Skillet Roast Chicken

Two whole chickens and whole garlic heads in a cast iron pan

This dish has a devoted following at Balthazar and is a favorite among regulars who don’t bother to look at a menu before ordering. In the restaurant, the chicken is served with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and a selection of Pan-Roasted Root Vegetables. At home we suggest throwing in some diced vegetables–like carrots, celery root, and mushrooms—along with the chicken, making it a very simple supper. (If including diced vegetables in the pan for a one-pot meal, sauté them in some olive oil over a medium flame until somewhat softened, about 10 minutes. Then push the vegetables to the side of the pan, place the chicken in the center, continue with the directions below.) Originally published February 10, 2011.Keith McNally, Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson

LC Roast Chicken for Four Note

This mindbendingly moist hen with preternaturally crisp skin is the happy consequence of a super simple equation: Smallish hen + super hot oven = well, we already sort of gave it away. Ordinarily a single hen ought to serve four, although this technique turns out a bird so lovely, it’s best not to leave it to chance. We suggest you instead roast two birds at once, snuggled side by side, in a largish pan. However many hens you roast, don’t forget to clean the oven first, lest any runover remnants from last October’s apple pie trigger your smoke alarm. Oh, and the results work the same regardless of whether you slather the hen silly with the herb butter specified in the recipe below or simply douse it with a little olive oil and coarse sea salt. Think we’re overhyping the recipe? Try it.

Roast Chicken for Two

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 20 M
  • Serves 2 (okay, maybe 4)
5/5 - 1 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the The Balthazar Cookbook cookbook

Want it? Click it.



Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C).

In a small bowl, mash half the rosemary, thyme, and parsley with the softened butter with a fork. Season with 1/8 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Use your fingertips to slide the herbed butter beneath the skin of the breasts, starting at the opening near the neck and sliding it as far as possible beneath the skin. Stuff the cavity with the remaining chopped herbs and 1 head of garlic. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.

Heat the oil in a heavy ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.

If you wish to sear the bird prior to roasting, truss the chicken with butcher’s twine*. Place the bird on its side in the skillet, searing the leg and breast. Leave it untouched in the pan for at least 4 minutes, turning only when the bird is burnished brown. Turn to brown the other breast side, and then the top and bottom of the bird so that it is well-browned on all sides. Spoon off the excess fat.

If you don’t wish to sear the bird prior to roasting, place the chicken in the skillet, breast side up.

If desired, strew a couple sprigs of rosemary and thyme in the pan and place the remaining 2 heads garlic around the bird. Transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast until the chicken is cooked through, basting occasionally with the pan juices, for about 40 minutes. The bird is done when when the juices run clear from the joint between leg and thigh. If the bid’s skin begins to burn, cover with an aluminum-foil tent. Let stand at least 10 minutes prior to carving.

*Trussing a chicken note: To hold its shape and allow for even stovetop browning, it’s important to properly truss the bird. Its upper wings are held tight against the body and the legs are crossed and bound at what would be the ankles. Begin by rinsing and drying the chicken, and then snipping the wings off at the elbow joint; discard or freeze the wing tips to make a stock. Lay a piece of kitchen twine, about 36 inches long, across a cutting board and place the chicken in the middle of the string. Pull the string up on both sides so that it draws the wings up against the bird’s body. Bring each side of the string down along the breasts and pull snugly so the string tucks between the breast and the leg on each side. Wrap each piece of the string around the opposite ankle, then pull the string taut so the ankles are crossed and closed over the cavity. Tie the string very lightly and snip off any excess. The bird should now be snug, tight, and roundish.

Print RecipeBuy the The Balthazar Cookbook cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Recipe Testers' Reviews

I roasted the chicken without searing it first, and exactly 40 minutes later, the chicken came out looking gorgeous. The skin was golden and crispy, and the meat was so juicy—perfectly done. (My chicken weighed 3 1/2 pounds, and it was close to room temperature when it went into the oven.) The roasting pan didn’t have enough jus to make a sauce, but the moist chicken wasn’t screaming for it, either. Another thing this roast chicken can do without is parsley—it was overpowered by the rosemary and thyme, and, quite frankly, I didn’t miss it. TIP: Save the carcass—with all of the herbs and garlic, it’ll make a lovely stock for later use.

Things got a little messy when rubbing the herb butter under the chicken’s skin, but I did it, and trussed the chicken without too much trouble. A good portion of butter oozed out of the chicken and into the pan—I’m not sure it’s supposed to do that, but it certainly made for a richer pan sauce. I left the chicken in the oven for an extra 15 minutes because the inner thigh meat was still pink, and even with the extra time, the breast meat was still moist and infused with herb flavor, with a hint of garlic. The skin all over the bird (except for underneath) was exceptionally crisp and delicious. (I don’t think I missed anything by not searing the chicken beforehand.) I’ve cooked chickens at all sorts of temperatures, but I’d go with this high temperature because it guarantees crispy skin without suffering the breast meat. I later mixed the leftovers into a gravy for chicken pot pie.


#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


  1. This is one of the most fun ways to roast a chicken and bring something that looks good and tastes even more glorious to the table.

    I have done it both ways – no searing, and searing. I have found, however, that if you are prone to “oven incendiaries” you might turn the oven down to 350 after the first 15 minutes. There can be a lot of splattering going on if you use a cast iron skillet. I also found that my chicken needed a few more minutes in the oven if I turn the heat down.

    Give this recipe a try and you will be a convert! The combination of herbs is magic and you will be touted as the Kitchen Wizard when you serve this delightful rendition of roast chicken.


Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish