a brilliant bird


Cast Iron Chicken with Pan Gravy

Top on my list of comfort foods is perfectly roasted chicken. There is great umami satisfaction to be had in a beautifully bronzed bird with crispy skin and tender, juicy flesh. But hitting on the right roasting technique can be elusive: believe me, I’ve tested method upon method trying to find a flawless formula. Well, this may very well be my last word on the subject. I daresay this recipe is foolproof. Not only is it ridiculously easy to make, it’s also the fastest chicken I’ve ever roasted. And it truly comes out perfect every time.


A bird, a pan, olive oil, salt and pepper. Can’t get much simpler than that. The key component here is heat, and lots of it. In the interest of keeping things simple, I even skip brining and it isn’t missed at all. The intensity of the hot oven locks in the bird’s moisture and crisps the skin beautifully. Preheat a cast iron skillet in the oven and you’ll begin the roasting process as soon as the chicken hits the pan. Close the door and walk away; 35 to 45 minutes later, you’ll have the most sumptuous poultry you ever tasted. And the effortless pan gravy comes together while the bird rests. This. Is. Brilliant.


It’s all about the bird here, so use the best quality you can buy, preferably organic. To ensure even cooking, bring the chicken to room temperature before you begin. Move a shelf to the top third of your oven and place a 10″ or 12″ cast iron skillet on it. Preheat the oven to 480 degrees. If your oven is not that precise (mine isn’t either), approximate 475 degrees or so–it really won’t matter.


Prepare a ramekin with a mixture of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper–this way, you won’t have to worry about cross-contamination when you handle the bird. Pat the chicken dry inside and out with paper towels. Rub the bird all over with olive oil. Season liberally inside and out with the salt and pepper mixture.


Place the chicken, breast side up, into the hot pan in the oven–it should sizzle. Close the door and set the timer for 35 minutes. There may be some smoke so put on your exhaust fan if you have one.


I’ve tested this recipe many times and am always astounded at how quickly it finishes. More often than not, the bird is ready after 35 minutes. Place an instant read thermometer into the thick part of the thigh–it should read 165 degrees or higher. If not, close the oven door and wait 10 minutes more. When it’s done, carefully place the pan on the stovetop. Move the chicken to a cutting board; cover with foil.


While the chicken rests, use the drippings and beautiful brown bits in the pan to make a gravy. Pour off any excess fat, leaving about a tablespoon of oil. Place the skillet over medium high heat and add the smashed garlic cloves and a sprig or two of rosemary. Sauté for a minute until garlic slightly softens.


Add white wine to deglaze pan, scraping up the bits from the bottom, and reduce by half.


Pour in a cup of hot water and adjust the heat so that the sauce is bubbling vigorously. Reduce for about 3 minutes–the bubbles will help the gravy to emulsify. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Transfer to a bowl, using a strainer to separate the solids from the sauce.


Carve chicken and serve immediately with the pan gravy.


Adapted from Merrill Stubbs/food 52
Serves 4:

1-4 to 4 1/2 pound organic chicken
olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pan Gravy:

2 whole smashed garlic cloves, peeled or not
1 or 2 large rosemary sprigs (other woody herbs work too)
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup hot water


2 thoughts on “a brilliant bird

  1. Zoe

    This looks so good. I found some (relatively) inexpensive organic small chickens, so I am going to try this tonight. 🙂 Thanks for the recipe.