo at right).

If you've got more than 2 tablespoons, pour off (or suction out with a turkey baster) excess fat. Be sure not to remove any of the brown juice that you've got since this is the key to the gravy's flavor (only remove clear rendered fat). The clear fat will float on top, and the brown juice or "liquid gold" will sit at the bottom. If you don't have enough juice and fat left over, add butter or oil until you've got 2 tablespoons.

Place the cast iron skillet with drippings on the stovetop. Turn the heat on medium  Add 2 tablespoons of Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour (or just about any other flour) to the skillet.

Stir things around with a wooden spatula to form a thick paste, and then add about half of the water.  Use the spatula to scrape any fond (browned bits) off the bottom of the skillet.  Continue adding water as the gravy thickens. After adding about a cup of water, you have a thin gravy. 

If the gravy gets over-thick as it continues to cook, add more water carefully.  Once you've got the water quantity dialed in and the thickness of the gravy has stabilized, lower the heat to a gentle simmer.

Taste it.

You'll probaly need to season the gravy with salt and pepper.  Once you have the seasoning worked out, add a splash of white wine (about a tablespoon) to give it a more refined flavor. 

As your gravy simmers, carve up the chicken, and serve it all together with your favorite mashed potatoes.


  1. This sounds fantastic---I'm making it tomorrow!

  2. Thanks for stopping by... and please let us know how it turns out!


  3. Hey Derek! I tried the cast iron "skillet roasted chicken" and it was voted "best" ever in my house. Nice and moist, kids even enjoyed the leftovers.

    Your directions are great, thanks for the photos.

    I did brine the chicken for 24 hours before roasting. I also "lightly" salted (and peppered) the chicken inside and out before roasting, but next time I don't think I'll salt outside of chicken at all.

    Gravy was just ok, but that was no fault of yours. The "liquid gold" I had was very salty (see above), so I kept messing with the gravy...adding flour and water. A hint: if you need to add more flour, mix with water BEFORE adding to gravy. Otherwise if you add more flour directly to gravy, it just clumps up in little balls. But, then you can have fun trying to smash them all if you have time....

    Thanks Derek. Will be using more recipes from this site!

  4. Hey Deb! So glad it turned out well... and that the kids liked it.

    Did you use kosher or regular salt? You have to cut quantities in half if you're using regular salt... as it packs much tighter than kosher (which is kinda like salt snowflakes). And yeah, adding flour to your gravy after the water's gone in is a tough prospect!

    Hope to make it back to the land of the midnight sun sometime soon.


  5. looks great! I'm making it tonight!

  6. Let us know how it turns out! Enjoy.


  7. It turned out wonderful! My guest loved it! I have a question though. I have a chicken roasting blog, and had found your recipe... I'm new at this, so how do I go about giving you credit?

  8. Hey,

    Glad your guests loved it! That makes me happy.

    If you just link back to this page from your blog with link text such as: "Derek on Cast Iron's Skillet Roasted Chicken Recipe" (or whatever makes sense in context), that would be perfect.



  9. Thanks! (from the roasted chicken commenter above) I linked you to my tumblr. Take a look if you like!

  10. Thanks Eleah! I had a short look around your blog, and it looks great! I'll plan to have a longer look next time I'm in the mood for chicken.


  11. Can I roast a bone in turkey breast this way? Do you know what the time difference would be for say a 7lb turkey breast?

  12. Hi there,

    You can definitely roast a turkey breast the same way. I would think it would take a bit longer with a solid hunk of turkey breast. But I wouldn't trust any time-based doneness estimates... definitely use a meat thermometer. I'd cook it to about 165 degrees and pull it, and then tent with foil for 15 minutes to let it rest before carving.

    Hope that helps!


  13. Derek,

    I tried this recipe a few weeks ago - but I bought the chicken that very evening and heavily salted it. Nonetheless, the meat came out tender and flavorful, especially the dark meat. Didn't bother with the gravy because I oversalted the chicken and the "liquid gold" was so salty it would've killed the worst phlegm if you know what I mean.

    So tonight I am going for a 2nd attempt - the chicken has been in the brine for a few hours now, perfect for tomorrow's dinner. Only one thing: I used 1 cup, rather than 1/2 cup, of regular salt w/ 1 gallon of water. Will I have to wash the chicken before roasting?

    And even if I don't, just how much salt will I need to use after patting the chicken dry?

  14. Hey Carlos,

    You've got salt-to-water proportions for a four-hour brine. I generally do not salt the bird at all before roasting once brined.

    It sounds like you like it salty.?. But you may want to pull it from the brine a few hours early so it only is in for say 12-14 hours. Let us know how it turns out!


