Cast Iron

Best Roast Chicken With Garlic & Herby Pan Sauce

October  2, 2013
11 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

I may have mentioned once or twice that my daughter likes chicken. Okay, it goes beyond like–it's more of a deep-seated obsession. (She asks for it at pretty much every meal.) Clara particularly enjoys eating it off the bone, cave-baby style. It's become quite the challenge to see how many different ways I can prepare chicken, but once a week I roast a bird for the whole family–we get several meals out of it, and because we're devoted parents, we let Clara have both drumsticks.

Sometimes it feels like there are as many roast chicken recipes out there as there are snowflakes; and no matter how great your favorite is, it's nice to switch it up every now and then. I tend to fiercely embrace a particular technique, then get bored after about six months and move onto the next. It's a little like serial dating.

Thanks to Kim Foster's side-splittingly funny new book, Sharp Knives, Boiling Oil: My Year of Dangerous Cooking with Four-Year-Olds, I've discovered a method that just may convince me to settle down. Aside from the technique itself, which is simple and great, I love Kim's intro to the recipe: she describes her family's weekly roast chicken ritual, which involves hacking up the cooked bird and serving it "in brutally unkempt bites and chunks on a big board," then encouraging everyone use their fingers to dredge the chicken chunks in a delicious pan sauce before devouring them. In her words, "it's a joyful, crispy, hot mess."

"I want a family chicken ritual like that!" I thought when I read it.

Kim's roasting technique is inspired by Thomas Keller's roast chicken (blistering heat, lots of olive oil and salt, and that's pretty much it) and yields an incredibly juicy, tender bird with impossibly crisp skin. But her garlic and herb pan sauce is what really makes this recipe for me. Even if you're convinced your way of making roast chicken is the only way, I strongly urge you to try Kim's. You won't regret it. —Merrill Stubbs

What You'll Need
  • 1 3 to 4 pound chicken, preferably organic or free-range, brought to room temperature
  • 1 pinch Kosher salt (and pepper if you'd like)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 large sprigs of thyme
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  1. Heat the oven to 480° F. Pat the chicken dry inside and out (if you want an extra crispy skin, leave the raw chicken in the fridge uncovered overnight after you've patted it dry and then bring it to room temperature).
  2. Put the chicken on a board or a large platter and generously season the inside of the bird with salt and pepper if you're using it. Drizzle a little olive oil in the cavity as well.
  3. Drizzle the rest of the oil over the chicken, and rub it all over so that it's evenly coated. Salt the chicken well all over, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies.
  4. Transfer the chicken to an enameled cast iron pan or a heavy roasting pan just big enough to hold it and put it in the oven. Don't open the door for at least 45 minutes, when you can start to test it for doneness. (The chicken is cooked when you pierce the thickest part of the thigh with a sharp knife, and the juices run clear.) Let the chicken rest on a carving board while you make the pan sauce.
  5. To make the sauce, put the roasting pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the butter to the drippings in the pan, and once it melts add the thyme and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, for about a minute.
  6. Add the wine to the pan and scrape up all the brown bits with a wooden spoon, stirring them into the sauce. Let the wine cook down for one to two minutes.
  7. Add a cup of boiling water, stir well, and let the sauce reduce for about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary (if you've salted your chicken enough, this probably won't be necessary).
  8. Cut the chicken into pieces and serve with the warm pan sauce in a bowl nearby for dipping.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Yayita
  • Katie Stephenson
    Katie Stephenson
  • crystelle
  • AdventureGirl
  • Carol Berger
    Carol Berger

74 Reviews

Yayita February 19, 2017
Great and relative simple recipe to roast a chicken. This was my second time roasting a bird, first time was a turkey for last year's thanksgiving and this was my first chicken. I honestly thought it was going to be harder and I was pleasantly surprised. I followed the recipe for the most part but did make a few minor adjustments based on some of the comments I read:

I made sure to use just enough olive oil to coat my chicken and not the prescribed 1/3 cup as instructed. I ended up using about 3 tablespoons for a 3 lb bird. Based on what others have commented, this may have made the difference between a minor oven cleanup and a major one. As it was pointed out that excess olive oil would pool down and cause more oil splatters. It also helped me that used a Dutch oven instead of a cast iron since the Dutch oven encased most of the bird (with the exception of the top).
The instructions doesn't list how much salt and pepper to use so I went with another comment's advice of 3/4 teaspoon per pound, and this worked just fine :) I added enough black pepper so that it looked like an equal mixture of both.
I read two comments where it's mentioned that this recipe is similar to Zuni chicken (which has a 2-3 day dry brine) and to Ruhlman's roast chicken (which has you leave out the chicken for an hour after salting it). Since I had to still unfreeze my bird in the morning, I decided to follow Ruhlman's roast chicken instruction to dry brine the bird for one hour. I don't know how much of a difference this made honestly but I figured it wouldn't hurt.

