A cast-iron pan is the perfect tool for baking crispy-skinned chicken. It works for just about any cut, but it’s especially good for chicken thighs, chicken legs, and whole chickens. Each of these cuts features ample skin to sear in the pan, while the meat gets tender and juicy in the oven.
We’ve pulled together some tips and tricks to make baking chicken with a cast-iron pan really easy. You’ll learn:
- What separates a cast-iron pan.
- How to season a cast-iron pan.
- Why cast-iron is perfect for baked chicken.
- How to bake chicken in a cast-iron pan.
- And, lastly, some recipes to get you started.
We hope this guide inspires you to get searing and baking with your favorite cast-iron pan.
What Is a Cast-Iron Pan?
Cast-iron pans are made from cast iron, a mixture of iron and carbon that’s prized for its durability and versatility. The pans themselves can be used at high temperatures and retain heat very well, making them ideal for many cooking applications.
The most popular type of cast-iron pan is probably a skillet, but you’ll also find cast-iron Dutch ovens, grill pans, waffle makers, griddles, woks, and much more.
How to Season Cast-Iron Pans
In order to keep your cast-iron pan nonstick, you’ll need to season it. This process creates a layer of carbonized oil that both keeps your pan surface relatively nonstick and prevents it from rusting. While a cast-iron pan requires a little more maintenance than most pans, it will last for generations.
You’ll start by scrubbing your pan with soapy water. Once washed, coat the pan, inside and out, with a thin layer of oil. Then, bake it upside down in the oven at 450–500°F for one hour. Let it cool, and you’re done!
Every time you cook with oil in your cast-iron pan, you’re likely adding another layer of seasoning. How cool is that?
How to Bake Chicken in a Cast-Iron Pan
Using a cast-iron pan couldn’t be any easier since you can seamlessly move from the stovetop to your oven. However, there are a few steps we’d recommend you take to make sure you get insanely crispy results at home.
Use a well-seasoned pan.
As we discussed earlier, you’ll want to ensure your cast-iron pan is coated with a good layer of seasoning when you use it. Otherwise, food will stick right to it. We don’t want that when we’re searing chicken skin!
Sear first, then move to the oven.
With a cast-iron pan, heat is retained really well. This means that once your cast-iron pan is hot, it’s HOT. The high temperature of a cast-iron pan allows you to render more fat from a piece of chicken. This is perfect for searing chicken skin and achieving a crust you just can’t get with other cookware.
Bake at high heat.
During searing, your cut of chicken is partially cooked. With a cast-iron skillet, you can move that chicken directly into the oven at a high heat (like 400°F and above). It should bake faster while resulting in chicken that’s simultaneously crispy, juicy, and tender. Chicken should always be baked to an internal temperature of 165°F.
4 Crispy Cast-Iron Baked Chicken Recipes
Are you ready for the crispiest baked chicken thighs you’ve ever had in your life? This recipe requires little more than chicken thighs, salt, pepper, and oil. It’s so heavenly, it doesn’t need anything else.
The key here? Don’t poke and prod your chicken. Sear the chicken thighs skin-down for 15 minutes, moving them slightly but never flipping, then move them to a preheated oven. They’ll get one flip in the final five minutes, and that’s it.
Chicken legs, also called leg quarters, are a great cut for baking in a cast-iron pan. They have plenty of skin to crisp up, thanks to the conjoining thigh and drumstick.
In this recipe, the chicken legs mingle with a simple braising liquid, made with plenty of smashed garlic and wine. The chicken legs are seared first in the cast-iron pan for crunch factor, and then join the braising liquid during their time in the oven. As you can imagine, this smells so good.
Here’s a delicious way to enjoy chicken breasts: roasted in a cast-iron pan. This recipe opts for bone-in chicken breasts, which give off plenty of flavor.
Once again, you’ll sear your chicken breasts in the cast-iron pan until you have a good crust. Then, it goes for a trip to the oven to finish cooking. This recipe calls for butter and oil for even more succulence. Beyond that, you’ll only need salt and pepper.
Have you ever roasted a whole chicken in a cast-iron pan? If not, it’s time to try. It’s a no-fuss alternative to the full roaster and rack situation and allows you to achieve golden brown, crispy skin with little effort.
You’ll want to preheat the cast-iron skillet in the oven so that it’s ready to render fat from the chicken directly onto those crispy potatoes. Opt for a medium-sized bird that fits comfortably in your cast-iron pan.