  15. Derek, the chicken came out even better than the first time! The chicken smelled a bit like a roasted chicken even after I removed it from the brine (must have been the salt's effect on the skin and meat).

    I added a tad bit of salt. The skin and meat tasted perfect; this time, after 100 minutes or so, I used your thermometer method - 165 degrees! I even made the gravy as per your instructions but didn't remove enough rendered fat. Still, it was interesting to see that by simply adding flour and water, the liquid gold turns into gravy.

    Unlike the first time, there were no undercooked parts - all of the meat was perfectly cooked, and the dark meat was absolutely juicy and tender. There's plenty of chicken left and it'll be my dinner for the next few days.

    Also Derek: the more I use my 12" skillet, the more I fall in love w/ cast iron. I'm following your instructions very strictly and the non-stick-ness is really evident. Cleaning is a piece of cake - doesn't matter what I make on it (lately it's been chicken as well as fried eggs and bacon), nothing sticks. Using those citrus fruit bag nettings, cleaning is likewise extremely easy. I'm also drying w/ heat and lightly lubricating the pan w/ oil. The skillet is ready for use anytime after that.

    I actually am enjoying the skillet more than the griddle - the griddle is my weapon of choice to grill steaks and chops (can't beat those grill marks on the meat) but for everything else, the skillet is UNBEATABLE!

    Thanks also for your awesome website. Over time I will try the other recipes and let you know how I do.

  16. Hi Carlos,

    Glad to hear the chicken came out perfect! Sounds like you've nailed it. As you have no doubt read, I am a big fan of removing guesswork and using an instant-read thermometer.

    It also sounds like you've really mastered the skillet seasoning. When people come to my house they always marvel at how dark, shiny, and beautiful my cast iron is... but it really is as simple as using it often, scrubbing with plastic, drying with heat, and lightly oiling once it is dry.

    I look forward to your thoughts and comments on other recipes you try!


  17. Derek,

    I've been doing this chicken for months, and it is HANDS. DOWN. the best I've had. I gave my dad the preparation technique last month (keep in mind my mom and dad get supermarket rotisserie chickens often), and even my mom said it's best she's ever had (plus, you can pick the seasoning!). He just called and said "lost the recipe, and I need it again". Sent them the link to this page. Two more "families" of converts! Keep them coming sir!


  18. Hey Jeremy,

    Great to hear! It makes me happy that you and your family find it tasty. I'll definitely keep the recipes coming... I've had a busy month, but I have 5 or 6 new recipes lined up that I just need to write out.


  19. Just got a cast iron skillet and am trying this for the first time! Unfortunately I did my research online *after* I had started. Next time I'll go a day ahead and brine the chicken first. Thanks!

  20. Hey Amanda,

    Welcome to the club! Hope the chicken turned out great (even without the brine). As often as not I don't end up having time to brine... in which case I just salt it more heavily inside and out. The keys are to measure doneness with an instant-read thermometer so the breast meat doesn't get over-cooked... and then let the bird rest for 20 minutes under foil before you carve it so the juices redistribute. I usually pull the bird out of the oven at 155-160 degrees F, and it comes up to 165 degrees F while resting.

    Thanks for stopping by!


  21. Derek, would this recipe & technique work w/ drumsticks only? I want to shred the drumstick meat by hand after it's cooked for sandwiches.

    Also, I'm trying to eat healthy (for working out), so I'm not going to eat the skin. But would you recommend removing the skin before or after cooking? Would leaving the skin on make the drumstick meat infused w/ fat or grease, or would the meat be lean enough if I removed the skin after the drumsticks are cooked?

  22. Howdy,

    Yes, this would work great for drumsticks only. I'd keep the skin on while you cook it to help keep the moisture in. While some of that moisture is going to be fat, most of it is water. Maybe you could try it both ways and see which one is the best balance of flavor and healthiness?

    Let us know!

    Thanks for stopping by.


  23. OK Derek, thanks! By the way, I'm Carlos from last year. I haven't done the whole chicken recipe for a while, but I still remember it and it's a winner!

    I will definitely let you know how it goes. I hadn't come to your website for a while and I remembered the diversity of recipes you've got for cast iron cookware. Gotta try some of your recipes, especially now that the cooler weather is approaching and some of your hot and hearty dishes are most definitely gonna hit the spot........

  24. Hey Carlos!

    Glad to hear you'll be whipping out the cast iron cookware more often as winter rolls around. Let me know what recipes you'd like to hear about that I haven't covered and I'll do my best. Thanks!


  25. Derek, the drumsticks came out great! I leave the skin on for moisture and simply do not eat it when it's time to eat. It's the exact same procedure you explain above for a whole chicken. :)


Howdy! Thanks for visiting, and thanks even more for leaving a comment. I'll respond as soon as the kids are asleep.