A couple of other observations I wanted to make, the bird was so good by itself that the pan sauce was not even touched. But I couldn't let the pan dripping go to waste so I am planning on incorporating it into some smashed potatoes. Also, the pan dripping naturally had a high fat content in ir so if you can skim some of the fat out before adding the butter you will be better off, unless you like it in that manner. And lastly, if you have never carved a bird definitely check out Food52's instructions, they were a life saver for me:
Leah December 8, 2016
Has anyone tried it was chicken pieces instead of a whole chicken. If so how did that work out.
AdventureGirl December 9, 2016
Yes. I've made it to use up freezer items (thighs and breasts). Was delicious both times.
Mary November 9, 2016
I do not know why it has taken me so long to try this recipe. We love roasted chicken and this will now be our go to recipe. THANK YOU!
Katie S. October 24, 2015
Oops, don't make the sauce on the stove if you are using pyrex...
crystelle October 12, 2015
Made this recipe last night for the family - WHAT A HIT! Absolutely delicious! And very easy. Thank you for this gem!
M.W. December 30, 2014
Isn't it a cardinal rule to avoid making pan sauces in cast iron? Not to mention anything acidic (such as wine). This makes me skeptical about this recipe.
Merrill S. December 30, 2014
You're right about the acid; the recipe should say enameled cast iron pan, which is what I use. I will correct this now.
M.W. December 31, 2014
Merrill -- I ended up using my cast iron skillet and it turned out really well. I even gambled on the pan sauce, which didn't taste metallic or damage the pan. In the future I'll probably use my enameled cast iron, but this worked out much better than expected. I stuffed the cavity with fennel fronds, and I rested the chicken atop sweet potato rounds. Added fresh sage to the pan sauce. A full cup of boiling water felt a little excessive so I'd reduce it to half or 3/4 next time, but the chicken was moist and flavorful, with crispy skin.
dawn R. May 19, 2015
Wow ,she did say to use an enameled case iron pan!! Why be so damn negative.Life is to short
Kat October 22, 2015
If you'd read Merrill's response to Malerie before commenting so rudely, you would know that Merrill forgot to mention the enameled part and after Malerie's question, she corrected the recipe. Take it easy.
M.W. October 24, 2015
Thank you, Kat. If only people would read before spewing randomly and unhelpfully. It was actually quite a positive interaction!
AdventureGirl November 27, 2014
made this recipe today. it was delicious and so easy; used champagne as opposed to white wine.
ghainskom November 27, 2014
The chicken was good, the sauce on the salty side. Nice recipe.
tammie August 24, 2014
This was the best roast chicken ever. Thanks for the recipe! I was afraid it would be dry, but it was so juicy!!!!!
Booker February 27, 2014
what is the difference in Kosher salt and pink Himalayan salt? Can Himalayan salt be used in place of Kosher salt and maintain the same level of quality and flavor?
carol S. January 19, 2014
maybe this will help with the mess: cover the chicken very loosely with foil for the first 15 minutes, and maybe lower the temp about 20 degrees.

the result might be less smoke - i have asthma and sympathize, and love really good roasted chicken.

