Simple, delicious and perfect for an elegant dinner-for-two, this roasted splayed chicken boasts crispy skin and juicy meat — and it’s ready in an hour. This is not your Thanksgiving bird.
I make this roast chicken a lot, but I will tell you up front that you’ll need a couple of hours for prepping. I love to make this on the weekend, salting the chicken earlier in the day while I go about my weekending, knowing that this dish is one that requires little to no effort, and no obsessing about when the meat is done.
I love Thanksgiving, but I’m not the biggest fan of basting the turkey and praying it’s cooked perfectly when I take it out of the oven. Last year was a bit of a stressful holiday. I got my turkey in advance, thinking I was so ahead of the game, until I suddenly realized the day before thanksgiving that I may have purchased it too far in advance. Thankfully, my darling Matthew actually exchanged the turkey for me. Can you imagine that conversation at The Fresh Market?
Boyfriend of the year award goes to you.
In the end, and as always despite the stress and planning, everything was really great. I’ve hosted Thanksgiving for a couple of years now—I think this year will be my fourth—and I love my menu. Hello, ciabatta, sage and sausage stuffing! But if I’m being honest, I’m not sure the turkey is my favorite thing to eat.
But this cast iron roast chicken is everything I want in a roasted bird. Juicy, flavorful, savory and great for leftovers. Not to mention the liquid gold that collects at the bottom of the pot, perfect for side dishes or for mopping up with fresh bread.
How do you roast an entire chicken to perfection in just an hour? The secret is in the “splay.” Splaying a chicken is easy, and allows for the dark meat to cook in the same amount of time as the white meat.
And about the above-referenced perfection—the other secret is in the salt. Salting the meat beforehand seasons the meat more thoroughly, resulting in a delicious bird, but it also helps dry out the skin. This helps your chicken get nice and crispy.
Even if I’m making chicken thighs, I salt them for just 20 minutes before I put them in a pot to sear. While the meat rests outside of the fridge to come closer to room temperature (another helpful trick when striving for that golden sear) this is a great opportunity to salt and season.
Two words for perfect roasted chicken: splay and salt.
And if you don’t have a full 3 hours, any salt time is better than no salt time. Even an hour will make a difference!
So how do you splay a chicken? Lay the chicken so that it’s legs are facing up. Using a very sharp butcher knife, slice where the legs meet the body, and pop the leg joint so that the legs lay completely flat.
Placed in a piping hot cast-iron skillet at a high heat, you can put this chicken in the oven and relax—you’ve got an hour to kill.
I love to serve this with cannellini beans and escarole, one of my favorite go-to side dishes/meal-in-itself since it’s so good. I could seriously just eat that with bread for dinner.
But I’ve also served this chicken with roasted potatoes, orzo, quinoa, farro—you name it. What doesn’t go with delicious roast chicken?
With the leftovers, I like to make a big batch of chicken salad and eat it throughout the week.
This is a hands-down staple in my house. I see myself relying on this tried-and-true roast chicken for years to come—it never disappoints. I wonder if it would work with a turkey…
Simple Cast Iron Roast Chicken
- 4-5 lb whole chicken, neck and giblets removed
- 1 lemon, halved
- 1 onion, halved
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt + pepper
- herbs optional
- Rub salt all over chicken and let it sit uncovered in the fridge for 3 hours.
- Remove chicken from fridge and splay it. Place lemon, onion and herbs inside the chicken.
- Add cracked pepper all over chicken.
- Place cast iron in oven and heat at 500° for 45 minutes.
- Carefully and quickly, open oven door to slide out rack with cast iron on it. Place chicken, facing up, onto cast iron. Drizzle oil over the top.
- Roast for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, turn heat down to 450° and cook for another 30 minutes*, or until meat registers 165°. This would be the time to pop in those roasted potatoes in the oven! Need a recipe for perfect roasted potatoes? Head here.
*If your chicken is smaller or larger than 4-5 lbs, adjust cooking time at 450° .