A cast iron skillet chicken is easy to make and saves money! It is a one-pan solution to a week’s worth of meals, offering great value and flavor.
This cast iron skillet chicken is a time and money saver
You’ve seen them in the stores: whole chickens. And you’ve wondered how you could ever handle one at home. You don’t have a rotisserie, and there just aren’t that many guests coming over to warrant preparing and serving a whole bird.
But the price per pound on whole chickens cannot be beat. And when prepared, cooked, and stored properly, they are great time and money savers. From the juicy breasts to the carcass and neck bone, whole chickens provide a lot of meal options.
I’m going to demonstrate how you can prep and cook a whole cast iron skillet chicken without fear, and end up with everything from meat for sandwiches to the sauce for dinner. And we are going to do it in one single pan.
Cast iron skillet – your best piece of cookware, ever
Most of us have the ubiquitous and multipurpose flagship of the cast iron empire. The 10-inch skillet has been a mainstay in home kitchens since it was introduced in the 1830s.
But the use of cast iron cookware has dropped over the years. If you haven’t been using it because it is too heavy, too difficult to maintain, burns food, or your worried you can’t cook wine or other acids in it, you are missing out on one of the best tools in your kitchen cabinet for cooking.
- Cast iron is as solid as they come. It will not warp, bend, or bow. I’ve used lots of aluminum pans that no longer have flat bottoms because repeated use over high heat caused them to either concave up or converse down. Now, I’ve heard you can crack cast iron by dropping it, but I’ve never seen it happen. Just avoid sudden thermal shocks, which have an adverse effect on cookware no matter the material.
- A properly seasoned cast iron skillet is non-stick. Since it can take high heat, it is better for cooking than coated non-stick pans.
- They are easy to maintain. You can season cast iron endlessly. Once you damage the coating on a non-stick pan with metal tongs or a metal spoon, it is basically on its way to being ruined. Cast iron takes very little effort to clean, and you can use a steel scrubber on it (again, the death knell of non-stick). A little soap won’t really hurt a cast iron season, but don’t go putting it in the dishwasher – just give it a good scrub and rinse by hand, and keep it dry.
- They share the flavors with all the foods they’ve been cooked with. So, if you are a garlic-lover, your skillet is going to pick up all the subtle nuances of garlic dishes past, adding layers of flavor to your meals. (you may want to keep a separate inventory of cast iron for savory cooking and dessert or bread cooking)
- The one thing in your kitchen likely to last forever. Besides being relatively cheap and reliable, they can become heirloom pieces handed down from parents to children. It is not uncommon to find cast iron pieces in people’s kitchen well over 100 years old.
Simple steps to awesome whole chicken
With your seasoned 10-inch cast iron skillet in hand, you are ready to build this foundational recipe.
Most grocery store chickens are going to be 2 – 3 pounds, which is perfect for this sized skillet. Chose your chicken according to preferred brand, and keep it refrigerated until you are ready to cook it.
Remove the chicken from the plastic wrap and wash it thoroughly under cold water. Make sure to rinse the body cavity and remove any organs and neck bone that may have been packed inside. You can use the organs if you wish but definitely include the neck bone in the skillet roasting. It will add flavor to the drippings.
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Getting the excess water off the meat will make it roast and brown more evenly. If possible, put the whole chicken on a dish or in a bowl and let it set in the refrigerator, uncovered, for a few hours to help it dry out. This will make the skin even crispier when cooked.
To add flavor you are going to want some simple aromatics.
- Diced onions, carrots, celery – the traditional mirepoix used to bring savory flavors to most dishes.
- Quality olive oil. A good virgin oil will give subtle, fruity flavors to the dish. It will also provide a wet surface for seasonings and salt, and aid in the cooking process since oil will heat up to 400°F without burning.
- Roasted garlic paste. This will add earthiness and savor to the chicken. Roasted garlic is easy: put 1 cup of peeled garlic cloves and 1 1/2 cups of olive oil in a small pot. Cook on medium-low on the stove top for approximately 30 – 40 minutes, until the garlic is soft. Don’t get the oil too hot or you will have fried garlic, which is a different flavor. Use a metal strainer and strain the oil off the garlic. Keep the oil (you can even use it to rub on the chicken). Puree garlic in a food processor until you have a fine paste.
- Flavorful citrus for stuffing. Cut lemons or oranges stuffed inside the body cavity add flavor as well.