of course, using a kosher chicken means no brining!
Turbeville G. January 19, 2014
Covering it will cause the skin to steam. I recommend only cooking this high with a clean oven and pour off the fat. I've made dozens of chickens at 475F and smoke is rarely an issue.
carol S. January 19, 2014
well, if you only cover it for 15 to 20 minutes, it won't steam, but it will help the cooking process along with a bit less mess. you will still get a great skin!
BurghKitchen January 13, 2014
I love roast chicken and I used this method EXCEPT I cook it vertical on my ceramic roaster. Never a soggy side, crispy skin all around and such a juicy bird. My rule of thumb has always been 15 minutes/pound plus 15 minutes for the cook at 350. No need to smoke you out of house and home to get a crispy skin.
Zootertoot January 9, 2014
Made this for dinner...skipped the Olive oil and used butter. Rubbed about 3TBS butter mixed with thyme under the skin and a bit over the top, salted it and chucked it in a cast iron pan with some russet spuds cut into spears. There was some smoke, but I turned down the heat after 35 minutes, and cooked for an extra 15-20 mins. Was delish! Oh, and I tucked 2 small lemons (cut in halves) inside for flavor & moistened.
Plunkett C. January 4, 2014
This chicken was good, but it smoked out my entire house! Would not make this again, however; the sauce recipe was nice and I will make this again. My first disappointment with a recipe from food52
Turbeville G. December 29, 2013
I just made this sauce for dinner to serve with Zuni roast chicken, basically the same recipe roasted at 450-475F with a 3 day dry brine. It's A-mazing! I also made gravy and it wasn't touched. This sauce will definitely be showing up on the table pretty often. Thanks! So simple, classic and delicious.
burns W. December 29, 2013
a 3 day brine! What do you find is the difference between an hour/a day/3 days??
Turbeville G. December 29, 2013
A universe. I was skeptical too but the Zuni chicken method is the best roast chicken I've ever had. Here's a link to the recipe which is usually served with an equally delicious bread salad. It's a dry brine - 3/4 tsp per lb of chicken on the skin, let sit uncovered in the fridge for 1 to 3 days but I try to do at least 2 days.
burns W. December 30, 2013
It looks like some people are having this turn out excellently and some are having a splatter fest in the oven. I wonder what is happening? I wonder if the splatterfests are using chicken where perhaps the skin is not fully intact??? Have any of you splatterfest experiencers done any forensics on what might have happened? The Zuni method described elsewhere also makes note of visually monitoring the bird and turning the oven down if it gets too intense.
exit1a October 2, 2015
Burns - my guess is that the quantity of oil is to blame. I had no problems, and a delightful result, but I didn't use 1/3 cup of oil - I only used what I needed to coat interior and exterior of the bird. Excess would pool in the bottom of the pan and wind up splattering and smoking.
Carol B. December 23, 2013
World's messiest chicken recipe! Do NOT make this recipes if you or someone in your house has COPD. Made it last night. Then cleaned oven. Today I'm still airing out the entire house.
Eileen December 8, 2013
I made this tonight for Sunday supper. I had 4.75 pound organic chicken. It roasted for 50 minutes in a cast iron pan and it came out perfectly. Very juicy with crisp skin. Instead of water I used organic chicken stock. Served with brown rice and roasted butternut squash. Everyone loved it. The pan sauce made it! Lovely recipe. Thanks for sharing.
BurgeoningBaker December 5, 2013
I enjoyed this chicken but it covered my oven in grease and fat. Any way to prevent that from happening?
Ashley M. December 6, 2013
This is just what happens when you cook chickens like this. When I cook a small chicken using the Zuni method - with no added fat - I still get fat spatterings in my oven. Honestly, the most you can do is line whatever you can with aluminum foil, which still won't prevent what's coming off the very top of the bird. You can even line the rack the bird is on with aluminum foil, and have it come up in a kind of square "U" shape around the sides of your oven to help a little. I usually just go ahead and run the self-clean function on my oven for two hours or while we're sleeping that night if it's really bad.
BurgeoningBaker December 9, 2013
You don't worry about it catching fire?
Ashley M. December 9, 2013
Nope. Maybe I should but I don't... It hasn't happened yet.
Alice G. November 1, 2013
This is a prime example of how simple is best. I tried this with just a bone in breast and it was superb. Next time I have company, I just might have to pull out this recipe. Thank you, Merril!
Kate J. October 23, 2013
I've now made this recipe twice. The result is absolutely first-rate and I'm so pleased to have found it. This is my query: The whole family (including the cat) is bothered by the other results -- a house full of fumes (that overhead fans can barely ameliorate) and an oven that's so grimy afterwards a full clean is required. It's a real stinker all the way around. I'd be so keen to hear any advice about this. Normally I'd put some water in the pan; but I realize the whole point is to keep the oven closed and to dry the chicken out. Thoughts?