Easy Cast Iron Roast Chicken

Juicy on the inside, crispy on the outside, this easy cast iron roast chicken recipe is the BEST! The secret is in the dry brine. All you need is salt, pepper, a cast iron pan, and some space in the fridge to let it rest overnight. Simple and full of flavor, it makes the perfect dinner any day of the week.

overhead of juicy cast iron roast chicken in cast iron pan

Maximum flavor, minimal effort, and the crispiest skin of all time — let me introduce you to the best (and easiest!) cast iron roast chicken. It’s tender and juicy on the inside, golden and crispy on the outside, and requires just three ingredients: a whole chicken, salt, and pepper. 

Anything else is extra — and if you’re like me, anything extra these days feels completely and utterly unnecessary. 

The secret to this tender, crispy chicken is the dry brine — which is basically a fancy term for a salt and pepper rub and letting the bird rest in the refrigerator overnight before roasting.

No basting with melted butter or cavity stuffing required.

Trust me on this one. I’ve been making cast iron roast chicken this way for eight years now and it’s never once disappointed. It’s recently become one of our favorite, no-fuss family dinners.

Whether you serve it with roasted veggies and red potatoes, or frozen peas and tater tots, you’re going to love this easy cast iron roast chicken.

closeup of juicy cast iron roast chicken in cast iron pan

Cast Iron Roast Chicken Recipe Ingredients

This easy overnight roast chicken recipe requires just three ingredients: 

  • Whole chicken
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

To infuse the chicken with extra flavor, you can add any of the following to the dry brine: 

  • Minced or pressed garlic
  • Fresh or dried herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano
  • Lemon or orange zest

How to Roast a Whole Chicken

  1. Get your chicken. A 3 ½ to 4 ½ pound whole chicken works best.
  2. Make the dry brine. In a small bowl, combine 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons kosher salt, ½ to ¾ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper and set aside.
  3. Dry the bird. Remove the giblets inside the chicken’s cavity. Using a paper towel, dry the chicken inside and out by patting it thoroughly. Drying the bird before seasoning and again before roasting will yield crispier skin.
  4. Apply the brine to the chicken and refrigerate. Next, place chicken on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet or shallow roasting pan. I like to use a quarter-sheet with a rack to save space in the refrigerator. Rub the salt and pepper mixture all over the chicken and inside the cavity if any remains. Stretch out the birds wings and legs to allow maximum exposure to air. Loosely cover the chicken with aluminum foil or wax paper and refrigerate overnight (20 hours minimum) or up to 2 days. 
  5. Dry the bird just before roasting. Just before roasting, pat the chicken dry once more with paper towels and tuck the wings under the body to prevent them from burning.
  6. Preheat the cast iron pan in the oven and roast. Once the oven reaches temperature, carefully place the chicken in the pan and roast, uncovered, turning twice to ensure even cooking and maximum crisping.

What to Serve with Roast Chicken

Roast chicken goes well with a number of sides, including:

  • Roasted, steamed, or sauteed vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, squash, or brussels sprouts)
  • Salad
  • Mashed or roasted potatoes
  • Tater tots 
  • Brown or white rice
  • Cauliflower rice, and more!

How to Store Leftover Whole Chicken

  • Pick off all of the remaining meat from the bones and allow it to cool completely.
  • Once cool, transfer leftover cooked chicken to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. 
  • If making a homemade chicken broth, leftover chicken bones, skin, and giblets can be stored in a separate airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. 

How to Freeze Leftover Roast Chicken

Allow chicken to cool completely before freezing and break larger chunks into smaller, more uniform pieces. Doing this will reduce defrosting time and ensure chicken defrosts more evenly. 

Transfer cooled, cooked chicken to an airtight freezer bag (these reusable silicone Stasher bags are our favorites) and press out any extra air when sealing to minimize freezer burn. 

According to the USDA, frozen cooked chicken is best when used within four months of freezing. 

overhead photo of juicy cast iron roast chicken with crispy skin on black metal rack

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I roast the chicken right away?

If you’re pressed for time, yes. Just know the meat won’t be quite as tender and flavorful, nor the skin as crispy as a bird that is dry brined and allowed to rest overnight in the refrigerator. It’s worth the time if you have it!

How does a dry brine work? 

During the process of dry brining, salt draws juices out of meat through osmosis. As this happens, the salt dissolves into the juices and is then reabsorbed into the meat where it can tenderize tough muscle proteins and enhance flavor prior to roasting. For best results, dry brines should be applied a minimum of 20 hours in advance, or up to 72 hours. 

Do I need to tie the legs together? 

Tying the legs (also known as trussing) can make the bird easier to handle when turning, but it isn’t necessary. The wing tips should be tucked under the body to prevent burning though. 

How much time does it take to roast a chicken? 

It will take anywhere from 40-60 minutes to roast a whole chicken using a high-heat method. 

  • At 450°F, a whole chicken will take about 11-12 minutes per pound
  • At 475°F, factor about 10-11 minutes per pound

The chicken is fully cooked when its skin is golden, juices run clear, and when internal temperature reaches 165˚F, both in the breast and in the center of the thigh. 