- Your favorite flavoring mix. Salt and pepper form a great foundation but adding earthy flavors of cumin, coriander, and chili powder enhance your chicken’s great taste. You can use premade seasoning blends like Steakhouse Seasoning or Lemon Pepper, or have your own blend, ready to coat.
- Kosher salt or sea salt. Even with your flavoring mix you are going to want a little extra salt to improve flavor.
- Minced herbs. Parsley, thyme, oregano, and sage are excellent matches for roasted chicken. We are going to put them on at the beginning of the cooking process, and they will blacken. But the flavor will incorporate themselves into the meat and the drippings.
Pan up chicken
From this point on, the work is easy. Pour the mirepoix into the bottom of the cast iron skillet. This is for the chicken to rest on as it cooks. Set the chicken on top of the vegetables.
Next, stuff the body cavity with lemons, then rub olive oil and roasted garlic over the chicken. Lay on a decent layer of your favorite seasoning mix, sprinkle with kosher salt, and top with the herb blend.
Finally, tie the legs together at the drumstick ends. This will keep the chicken from hanging over the edges of the pan, and keep the body cavity closed.
Place the skillet directly into the center rack of your oven and then set the temperature to 400°F. Cook for approximately 50 – 70 minutes. Cook the chicken until a thermometer inserted near a thigh bone reads at least 165°F. With a pair of heavy duty oven mitts, remove the pan from the oven and set on top of the stove.
Let the chicken rest for at least 15 minutes before trying to cut. Longer is better, up to 30 minutes. The cast iron will help keep the meat nice and hot.
You can carve the chicken and serve, or remove it from the pan and cut it up for later use. Strain the drippings and stock rendered from the bird and use it to make sauce or gravy. The vegetables are fairly well spent, so throw them away or compost them. But save the back, bones, neck, and wing tips for making stock. Just because they have been cooked once doesn’t mean they don’t have nice flavors to contribute.
You have succeeded with your cast iron skillet chicken! Good job!
Make sure to safely and properly wrap any unused chicken for later consumption.
Try different seasoning blends for different chicken-based dishes. Use Italian herbs and spices for dishes with a Mediterranean flair, or chili powder, cumin and garlic for Latin meals.
Tell me how you like to season your whole chicken, and how you like using your cast iron cookware. Thanks for reading and check back for other recipes and cooking tips.
Cast Iron Skillet Chicken – Simple and EconomicalCourse: Cuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy
2-3 lb whole chicken, washed and dried
1/2 cup onions, large dice
1/2 cup celery, large dice
1/2 cup carrots, large dice
2 – 3 lemons, cut into quarters
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup roasted garlic paste
1/4 cup seasoning blend
4 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 cup minced fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, oregano, sage)
- Wash chicken thoroughly inside and out. Be sure to remove any organs or neckbones stored in the body cavity. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Place onions, celery, and carrots in a seasoned cast iron skillet. Spread out to make an even layer across the bottom of the pan.
- Place the chicken breast side up in the pan. Stuff the lemon quarters into the body cavity.
- Rub the outside of the chicken with olive oil. Follow that by rubbing the outside with the pureed garlic paste.
- Top the chicken with a layer of flavoring mix. Sprinkle salt over the entire bird. Rub fresh herbs over the outside of the chicken and add any remaining herb to the inside of the body cavity.
- Tie up the legs with butcher’s twine to close off the body cavity.
- Place skillet in an oven and set the temperature to 400° F. (You can preheat the oven if you wish, but it is not necessary) Cook in the oven for 55 – 75 minutes. Check with a thermometer to make sure the internal temperature reaches 165° F minimum.
- Remove the skillet from the oven and set on a hot pad or heat-safe surface. Be careful because there will be a lot of rendered chicken juice in the pan. Allow the chicken to rest 15 – 20 minutes before cutting into it.
- Cut up the chicken ay you like. Serve or allow to cool, then bag or wrap and refrigerate. Save any leftover bones, including the neck bone and backbone, for making chicken stock.
- Strain the rendered liquid and discard the vegetables. You can reduce the liquid on the stove top and use it as a base to make other sauces, adding cream, red wine, or herbed pesto.
- Be sure to remove the butcher’s twine from the legs before carving.
- You cast iron skillet will clean up easily with a little soap, warm water, and a little scrubbing. Do not wash it until it has had a chance to cool down. Although rare, thermal shock could damage your skillet.