There's a tricky little secret to roasting the perfect chicken at home. It isn't culinary training or a chef's kitchen. The secret is a simple technique that has been around since the 18th century - known as spatchcock.
Spatchcock chicken allows the chicken to lay flat on the pan, yielding a delicately crisp skin and juicy interior. It's easy enough for a weeknight meal and impressive enough for your fanciest dinner party.
What's the Difference: Why Spatchcock a Chicken
Roasting a whole chicken is often tricky. The bird cooks unevenly, and you are stuck with the cumbersome task of rotating the chicken throughout the bake - a messy chore that requires patience.
By butterflying the chicken, the bird is level and flat. By splitting the area between the chicken breasts, the thickest part, it cooks evenly and yields wonderful flavor. Rubs or marinades stay put, and you can easily add herbs and vegetables, like potatoes or brussel sprouts, for a complete one-pan meal. Or, you can very simply roast the chicken with salt and pepper and use in the best chicken salad you will ever taste. This spatchcock chicken recipe adds carrots for a quick and hearty meal.
Tools: What You Will Need
You need very little to spatchcock a chicken at home: a cutting board, sharp knife, and kitchen shears (or poultry shears). Because you are working with raw chicken, all supplies should be easily washable once complete.
To cook the chicken, you will want a sheet pan or roasting pan, and a meat thermometer for a quick temperature check at the end (the ideal temperature is 165 degrees F).
Step-by-Step Guide: How to Spatchcock the Chicken
First, rinse or wipe your chicken off and pat dry with a paper towel.
Next, position the chicken breast-side down and remove the backbone. You can do this by cutting down both each side of the spine with your kitchen shears. This should be an easy task, though you may find some resistance near the connection to the thigh area. Discard the bones.
Keeping the chicken breast-side down, use a sharp knife to cut a notch on the breast bone. This will make it easier to flatten the chicken on the pan. Turn the chicken over and press down on either side firmly to flatten completely.
That completes the spatchcock technique. At this point, you can season the chicken with marinade, herbs, spices, or a rub.
It's worth noting that you can find spatchcock chicken in your local meat department, either ready on the shelf or as a simple butcher request. So, if the process of cutting is overwhelming, you can still enjoy the result at home without a little bit of knife work.
How to Cook: Roasted or Pan-Seared Spatchcock Chicken
You can be as creative as you'd like with the ingredients and the cook. Spatchcock chicken works wonderfully roasted on a baking sheet in the oven or pan-seared in a large cast iron skillet on the stovetop or grill.
Seasonings like black pepper, paprika, or chili powder will stick beautifully to the butterflied chicken. A simple mixture of butter, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt will transform into a culinary delight alongside the golden brown crispy skin. And, herbs like rosemary, thyme, or parsley sink into the chicken and vegetables perfectly during the cook.
Keep in mind that butterflying the chicken in this method will decrease the total time. So, keep a close eye and check early if applying this method to a traditional roasted chicken recipe.
Ready to put those new skills to use? Try our Roasted Maple & Orange Spatchcock Chicken recipe!