Faster Roasted Chicken

Minimalist roast chicken 1

Sometimes I procrastinate.

Shocking, I know. I’m doing it now. I should be writing a story about French cooking, and preparing for a foodstyling gig tomorrow, and I have overflowing shoeboxes of papers to file beside be, and instead I’m flipping through old New York Times articles and calling it research. But it has paid off, I think: I came across this old (13 years!) Mark Bittman story about roasting an entire chicken in 30 minutes. Without use of an 800-degree pizza oven.

And the practical side of my brain convinces me that I really should make note of this now, lest I forget, or lose track of what it was that grabbed my attention in the first place, and never get the life-changing opportunity to learn how to almost flash-roast a chicken. Besides, I always love new ways to use a cast iron skillet.

In the fall of 1999, Mark Bittman tipped us off to his little secret: kick-start your chicken by roasting it in a preheated cast iron skillet. (I was so preoccupied with what might happen to computers and grocery store stock and credit card debt when the new millennium clicked over that I missed it.) Preheating the skillet along with the oven while you prep your chicken allows the bottom of the bird to begin to cook at the same time the top does. It’s one of those simple things you wonder how you never thought of.

Minimalist roast chicken 5

I bought two identical chickens, each weighing in at 1.7kg. I slid a skillet into the oven and turned it on, then patted each down and rubbed them with oil, salt and pepper. Each got a few sprigs of thyme.

Minimalist roast chicken 2

One went into the hot skillet, the other into a regular cake pan. (Both untrussed – to allow the heat to circulate better.) I put them in at the same time, into the same oven, and set the timer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes they weren’t quite done; the skillet chicken was at 140F while the cake pan chicken was only 120F. I slid them back in for 15 minutes, after which the chicken in the preheated skillet was done – the other wasn’t; its juices were still running red. So it worked – roasting a chicken this way cuts your cooking time about in half. (The high temperature doesn’t hurt, either.)

Minimalist roast chicken 3

Really, you don’t need a recipe for this – just to know that a preheated pan will give you a head start no matter what method you follow.

Minimalist roast chicken 4

Minimalist roast chicken 1
Minimalist roast chicken 1

Faster Roasted Chicken from the Minimalist

Recipe link


January 22, 2013


1 whole chicken, 3-4 lbs.

canola or olive oil

salt and pepper

half a lemon and/or a handful of fresh herbs (optional)


1Place a heavy, oven-safe (cast iron is ideal) skillet in the oven and preheat it to 450F. (Alternatively, place the skillet over the burner to heat up as you preheat the oven.)

2Pat your chicken dry with paper towel, drizzle it with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. If you like, tuck half a lemon and/or some fresh herbs in the cavity.

3Carefully place the chicken in the hot skillet, breast-side up, and roast for 30 minutes. Don't open the door to check on it. After 30 minutes the juices should run clear and the joints should wiggle in their sockets; if you have a meat thermometer, it should read 155F when poked into the meatiest part of the thigh. If not, pop back into the oven for 15 minutes. Cover and let rest for 5-10 minutes (the temperature will continue to climb a few degrees).

4 Eat.


About Julie

15 comments on “Faster Roasted Chicken

  1. CathyH
    January 22, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Brilliant! As usual.

  2. DanaNYC
    January 22, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    The chickens look a bit anemic. How did they taste?

    • JulieVR
      January 22, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      Just ate – tasted great!

  3. anne
    January 22, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    BRILLIANT!! I would have missed this recipe before the millennium as well–the whole Y2K thing freaked. me. out! anne

  4. Avery
    January 22, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Julie, I did something just like this, yesterday! It’s recently become my new favourite way to roast a chicken. I follow the “Zuni Chicken” method – heat cast iron pan in a 475 degree oven, add chicken and roast for 25 mins, flip it, roast for 15, flip and crisp up for 10. Slightly more “effort” than simply leaving the chicken alone, but SO GOOD!

  5. Carolyn
    January 23, 2013 at 6:12 am

    Awesome! Thanks for doing the experiment and proving this does work!

  6. JulieVR
    January 23, 2013 at 7:58 am

    Avery – I think I like that even better! That’s next on my chicken bucket list! Bucket of chicken list?

  7. Chantal
    January 23, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I do it Avery’s way as well. We love it. I will admit that I buy St Hubert’s packet gravy and we pretend we are at my home town St Hubert. I miss that place.

  8. Lesley
    January 23, 2013 at 10:06 am

    This looks great, but only 155 F? Both U.S. and Canadian government food safety sites recommend a minimum 165 F for poultry pieces… Canada says 185 F for whole. I always cook my chicken to 180 or so.

  9. Laurie from Burnaby
    January 23, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    I cook chicken in a cast iron skillet in the oven at 180C until the juices run clear. It’s very juicy and the skin is dark brown and crispy. I do potatoes and large pieces of carrot in the skillet with the chicken, adding herbs and lemon in the cavity which flavours everything. It takes about 3/4 of an hour.
    If I cooked my chicken until the inside was that hot, Lesley, then the meat is dried. It comes up when it’s resting.

  10. kickpleat
    January 23, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    I’m so going to try this. Love the idea of pre-heating a cast iron pan. Yum.

  11. Joanne
    January 23, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    That reading is 160, not 155 and it would climb while resting. Julie, the next time you do a chicken, could you please show us exactly where to stick that thermometer? I often think it doesn’t go down far enough in the fat part of the leg (afraid to touch bone.)

  12. Julie
    January 23, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Hey! Sorry, I was at an all day photo shoot without internet. Yes, it was at 160, and Joanne is right, the temperature climbs 5-10 degrees as it rests. Generally I don’t use a meat thermometer when I roast chickens.. I gauge by the juices and how wiggly the joints are, and I just have a feel for it. I poked it in out of curiosity about the difference in temperature between the two. I meant to explain more fully, but I was trying to get this up before we ate. Silly! And yes, normally I’d give my chicken a little more time to crisp up. Interesting experiment though! I can’t wait to try the Zuni method!

  13. Kathy
    January 24, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Tried it…LOVED it! Even looked almost as good as this one!

  14. Stepp
    February 3, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Try spatchcocking the chicken, cutting the backbone out and flattening the bird and put it in the skillet so the thighs touch first. Melissa Clark wrote about this in the New York Times in 2012, I think. It’s about my favorite way and takes about 30 minutes.

    Will try the Zuni, too, but spatchcocked. Easier to turn over.

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