How to Spatchcock (the hell out of) a Chicken
I probably never, ever in a million years would’ve tried spatchcocking a chicken if not for the pandemic and occasional shortages* of preferred meats in my Sam’s and Costco. For a time, whole chickens were all we could get.
*I’m skeptical there ever really was a shortage or if people just squirreled away meats like animals preparing for winter. I see your chubby, nut-filled cheeks, you hoarders.
Anyway, there’s something very… um, unsettling about the word spatchcocking. Sounds like… well, I don’t want to think about what it sounds like. Some kind of medieval torture device or very kinky sex game? Yikes.
Even so, after getting over my first-time jitters and getting down to it, I’ve found it to be a great way to cook a whole chicken with benefits:
Whole chickens are cheaper per pound.
Spatchcocking provides a more-even bake, so the breast meat doesn’t get (as) dry.
I can use the backbone and the rest of the chicken bones when we’re done with them for making homemade chicken stock. There’s an awesome satisfaction in using and reusing the whole bird.
I can throw some veggies on the pan with the chicken and have a one-sheet meal. Easy peasy.
And… once you’ve mastered this skill, you’ll feel like a culinary badass. At least, I did... but my standards are probably kinda low. *Shrug*
Now, let's get spatchcocking. *Wink*
What You Need:
1 Whole Chicken… Duh. And, thawed, so you don’t break your fingers, silly billy.
A cutting tool… I use kitchen shears, but I’ve seen people use sharp knives.
Non-porous cutting board… so your board doesn’t soak up juicy chicken germs to spring on you later.
A baking sheet
An I-got-this attitude
What You Do:
Remove chicken from packaging. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels.
Set on cutting board, breast-side down. If you’re unsure, the breast side is more rounded while the backside is flatter.
Cut along both sides of the backbone. To find the sweet spots for cutting, use the fleshy clump of skin at the neck or tail as a guide and cut along both sides of it. Get friendly with your bird; it's a good bird and it's fine, no one's watching. Since I have very cheap kitchen tools, this requires some muscle to cut through the small bones. But, once you get your groove, it’s not so bad. Here's an excellent video if you need a visual, and it's how I learned, though I don't use the skewers.
If you’re interested in trying to make your own stock, save the backbone. I put mine in a plastic bag and tuck it in the freezer along with my chicken carcass. Don’t want to do that? Rocking the stock isn't for everyone. I get it. Toss it (but maybe tie it in a plastic grocery bag so your trash doesn’t stink tomorrow).
Turn your chicken over to the breast side. Press your palm into the breast until you hear the bone crack. Pop goes the, um, chicken.
Lay your chicken, breast-side up, on your baking sheet. Tuck the wings under the body of the chicken, so they won’t get too crispy.
Do a celebratory chicken dance! You just spatchcocked (the hell out of) a chicken.
Now, what to do next…
Preheat your oven to 450 F.
Season your bird. For this, you can use any fat + seasonings combination. I like to keep my chicken fairly neutral because I always think I’ll have leftovers to use for chicken salad or chicken soup… Truth is, it's a fool's dream. I rarely have leftovers. Anyway, I use softened butter, minced garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper, and lemon zest to rub under and over the skin. I reserve some of this concoction for basting halfway through. A drizzle of olive oil and a blend of whatever seasonings you’re feeling at the moment would work, too. Get creative, people. It's chicken! You can also stuff the cavity with onion, rosemary, garlic, lemon, or whatever you have on hand for extra flav. The last time I spatchcocked a chicken, I was feeling a little lazy, so I simply drizzles the bird with olive oil and sprinkled it with Mesquite seasoning, which turned out yummy, too.
Bake at 450 F for ten to twelve minutes. Take the pan out of the oven if you wish to add hard veggies like carrots or potatoes. For softer veggies, like broccoli, don’t add until you baste. I season my veg with olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe a little garlic and herb. Pour your cut-up veggies onto the hot pan. They’ll sizzle a bit, which is super-satisfying to hear. Return the pan to the oven, but turn the temperature down to 400 F.
Bake fifteen minutes. Baste, if you're into it. Add soft veggies.
Bake another twenty to twenty-five minutes or until the thickest part of the breast is over 165 degrees F.
Let your chicken-baby rest ten minutes. Serve it like a boss.
My mind wanders... I bet you can do this to a turkey, too. I haven't tried it. Yet. If you have, let the rest of us kitchen experimenters know how it turned out. Also, if you've done other clever tricks to make chicken dinner more exciting, share below.