How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Isn’t ‘spatchcock’ a super fun word to say?  This chicken recipe boasts (and roasts!) a whole succulent chicken in only 40 minutes flat!  Using just olive oil, salt and pepper, you too, can create your own chicken masterpiece.  You know how most roast chicken recipes tell you to tie strings snugly around the bird’s body and legs, compacting it like a football, so it lends for even cooking of everything?  This recipe is the exact opposite of those rules.  ‘Spatchcock’ is a fancy word for ‘butterfly’; meaning to split a piece of meat in 2 and lay out out flat.  Basically, we are going to take the backbone out of the bird, break the breastbone (CRUNCH!) and open it outwardly for an even, quick roast.  This recipe works best with a cast iron pan, as those suckers retain heat better than any other pans.  If you don’t have a cast iron pan, it’s ok, just use something that is heatproof in the oven for up to 500 degrees F.  When choosing your chicken, be sure not to go any larger than 4 pounds.  A little bit of chicken overhang is ok but you want to be sure it fits in your pan.

One of the most important things to do with your chicken is to temper, temper, temper!  Take it out of the fridge, out of the wrappings and let it sit out on the counter for 45 minutes to an hour before you roast it.  You don’t want to put cold meat in a screaming hot oven as it will toughen the meat and make it less juicy.

give it a paper towel hug!

Place your cast iron skillet in the oven while still cold then set it to 500°F.  Take your tempered bird and give it a good pat down with paper towel.  You want it to be as dry as possible.  Next, flip the bird over so it is breast side down.  With your fingers, find the backbone and remove it with kitchen shears.

almost there!

you go, girl.

This part is not for the squeamish but I do give this advice: this bird gave it’s life to be your Sunday Supper!  Be the boss that you are and crack it’s breastbone!  At least that’s what I told myself during this portion of the recipe… With the backbone removed, flip the chicken back over and press both hands in the center until you hear the breastbone crack.  This allows you to splay out the bird even further for even cooking.

CRACK!

Are you still with me?  Do you have the vapors?  We are almost there!  Flip the bird over again and re-pat dry the inside cavity with paper towels if needed.  Heavily salt and pepper the cavity of the bird.  I used two 3-fingered pinches of salt.

Make sure not to forget to tuck the wing tips behind the breasts as shown in the above and below photos.

Flip the bird back over so it is breast side up again.  Drizzle this side of the bird with olive oil.

hey chicken, what’s up?

Be sure to rub it in all over.  The olive oil acts as a barrier between the pan and bird so the skin doesn’t burn.

deep tissue massage!

Salt and pepper the breast side of the whole bird.  Also note in the below photo how the legs are facing inwardly.  Be sure to position your bird like this as it allows for maximum allotment of thigh-skin-to-pan-surface-area contact.

🎶I wanna be… your sledgehammer!🎶

Next step… reduce the oven to 450°F and CAREFULLY using oven mitts, remove the screaming hot cast iron pan from the oven.  Place the bird in the pan breast side down.  (I didn’t photograph this part because, well, a SCREAMING HOT PAN and speedy toddlers do not mix.)

oooooh nooooooooo!

Roast at 450°F for 30 minutes, then flip the bird over so it is breast side up.  Brush the bird with more olive oil.  You can flavor the olive oil with spices or garlic if you like.  Roast for another 10 minutes or until the breast reads 160°F and the thighs read 175°F.  Remove your masterpiece from the cast iron pan onto a platter.  Tent the bird with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving.

The Spatchcocked Chicken, in all her browning glory!

I’ll never roast a chicken any other way now that I’ve learned how to spatchcock! I served mine with a side of potato dominoes and steamed broccoli.  If you are feeling particularly decadent, use the pan drippings to whisk up a gravy.  Add a tablespoon of wondra, a squeeze of half a lemon, half a cup of chicken stock (eyeball it) and pepper to taste.  This recipe has made it into our weekly rotation and is great for leftovers too!

Roast Chicken (slightly altered from America’s Test Kitchen)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 40 min

Print This Recipe!

Ingredients:
  • 1 3.5 – 4 lb whole chicken, giblets discarded
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • salt & pepper

Method:

  1. Remove chicken from fridge and let come to room temperature, about one hour.
  2. Place cast iron skillet in cold oven, then preheat to 500°F.
  3. Pat chicken dry with paper towel, then flip the bird over so it is breast side down.
  4. Find the backbone and remove it with kitchen shears.
  5. With the backbone removed, flip the chicken back over and press both hands in the center until you hear the breastbone crack.
  6. Flip the bird over again and pat the insides dry with paper towels, if needed.  Heavily salt and pepper the cavity of the bird.
  7. Flip the bird back over so it is breast side up again.  Brush this side of the bird with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  8. Make sure the bird’s legs are facing inwardly, with knees almost touching and tuck the wing tips behind the breasts..
  9. Next step… reduce the oven to 450°F and CAREFULLY using oven mitts, remove the hot cast iron pan from the oven.  Place the bird in the pan breast side down and roast for 30 minutes.
  10. After 30 minutes, flip the bird over so it is breast side up.  Brush the bird with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and roast for another 10 minutes or until the breast reads 160°F and the thighs read 175°F.
  11. Remove the chicken from the cast iron pan onto a platter.  Allow the bird to let rest, tented under foil, for 15 minutes before carving.

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