How To Prevent Chicken From Sticking To A Cast Iron Skillet

It's hard not to be discouraged when your chicken gets stuck to the skillet, even more so when it's in a cast iron pan known for its natural nonstick qualities. If this happens to you more often than you wish to admit, don't give up on cooking with cast iron just yet. According to Bon App├ętit, there's a simple way to prevent your chicken from sticking to your pan in the first place, and it has a lot to do with temperature. Instead of adding your cold chicken straight out of the fridge into a cast iron, leave the meat out for a bit to warm up, and preheat your pan thoroughly. Before you add the chicken to the pan, drizzle in a generous amount of fat, whether it be oil or butter.

As food scientist Harold McGee explained in his book, "Keys to Good Cooking" (via The Washington Post), fat bonds to cast iron when heated, forming a protective barrier against foods. This extra nonstick layer is especially necessary when cooking chicken, McGee shares, because not only is it a protein (which is already prone to sticking), but it's also one with a lower fat content than, say, bacon.

You may have to re-season your cast iron

If your chicken is still sticking even after preheating the pan, bringing the chicken to a warmer temperature, and adding in a good amount of fat, there's a good chance there's another issue altogether. Food & Wine points out that food will often stick to cast iron when the pan is improperly seasoned or if there are leftover pieces of burned food stuck to the bottom. This often occurs after you've cooked something that contains sugar, so if your last dish included honey barbecue sauce or another sweet glaze, make sure to scrub your cast iron skillet well before you use it again.

Once you've scraped off any burned bits, you'll want to properly season your cast iron skillet, as you did when you first got it. Simply coat your pan in vegetable oil, bake it upside down for an hour at 350 degrees, and leave it there until it reaches room temperature again. Provided that you follow these steps, your cast iron will retain its nonstick coating, and you won't have to worry about losing your delicious chicken skin to its surface ever again.