The Secret Thing You’re Not Doing with Your Cast-Iron Skillet (Yet!)

Have you used your cast-iron skillet to cook chicken under a brick? It's the absolute best way to get juicy meat and crispy skin!

One of the greatest mysteries in life is how to get crispy skinned chicken without drying out the meat underneath. If you’re having a hard time getting them both, you’re not alone. Seems like every time I cook a chicken, the skin turns out soggy if the meat is juicy; when I do get that perfectly crispy skin, the meat is dry! Luckily we have a solution, and it’s kind of brilliant: Cook your chicken under a brick.

How does it work?

Here are the basics: Pick up a few bricks at a home improvement store and wrap them in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place a spatchcocked chicken in a searing-hot skillet, then place the bricks on top. The weight will flatten the bird and force the skin to get a nice crust, thanks to all that contact with the pan. And since the chicken isn’t as thick, it won’t take as long to cook, keeping the meat inside nice and moist. Brilliant! Read on, and we’ll tell you exactly how to do it.

What else can you cook under a brick?

This technique works for all kinds of foods—Cornish hens, thick-cut steaks, even vegetables like cauliflower. If you don’t have access to a brick but want to cook this recipe anyway, you can always use a second cast-iron skillet or a Dutch oven instead. We’d definitely recommend wrapping the bottom of your pan in aluminum foil, though, or you’ll find it overly greasy the next time you want to use it.

How to Make Chicken Under a Brick

Ingredients

  • 1 whole broiler chicken (about 3 to 4 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Instructions

Step 1: Spatchcock the chicken

You’ll want to flatten out the chicken to cook it under a brick, so start by removing the backbone with a pair of kitchen shears (the Test Kitchen loves these). Flip the bird over and press down firmly on the breasts to break the wishbone. Finish by twisting the wings underneath the bird.

Feeling overwhelmed by this part? Check out our step-by-step guide on spatchcocking chicken.

Step 2: Season and preheat

Pat the bird dry and rub it with a tablespoon of the olive oil. Season the skin with salt and pepper and let the chicken sit for at least 20 minutes. Dry skin is essential for getting the crispiest skin, so it’s worth the wait! You can leave the bird on the counter for up to an hour, or place it in the refrigerator if you’re prepping ahead of time. Don’t cover it with plastic wrap—which will add moisture to the skin—unless you’re resting the chicken overnight.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450ºF. When the oven is close to reaching its final temperature, place a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat and preheat it for 5 minutes.

Editor’s Tip: You can add your favorite seasonings here, but we don’t recommend using fresh garlic on this one. The high heat of the cast-iron skillet will burn the tiny, minced pieces, giving the chicken an acrid flavor. You may encounter the same problem with fresh herbs, so this might be a recipe where you want to keep things simple.

Step 3: Time to sear!

Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, swirling to coat the bottom. Place the chicken in the pan, skin-side down, and weigh it down with your two bricks, arranging them so the chicken is as flat as possible. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer it to the oven. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until the skin is golden brown and crispy.

Step 4: Flip, finish and rest

Carefully take the pan out of the oven and remove the bricks. Flip the chicken over and roast for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer reaches 175°F in the thickest part of the thigh.

When it’s finished, let the chicken rest for at least 5 minutes. If you have the patience to let it sit for 15 minutes, all the better! There should be lots of drippings in your pan, so don’t be afraid to make a pan gravy while you wait. Then, carve your chicken and serve it with your favorite side!

If you happen to have leftovers, use them in one of these delicious leftover chicken recipes. Once you’ve mastered this recipe, try our best cast-iron skillet recipes that are as easy as they are delicious.

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Notes:

  • Recipes submitted by our trusted contributors are created and tested in their kitchens.
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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.