Split Roast Chicken

Roasted chicken is a comfort meal that speaks to all regions of the U.S. It’s an important recipe that every cook should have in their repertoire. Not only is it an economical way to feed the fam, but it’s also a double do-er. There are countless ways to season & eat the meat AND you can save the bones to make stock. After years of dry, flavorless roast chicken attempts, I feel like I’ve (humbly) perfected the roast chicken.


  • 1 whole chicken, somewhere around 8 lbs
  • 1 lime, zested & juiced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 3 green onions, roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • butter or lard for greasing
  • salt


Get your chicken out of the fridge pronto. It’s ultra, super important, for the most moist roasted chicken ever created, that you bring the chicken to room temperature. Think about it this way, if you stick the chicken in the oven straight out of the refrigerator, at least 1/2 of the time it’s cooking, you’re actually trying to bring the temperature of the chicken up…and by doing it this way, you’re getting different temperatures within different parts of the chicken, so some parts cook faster than others, resulting in dryyyyyy chicken.

Preheat your oven to 400ºF.

Now we’re going to split the chicken in half — trying to get it to lay flat as it can. Splitting the chicken in half is just another trick that will help the chicken cook faster, thus keeping it moist. Using a pair of kitchen shears, or a cleaver, cut the chicken along its back (not the breast side), making sure you start cutting to the side of the backbone, don’t actually cut into the chicken’s backbone. Sit the chicken on the counter to give yourself a sturdy base and start at the neck opening, cutting down towards the end at the tailbone. The chicken will look like it’s doing a split — sort of. Lay the chicken, breast side up, in a roasting pan or large oven-safe baking dish.

In your food processor, puree the lime zest & juice, green onions, garlic, olive oil and salt. Also add the cilantro, but I want you to include the stems, along with the leaves. Think of it as nose-to-tail cilantro use. Smear the mixture all over the top of the chicken. Use the time it takes the chicken to come to room temperature as marinade time too.

Clean off the bottom of a cast iron pan and lightly grease it with oil. Stick the chicken in the oven and place the bottom of the cast iron pan on the top of the chicken. This allows the oven heat to cook the chicken from the bottom and the cast iron pan to crisp the chick from the top. Bake until the temperature in the thigh of the chicken is around 150-165ºF. It should take about 45 minutes. Carefully remove the cast iron pan from the top of the chicken, and if you’d like the skin crispier, just stick the oven on broil and peek at the chicken every minute until it’s done to your liking.


16 responses to “Split Roast Chicken”

  1. I made this tonight and it was super moist!! Thank you for another wonderful recipe.

    My chickens were about 3 pounds each so I did two, but the time was perfect and they were gorgeous and tasty. (I used a cast iron two-burner griddle for the top.) My lime wasn’t very juicy so I’ll be adding more next time because my favorite bites were the ones where I could taste the lime! MMMMmmmmm

    I have leftovers for salads for the week for me and DH, a big bag for the freezer, and all those bones for my “stock” collection bag in the freezer. Awesome!


    1. so glad you enjoyed the recipe whitney. thanks!

  2. I’m having roast chicken tomorrow and I’m gonna try this out, thanks a lot for sharing the recipe.

  3. SUCH a great recipe! Have been using your recipes for a few months but this is the first that’s brought me to comment. We did our chicken on the kettle bbq (weber) which made the skin extra crispy.

    I was surprised, bite after bite, how much flavour the coriander + lime gave. Keep the inspiration coming – love your site!

    1. thank you so much dayna

  4. do you have nutritional info on this dish?
    I made it last night , easy and super delish!

  5. Romeo November

    Hi Megan, would this recipe work out well in a ceramic coated cast iron dutch oven? Would you make any adjustments to technique?

  6. Do you have to use a cast-iron skillet or will a regular skillet work just as well to ace on top of the chicken when cooking?

  7. Best roasted chicken I have ever had, restaurant or at home. We are big rotisserie chicken fans (for convenience) and this is better! For Sherry, nutritionals on a whole chicken are tough depending on size. Generally, a split breast is about 28g of protein. As with most meat, 1 oz equals 7 grams of protein. You are looking at 50 to 80 calories per ounce depending on the type of meat. A full chicken will probably yield 4-6 four ounce servings. As for the rest of the ingredients, you are basically eating water with nutritional value and some fiber. A quarter cup of olive oil is 54g of fat. Divide that by 4 servings and you get 13.5g of fat, assuming you consume all the oil which you won’t. I would go with 350 calories per serving.

    1. thank you soooo much chrisb!

  8. LOVE this recipe! It was so yummy! I’m thinking about trying a similar approach with my Thanksgiving turkey, only with different seasonings. I know it won’t be as good for table presentation, but that doesn’t really matter to us. Any thoughts on how this may or may not work with a turkey? Thanks in advance!

    1. this would absolutely work and i would highly recommend it, as turkey is almost always bleh, bleh dry. i think it’ll be a hit for sure.

  9. laura t.

    This looks great! However, I do not have a cast iron pan. Could I just make it without the pan on top of the chicken?

    1. cast iron is not essential…BUT they’re like $12, which i think is cheaper than an aluminum or any tri-ply one you’ll find. it’s worth the $$, imo.

      the bird will take longer to cook sans pan on top.

  10. I’m making this tonight and am SOOOO looking forward to it! I’m just wondering where the heck you’re getting your giant 8-pound chickens? 🙂 The biggest ones I can find at Whole Foods are 3-4 pounds. Your recipes are always a big hit at my house. I can’t wait for your cookbook to come out!

  11. Tuan Crookshank

    To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. ~Anonymous

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