Chicken Under A Brick (Or A Cast Iron Skillet)

Scared you, didn’t I? Well I didn’t mean to. It’s funny how many people read my last post and assumed I was ending my blog. That’s not what I said! I just said that my blog was no longer my primary source of income; in many ways, it’s a liberating state of affairs. It means that if I post on here (as I’m doing now) it’s because I have something I’m really eager to share with the world, not just something to fill up space on the internet (like that time I told you that my cake stand is really a punch bowl; though, weirdly, that post really caught on). In any case: chicken under a brick. Have you tried it? If not, why not? I bet I can guess: you’re afraid. I was afraid too. Then, this past Tuesday, I tried it and–I mean this seriously–I don’t think I’ll ever make chicken any other way again.

Think of all the things that you want a chicken to be when you cook it: really crispy on the outside, really moist on the inside, and packed with flavor. Chicken Under A Brick achieves all three things and does it in less time than your standard roast chicken. It also requires only a few ingredients: a chicken, some garlic, some rosemary, and a lemon. The only thing it requires that you might not have is kitchen courage. Let me help you with that.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Get out two cast iron skillets (note: you can use real bricks instead of the 2nd skillet, you just wrap them in foil. But who has bricks?). Heat the larger one on medium high heat. Meanwhile, cut the backbone out of a 3 1/2 to 4 pound chicken. (Wrap it in plastic and freeze it for stock.) Season the chicken all over with lots of salt and pepper.

When the skillet is pretty hot, pour in 1/4 cup of olive oil and add some whole garlic cloves (still in their skin, so they don’t burn; Mark Bittman’s recipe has you add lots of chopped up garlic which blows my mind, because that garlic is going to burn and become disgusting after this process…you don’t want that) and some rosemary. This perfumes the oil. (Note: my recipe is a synthesis of Mark Bittman’s recipe, an Amanda Hesser video, and some other stuff I read online.)


The idea here is that you’re perfuming your oil. After 30 seconds, use a wooden spoon to push the rosemary and garlic aside and then lay your chicken in breast-side down. The legs and thighs should be flattened too so that the most amount of chicken that could possibly be touching the hot oil is doing so. Then you place a heavy cast iron skillet on top and press down! (Note: you can lay a piece of parchment down on top of the chicken so you don’t dirty the second skillet.)


Push hard because that’s what’s going to make the magic happen. You could weigh down the top skillet with some cans, but this is all going into the oven so the cans won’t work in there. Let the chicken cook like this on the stove top for 5 minutes.

Really, this recipe is all about faith. Because you have to trust that a chicken cooking like this in hot oil is not going to burn. But after five minutes, you transfer this whole heavy thing (this is the hardest part: use lots of oven mitts and towels to lift this up; you may have to touch the bottom of the heavier skillet, so really protect your hands) and into the oven. Leave it in there for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, you take everything out of the oven, lift off the top skillet, and with a pair of tongs flip the chicken over. You’ve seen this image before at the top of this post but let me show you again:

It’s really a glorious sight. Never have I seen a chicken in my own kitchen so bronzed, so crackling on the surface. You stick that chicken back into the 500 degree oven–breast side up–to finish cooking. Keep an eye on it because that high heat may take your bronze to black; use a meat thermometer to see when it’s 165 between the leg and the thigh.

To serve, take a tip from Amanda Hesser. Lift the chicken out of the skillet and allow to rest on a plate. Meanwhile, you have all these glorious browned bits on the bottom of the cast iron skillet but, as Amanda points out, you can’t add acid to that or it’ll corrode the surface and make for a muddy sauce. So add water–about 1/2 a cup–to the skillet, turn up the heat, and bring to a boil, working up the brown bits with a wooden spoon.


When it’s reduced significantly, pour that liquid into another skillet or a small pot and add the juice of one lemon and a pat of butter. Reduce that until it tastes wonderful.

To serve, place some chicken on a plate, pour on the sauce, and serve with roasted potatoes or–as I did here–a big pile of arugula dressed simply with good olive oil and more lemon juice.


It’s my new favorite dinner; definitely something worth blogging about. Even the cat will rave.


24 thoughts on “Chicken Under A Brick (Or A Cast Iron Skillet)”

  1. Glad you’re still blogging! This looks fantastic! btw – would still love to hear more about your future ventures …


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  2. That looks fantastic!

    Thought your last post was about finances and new adventures and not ending your blogging – but thought I missed something by all the reactions!!

    I’m going to try this!

  3. Hey, a Burman…just like ours. Best cats. We got her because she was allergy friendly and I was a bit embarrassed to have such a chocolate box pure bred… but what a personality. She is a wild thing for sure. We have rabbits, stoats and possums. All are introduced pests here in New Zealand. She catches them all. ( we have bricks too)

  4. Lolita! You haven’t posted a picture of her in so long, I’d wondered how she was. I’m glad she looks as pretty and pesty as ever. Chicken looks good, too, heh.

  5. I have two purchased just so I can make this on our outdoor grill.
    Hey, wel live in the country, and the local market also carries concrete blocks, cattle feed, wonderful meats, and bricks!

  6. Do you have a general amount of time it takes for the chicken to finish in the oven? Just looking for a guideline for when to probe.

  7. Do you have a general amount of time it takes for the chicken to finish in the oven? Just looking for a guideline for when to probe.

  8. Beauty recipe! Can’t go wrong with things cooked in a skillet. I’ve recently jumped on the paleo train and it’s been ridiculously awesome. I would highly recommend Fat Burning Chef, Check it out Definitely the most comprehensive digital cookbook in this area. .

  9. We just made this with a poussin for two people and it will be THE way we will do this till we stop eating forever. Excellent recipe. I recommend freeing the cooked garlic cloves from their jackets and have them on the side – exquisite!

  10. Very interested in how much flavor you actually get from not peeling or cutting garlic. I heard (on America’s Test Kitchen podcast) that cutting a garlic open is the only way to activate the enzymes that give the pungent taste.

  11. Mary from Boston

    Can’t say how glad I was to see a new post! This recipe looks delicious, now I need to get another cast iron pan to try it (or raid a local building site)

  12. I’m going to do this tonight with chicken breasts instead of a whole chicken. Do you think the cooking times will be the same? Thanks!

  13. Robert Levine

    My wife told me about the above technique after she heard it on public radio. I now use a modification of the technique to make great grilled chicken on my gas grill. I preheat my 16″ cast-iron skillet at the same time I am preheating my grill. I am using a Weber Summit 310 – a small Weber with cast iron grates. I heat the grill with all burners on high for 15 minutes. The chicken is cooked by temperature to 165 degrees. There is a piece of non-stick aluminum foil between the chicken and pan. I am stilling having a bit of a problem with the skin sticking to the grill which has bee oiled. I have almost solved the problem by using a piece of not stick foil on the grill under the chicken. I have only done this once and made one mistake, I did not punch holes in the foil and the skin was not as crisp as I would like. I will be doing it again soon and will punch holes in the foil as I think this will allow the fats, etc, to drain and the skin should get crispy. I have not tried this in a charcoal grill yet because my wife does not like a smoky flavor in her chicken.

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