Roasted chicken is actually one of my favourite things to make and eat. Maybe this sounds crazy, but I'll say it anyways, I think roasted chicken may just be one of the best foods you can eat. Yes, even over a steak or another fancy cut of meat, so long as its cooked right. It has this unique ability to transform into almost anything you want. Think of how many different ways you can prepare chicken, it's truly something special. And roasting a whole chicken kind of takes the cake in my opinion. This roast chicken in a cast iron skillet is definitely the ultimate way to cook chicken.
If you have the time, I highly suggest brining it beforehand. Usually, I just do a dry brine with lots of kosher salt all over it, because its way less messy than a liquid brine.
For each pound of chicken, you will want to use about 1/2 tsp kosher salt. This may seem like a lot, but trust me you need it.
How do you dry brine? Simple, you salt the whole chicken. You need to really get in there with the chicken and salt very well in all the nooks and crannies. And then place it in your fridge, uncovered for up to 24 hours. If you don't have this much time, you could dry brine it for less, even as little as one hour. You can see what it looks like (photo above) after being in the fridge overnight.
Why dry brine? By using salt all over the chicken, you really draw out a lot of moisture, and by placing it in the fridge overnight, you increase that even more. The reason you want your bird so dry is that it will lead to crispier skin. Just remember, there is no need to go beyond the 24 hours, in fact, it isn't recommended.
The method I use to cook a whole chicken is basically putting the whole bird in a cast iron pan and into the oven. From there, the oven does all the work! The hardest part is figuring out the spices and herbs you want to use. Well, actually the hardest part is waiting for it to be cooked so you can eat it. I'd risk burning my mouth on eating the chicken right out of the skillet, it's that good. Out of all the ways I've tried cooking a whole chicken, nothing tastes better than this cast iron method. The cast iron pan I use is this one from Le Creuset.
I specifically like to roast a chicken in a cast iron skillet because it makes clean up a breeze. Plus, I think a cast iron skillet may just be one of the most essential pieces of cookware you can have. I bought mine about 5 years ago, and it's seriously changed my life. A cast iron allows you to get that crispy skin you want, without having to use very much oil at all. I find that a little oil does help, just to ensure nothing sticks to the pan. Plus, most people have access to a cast iron pan more so than a roasting tray which isn't generally used a lot. I sure don't have room for one in my condo. Did I mention how much easier the clean up is afterwards?!
For this roast chicken, I kept the spices really simple. I only used garlic cloves, fresh thyme and salt. But, I also used a fair bit of butter, with more fresh thyme and some anchovies. I got the anchovy butter idea from my favourite cookbook, Dining In, written by Alison Roman. Seriously, this woman is my girl crush. She loves some anchovies and I do too, so when I saw that she roasted a whole chicken with an anchovy butter, I knew I had to as well. It doesn't disappoint! If you're really freaked out by anchovies, you can leave them out, but you don't taste them, they just add a salty flavour.
Plus, anchovies are a nutritional powerhouse! They are packed with lots of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and because they are so small, they contain much less mercury and other toxins than larger fish. Also, they're much more sustainable too!
Depending on the size and the temperature you cook your whole chicken for, the cooking time can vary somewhat. For a 3 1/2 to 4 lb. chicken, aim for about 50-55 minutes on average at around 375ºF to 425ºF.
For this roast chicken in a cast iron skillet, I first cooked it at 425ºF for 30 minutes and then reduced the temperature to 350ºF for the remaining 25 to 30 minutes. By reducing the temperature, you can help reduce the chance that the chicken breast will get dried out. I find that when you roast it at a high heat for the whole time, the chicken ends up getting very crispy, but also dried out.
What can't you do with roasted chicken?! Use this chicken anywhere or anytime you wish. I like shredding it and using it in salads, tacos, in a sandwich, in soup, or just eating it as is the next day. Depending on what types of flavours and herbs you use on your roast chicken, you can decide how best you want to serve it over the next few days.
Typically, I keep my leftover chicken in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days.
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