Do y’all really need another roast chicken recipe?? Well, if you ask me, you absolutely need this one because the Bon Appétit Cast-Iron Roast Chicken has been timelessly tested and optimized to cut out all of those annoying steps that folks (including myself at times) swear are crucial. No overnight salting (although you can, and I did), no brining, air-drying, temperature changes, or complicated trussing, just a simple roasted chicken.
And let’s face it, nothing compares to cast iron! The material’s heat-retention qualities can’t be matched by any tempered glass or even stainless-steel vessels. Heating the skillet in the oven first means the bottom of your bird starts to sizzle and brown as soon as it goes in—no flipping required and no unappealing pale, flabby underside. (Just make sure to pat dry the underside thoroughly before placing in the hot skillet.)
Another brilliant aspect of this technique is making a built-in side dish. Why wouldn’t you throw some veggies around your bird while it roasts? You’ve got a hot pan that’s about to be full of sizzling schmaltz just begging to bathe a mosaic of squash and onions with tons of chicken-y flavor. While Bon Appétit offered several options, we made the Cast-Iron Roast Chicken with Winter Squash, Red Onions, and Pancetta.
Ahem, size does matter. Now is not the time for a behemoth oven stuffer, nor do you want a petite poussin. A 3 1/2- to 4-pounder will roast the breasts to perfection and all of the dark meat will be mouth-wateringly done too.
I liken a roast chicken to an artist’s blank canvas. As with color to a plain background, nothing changes the flavor of a roasted bird as quickly and dramatically as a throw-together dry rub*. Mix together spices. Rub on chicken. Done. And just wait for the heady aroma of toasty spices and crispy skin to start wafting out of the oven… You will be drooling…
We’ve all heard endless theories about how to season a chicken: submerge in a brine, salt 24 hours ahead and let it dry, wrap in seaweed, etc. But the only true non-negotiables are (a) being generous with the kosher salt inside and out, and (b) letting the chicken sit out for at least an hour before cooking, which gives the seasoning time to work it’s magic deep into the meat. Although not necessary, I salted ours the night prior and let it sit in the fridge uncovered, taking it out an hour prior to cooking, then oiled it and added the dry rub.
Any poultry recipe worth it’s drumstick will note that a chicken needs to rest post-roast, pre-carving. So sit back with a glass of wine and wait a full 20 to 45 minutes to yield a bird that reabsorbs it’s juices. No, it won’t get cold, it will just be the juiciest bird you’ve ever tasted. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and just simply roast the chicken in a cast-iron skillet…
Now just a mention on the differences between delicata and kabocha squash—both of which are an option here.
Aliases: Japanese Pumpkin, Kent Pumpkin Characteristics: The squat, green kabocha—the Japanese word for squash—has a nutty, earthy flavor with just a touch of sweetness. It’s similar in shape and size to a buttercup squash, but the base points out and not in. (There is also a red kabocha.)
Aliases: Sweet Potato Squash, Bohemian Squash Characteristics: This particular winter squash, with its pale yellow shading, most closely resembles its summer squash cousins. The thin skin is edible (really!), but also more susceptible to bruises and rot. When cooked, the delicata has a consistency similar to that of a sweet potato—creamy and soft—although the flavoring is a bit more earthy.
Cast-Iron Roast Chicken with Winter Squash, Red Onions, and Pancetta
1 3½–4-pound whole chicken
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 red onions, cut into wedges through root end
2 pounds winter squash (such as delicata or kabocha), cut into 1½-inch-thick wedges or 1/2″ rounds, seeds removed, and each round cut in half
1½ ounces pancetta, chopped into ¼-inch pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
*Optional Dry Rub: Coarsely grind 1 tablespoon coriander seeds with 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a small bowl and mix in 1 teaspoon mustard powder.
Two other dry rub possibilities are:
- 1 Tbsp. fennel seed ground with 1 tsp. black peppercorns
- 2 Tbsp. curry powder mixed with 1 tsp. garlic powder
- Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season generously with salt, inside and out. (Use 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt per lb.) Tie legs together with kitchen twine. Let sit 1 hour to allow salt to penetrate, or chill, uncovered, up to 1 day ahead.
- Place a rack in upper third of oven and set a 12″ cast-iron skillet (or 3-qt. enameled cast-iron baking dish) on rack. Preheat oven to 425°.
- Take chicken out of fridge.
- Meanwhile, toss onions, squash, pancetta, and 2 Tbsp. oil in a large bowl to coat; season with salt and pepper.
I sliced rounds to a thinner 1/2″, then scooped out the seeds, and cut the rounds in half to better fit the skillet.
- Once oven reaches temperature, pat chicken dry with paper towels (especially the underside) and lightly coat with half of remaining 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle with dry rub, if using. Drizzle remaining oil into hot skillet (this helps keep the chicken from sticking and tearing the skin.) Place chicken in the center of skillet and arrange squash mixture around.
- Roast until vegetables are golden brown and tender and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breasts registers 155°, 50–60 minutes (temperature will climb to 165° as chicken rests.) Let chicken rest in skillet at least 20 minutes and up to 45 minutes. If desired, baste some of the juices over the chicken and veggies while it rests.
- Transfer chicken to a cutting board and carve. Serve with vegetables.
Do not carve until the bird has rested for at least 20 minutes.
Adapted recipe from Chris Morocco from Bon Appétit
I can’t wait to hear how yours turns out…