This cast iron spatchcock chicken is my favorite weeknight chicken staple! The meat is juicy, the skin is crispy and golden, and the lemon garlic pan sauce is perfect.
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Guys, y’all loved my spatchcock turkey for Thanksgiving last year. It changed lives. It changed tradition. So obviously, I needed to bring you a spatchcocked chicken recipe.
Just like the turkey recipe, a spatchcocked chicken cooks in half the time of a regular, whole chicken recipe, and is even juicier and more flavorful than a classic roast bird recipe.
Why spatchcocking is way better
Because the chicken is spatchcocked, which is taking out the spine and flattening out the chicken, all of the skin is exposed to the heat of the oven, resulting in super crispy skin. Which we all know is the true joy of eating roasted chicken.
It also allows the white meat and dark meat to be on the same level, so the breasts don’t dry out faster than the thighs can cook, which is common in your usual whole roasted chicken.
And when it’s time to eat, it’s so easy to carve and serve up.
How to spatchcock a chicken
Cutting out the spine of the chicken sounds scary and hard, but it’s not. Especially with a sharp pair of poultry or kitchen shears, you can easily (and carefully!) cut through the chicken to remove its backbone.
After removing the backbone, flip the bird over so it’s breast-side up and use the heel of your pam to crack the breastbone so the breasts now lay flat. Flip the thighs out so they lay with the skin up and are flat as well.
Another great thing about spatchcocking a chicken is that all the meat is easily accessible. You can rub every part of the chicken down with a dry rub, seasonings, butter, or kosher salt if you want to dry brine for a few hours or overnight. But the exposure to the seasoning along with the skin exposure to the oven and the meat leads to an overall more flavorful bird.
You see why spatchcocked chicken is the king of roasted chicken?
How to roast chicken in a cast-iron skillet or pan
I love a whole chicken, it’s like a blank canvas. You can make it as complex or as simple as you want. This isn’t some ‘salt and pepper’ recipe with a drizzle of oil and a sprig of rosemary, hoping for impactful flavor and crispy skin.
It’s an easy, flavorful roast chicken on a bed of sliced yellow onions, baby potatoes, garlic, herbs, and lemon, which all makes the best pan sauce. Seriously, I love a great lemon chicken recipe, and I love being able to enjoy a great crispy-skinned roasted chicken, this brings the best of both worlds.
You’ll need a large cast-iron skillet, at least a 12-inch pan, or another high heat oven-safe pan so that all the ingredients and the entire spatchcocked chicken fit with space to breathe (and not end up with a huge mess in the oven…or a grease fire). And if you haven’t invested in a cast-iron skillet, I highly suggest you do. It’s one of the best and most inexpensive long-lasting pieces of kitchen equipment you’ll ever have.
- A whole 4-pound chicken. A roaster, broiler, or fryer chicken can be used interchangeably.
- Garlic cloves and a whole head of garlic. The whole head is roasted beneath the chicken and in all the flavor-boosters in the bed of potatoes, onions, lemons, herbs, and spices. The cloves themselves are so good to spread on bread or use in a flavorful stock if you want.
- Herbs. Fresh thyme, rosemary, and parsley are rubbed not on the skin, but on the meat side of the spatchcocked chicken and sprigs of rosemary and thyme are in the pan to help flavor the pan sauce.
- Yellow Onions. If you ever want guests to be telling you that what you’re cooking smells amazing cook up some onions and garlic. If you want to seem like you put a ton of effort into cooking something, onions and garlic will do it.
- Lemons. We’re not only using the juice of the lemons, but we are using the zest. Use a vegetable peeler to peel thick strips of the lemon peel for the pan sauce, and juice them well. Oh, and using a microplane or grater to get small zest to rub on the chicken. I don’t like using lemon slices or the whole fruit to cook with since the pith (the white part under the skin) is extremely bitter and will give your sauce a bitter flavor. The zest itself has oils in it, which is where ‘real’ lemon flavor actually is. Seriously!
- Olive oil. I also use clarified butter when I have it in the fridge. But oil is important for crispy skin. Dry skin + oil in heat = crisp, golden-brown skin. But don’t use the good extra-virgin stuff that you spent a fortune on; use a ‘light’ or ‘regular’ olive oil. The EVOO has a very low smoke point and will burn all over your chicken. No bueno.
- Good chicken stock. Because we can’t have sauce without some liquid.
- The usual suspects: kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Because seasoning. Always season your food, y’all.
Dry the skin of the spatchcock chicken, rub it down with oil, salt and pepper, and the grated lemon zest, then rub the fleshy underside with chopped rosemary, thyme, parsley, minced garlic, and more salt and pepper. Place it in a cast-iron skillet on the bed of herb sprigs, potatoes, lemon zest strips, onions, and the halved garlic head, then throw that into a very hot oven for 55-60 minutes until the skin is golden brown and gorgeous, honey.
Let rest for 10-15 minutes on a plate, spoon up the potatoes and put them into a serving dish, then butcher and serve with all the good sides after reducing the pan sauce. I’m a sucker for baked mac and cheese with roasted chicken, it’s my weakness. Along with a little sweet potato casserole…I’m getting hungry thinking about it!
Looking for more chicken recipes? Try these out!
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- 1 (4 pound) whole chicken, spatchcocked
- 1/4 cup regular olive oil
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
- Zest of 1 lemon, grated
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Zest of 1 lemon, in thick strips
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 medium yellow onion, sliced in 1/4 inch slices
- 1 garlic head, cut in half horizontally
- 1 lb baby potatoes, sliced in half
- 1/2 cup chicken stock or broth, low sodium
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (180°C).
- Thoroughly pat the chicken's skin dry all with a paper towel and brush the skin generously with olive oil. Generously sprinkle about 1 tbsp of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper, and the grated lemon zest over the skin-side of the chicken.
- Flip over and season the flesh side with the minced garlic, finely chopped parsley, thyme, and rosemary, along with the rest of the salt and black pepper.
- Place the lemon peel slices, onion slices, lemon juice, herb sprigs, baby potatoes, and garlic head in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Place the chicken flat on top, skin-side up.
- Roast the chicken for 50-55 minutes, turning halfway through for even cooking, until the skin is deeply golden brown. Once done, remove from the oven.
- Take the chicken from the cast iron pan and place it on a clean cutting board. Remove the potatoes from the pan as well with a slotted spoon to a serving plate. Let chicken rest for 10-15 minutes to redistribute juices.
- While chicken is resting, put the skillet over medium heat and whisk in the chicken stock. Let simmer and reduce until the pan sauce thickens.
- Remove the sprigs of herbs, lemon zest strips, and the head of garlic (which can be saved to help make an awesome stock or broth).
- Carve the chicken on the cutting board and serve with potatoes and pan sauce.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 157Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 1474mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 2gSugar: 5gProtein: 5g
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.