Cast Iron Roasted Butterflied Chicken

Cast Iron Roasted Butterflied Chicken

Cast Iron Roasted Butterflied Chicken

Judy Rodgers had the courage of her convictions and the guts to keep things simple.
David Tanis

This post is in remembrance of Judy Rodgers, who passed away earlier this month. Judy is a huge influence on my cooking; The Zuni Cafe Cookbook is one of my go-to reference books, and the meals I ate at the Zuni Cafe still linger in my memory.
My first meal at Zuni – roast chicken with bread salad – is still my favorite restaurant meal ever. Perfect roast chicken is simple, but not easy, and that was perfect roast chicken.

Judy introduced me to early salting. I call it dry brining, even if it isn’t a brine, and I use it everywhere. There’s nothing better than a simple roast chicken, salted the night before cooking, roasted hot and fast.

Now, I’m not following Judy’s exact recipe here; I don’t have Zuni’s super-hot brick oven. Instead of roasting the whole chicken, I’m butterflying it, browning it in a heavy, cast iron pan to crisp up the skin, then sliding that pan into the oven to finish roasting. Simple, delicious. Maybe not the perfection of a Zuni roast chicken, but the perfect meal for a cold night, and a fond farewell.

Recipe: Cast Iron Roasted Butterflied Chicken

Inspired By: Judy Rodgers, Zuni Cafe Cookbook


Yields 4-6

Cast Iron Roasted Butterflied Chicken

Cast Iron Roasted Butterflied Chicken recipe - the best way to roast a chicken in the oven.

4 hrPrep Time

45 minCook Time

4 hr, 45 Total Time

Save Recipe


  • 4-pound chicken
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil


  1. Butterfly and dry brine the chicken: Butterfly the chicken: cut out the backbone, then flatten the breastbone by pressing down hard with the back of your hand. Fold the wing tips back under the wing. Mix the salt, paprika, and pepper, then sprinkle evenly over the chicken, concentrating a little extra on the breasts and thighs. Put the chicken on a rack over a baking sheet, and refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours - overnight is best.
  2. Sear the chicken: Heat the oven to 400°F. Heat the cast iron pan over medium heat until hot, about five minutes, then add the vegetable oil and swirl to coat the pan. Lay the chicken in the pan skin side down and let it sear for four minutes, or until the skin is crisp and brown. Gently flip the chicken skin side up - the skin should release from the pan if it is browned properly; if it sticks in spots, use a metal spatula to gently scrape it loose from the pan.
  3. Roast the chicken: Slide the pan into the oven. (If you have one, insert a probe thermometer into the deepest part of the breast.) Roast the chicken until it reaches 160°F to 165°F in the breast, and 170°F or higher in the joint between the thigh and the drumstick, about 40 minutes.
  4. Rest, carve and serve: Remove the pan from the oven, and lift the chicken onto a carving board. (Again, slide a metal spatula under the chicken to scrape loose any places it sticks to the pan.) Pour the juices from the pan into a gravy separator. Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes, then carve and transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Add the juices from the carving board to the gravy separator, then pass the defatted juices at the table.
Cuisine: American | Recipe Type: Main


For more butterflying details, see my How to Butterfly A Chicken Video.

Butterflied chicken

Butterflied chicken


Searing the chicken

Searing the chicken


Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven


Roasted, ready to serve

Roasted, ready to serve


Ready, set...

Ready, set…





  • The roasting juices are perfect drizzled over quick baked potatoes.
  • This chicken was larger than I expected – about five pounds – and it was crowding the pan. A smaller, four pound chicken will fit better.

What do you think?

Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts

Quick Baked Potatoes
Grilled Butterflied Chicken with Dry Brine
Baked Chicken Thighs with Mustard and Herbs

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  1. I was highly dissapointed at this method of cooking chicken, the recipe and directions worked flawlessly. There was no hint of “charcoal” styled flavorings. It tasted virtually identical to the offerings of the local grocery stores. I am tempted to cook to 170 degrees to see what difference it may make. Any suggestions?

  2. If you want smoke flavor, add a fist-sized chunk of smoking wood to the coals right before you add the chicken. Hickory and oak are my favorites.

  3. Martin _in_Columbus /

    I agree this works great with two but when I tried three the middle one didn’t turn. I think I’ll buy an extra set of forks.

  4. GrillNewbie /

    Can you put one chicken and a pork shoulder on one spit? What would be the best way to do it?

  5. You can, if you have two sets of forks, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The pork shoulder will take too long to cook properly (to 185°F internal), and the chicken will overcook, especially the breast meat.

    If you absolutely have to do it, get a small pork shoulder (3 pounds), and a huge chicken (6 pounds). Brine the chicken (to get a little extra cushion for the white meat) and cook until the chicken is 165°F in the breast and the pork shoulder is 185°F in the thickest part.