When roasting a chicken in cast iron, which side should be up? 

For an evenly cooked and fully browned roast chicken, start with the bird breast-side up and flip it two times during roasting — once after 30 minutes, and again 5-10 minutes before it’s done to re-crisp the breast skin.  

What are the best herbs for roast chicken? 

Rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano add great flavor to roast chicken. Add up to 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs (or 1 teaspoon dried) to the salt and pepper mixture before applying the dry brine.

How long will roast chicken last in the refrigerator?

When stored in an airtight container, leftover chicken will last up to four days in the refrigerator. 

What can I do with leftover roast chicken? 

Leftover chicken can be used up in a number of delicious ways. Here are some ideas:

  • Make a simple chicken salad with mayonnaise, mashed avocado, celery, salt and pepper
  • Use it in a homemade chicken soup
  • Add it to quesadillas, burritos, burrito bowls, or nachos
  • Use the leftover bones and skin to make a delicious bone broth that you can use to make soup, cook with, freeze for later, or sip on a cold day!
closeup of juicy cast iron roast chicken on black metal rack

Other simple chicken recipes you might like:  

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Recipe

Easy Cast Iron Roast Chicken Recipe

This easy Cast Iron Roast Chicken is the BEST! All you need is a whole chicken, salt, pepper, and some space in the fridge to let it rest overnight.

  • Prep Time:
    5 minutes
  • Total Time:
    1 hour
  • Makes:
    6 servings 1x
  • Prep Time:
    5 minutes
  • Total Time:
    1 hour
  • Makes:
    6 servings 1x
  • Ingredients

    • 1, 3 ½ to 4 ½ pound chicken
    • 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

    Instructions

    1. Mix the salt & pepper rub. In a small bowl, combine the kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, as well as fresh herbs and citrus zest, if desired. Set aside. 
    2. Season the chicken (at least one night before roasting). Place the chicken on a wire rack set over a shallow roasting pan. Since this will need to fit into the fridge, I recommend a quarter-sheet pan to save space. Remove the giblets from inside the chicken’s cavity and, using a paper towel, pat the chicken inside and out to dry it thoroughly. (Drying the skin is an essential step for crispy, golden brown skin.) Rub the salt mixture all over the chicken, including the inside cavity. Stretch out the birds arms and legs to allow for maximum air exposure. Loosely cover the chicken with parchment or wax paper and refrigerate for 20-48 hours. 
    3. Preheat the oven and skillet. Remove chicken from the refrigerator 45-60 minutes prior to putting it in the oven. Place a large cast iron skillet or dutch oven onto the center rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 475°F. Heating the skillet in advance will prevent the chicken from sticking and enhance browning.
    4. Roast the chicken. Carefully place the bird breast-side up in the hot skillet, twisting and tucking the wing tips behind the shoulders. Roast for 20 minutes and then adjust the heat if necessary.
      If the skin is lightly to golen brown (this is usually the case), keep the oven at 475°F. If the skin is looking like it will burn, reduce the heat to 450°F, or as low as 425°F.
      After the bird has roasted for about 30 minutes, carefully turn the bird over and roast another 10-20 minutes depending on the size. 5-10 minutes before the chicken is done, flip the bird over once more to re-crisp the breast skin. The chicken is done when both the breast and thigh reach an internal temperature of 165°F. 
    5. Rest & serve. Immediately remove the chicken from the skillet and place onto a cutting board with a well around the edge to catch drippings. Allow the bird to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Leftover roast chicken can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. 

    Notes

    Favorite Equipment

    Ingredient Prep

    • Apply the dry brine and let the chicken rest in the refrigerator at least 20 hours, or up to 48 hours before cooking.

    Little Helpers

    Involving little ones can decrease picky eating and increase appetite and willingness to try new foods. Here are a few ways they can help: 

    • Toddlers: Measure the salt and pepper; help rub it onto the chicken
    • Little Kids: All of the above, plus they can help put it in the oven
    • Big Kids: All of the above, plus challenge them with carving the bird, closely supervised of course. 

    Nutrition Notes

    Nutrition information calculated using a 4 ½ pound bird with 2 teaspoons kosher salt, black pepper and with skin.

    Nutrition

    • Serving Size: 1/6 of chicken with skin
    • Calories: 341
    • Sugar: 0 g
    • Sodium: 387 mg
    • Fat: 21 g
    • Saturated Fat: 6 g
    • Unsaturated Fat: 15 g
    • Trans Fat: 0 g
    • Carbohydrates: 0 g
    • Fiber: 0 g
    • Protein: 38 g
    • Cholesterol: 122 mg

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    overhead photo of juicy easy cast iron roast chicken with crispy skin in cast iron pan with title text overlay

    Author: Elle Penner M.P.H., R.D.

    I'm Elle, Registered Dietitian and minimalism-obsessed mama with a thing for simplifying, particularly when it comes to clutter, calendars, and family meals. Favorite things include carbs, cooking, kid-free workouts, and high-waisted yoga pants.

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