How to Butterfly or Spatchcock a Chicken

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Heather says:

Did you know there’s a way to increase the amount of crisp skin on your chicken while decreasing the cook time? I tell the truth, you just use a five minute technique called Spatchcocking -that sounds dirty, doesn’t it?- or butterflying and you’ll greatly increase the surface area of your roast chicken. Not only is the surface area increased, but the amount of meat in direct contact with the cooking surface -in our case a baking sheet- is also increased. Both of these conditions work together to reduce the overall cook time of your bird and keep any skin out of the pan juices.

This technique cuts the cook time for a 3 .5 – 5lb bird down to around 50 minutes. Now you don’t have to save your chicken for Sunday afternoon. Who knew?

As a courtesy to vegetarian Home Ec 101 readers, I’ll go ahead and hide the rest of this post behind a jump. Just click more, if you want to see the tutorial.

Butterflying a chicken is quite easy. The only kitchen equipment you need aside from a cutting board is a sturdy pair of kitchen shears.

Rinse your chicken and remove the giblets.

How to Butterfly a ChickenFlip the chicken over so it is breast side down and the neck is pointing toward you.

How to Spatchcock a ChickenGrab your kitchen shears and cut parallel to the back bone, very close but not through the spine.

Continue cutting through the back until you reach the tail.

Repeat on the other side.

How to Butterfly a Chicken

Remove the back and save -in the freezer- for a future batch of chicken stock.

How to Butterfly a Chicken

Flip the bird over and press down firmly to ensure it lies flat.

Now season your bird, this week I just gave it a quick rub with the spice mixture from the chili honey chicken thighs. Place skin side up on a greased baking sheet. Let it chill on the counter while the oven preheats. It’s safe for the meat to be out of the fridge as long as you don’t approach the two hour mark. 15 minutes while the oven heats is perfectly fine.

Preheat the oven to 400°F, roast for 20 minutes and then turn it down to 350°F and cook until the thigh reaches 165°F, probably in the neighborhood of 30 minutes.


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8 thoughts on “How to Butterfly or Spatchcock a Chicken”

  1. I am going to have to try this. I have about 7 chickens in the freezer and need to start getting them used up. If frozen would you take them out and put them in the fridge one or two days before?

  2. This is how I roast chicken. I love it–so fast and easy.
    I use a broiler pan and put cubed potatoes tossed with a little seasoning and olive oil underneath the slotted tray, with the chicken on top of the slotted tray. (Tuck the wings or grease them up or they will burn.)
    The potatoes roast in the drippings off the chicken. So good!

  3. Ah-ha! You have also explained what I should have done in the turkey breast disaster in 2006. Hey, I was three weeks postpartum, I don't think I should have been cooking.

  4. Plan on using this one when we start barbecuing this year, I've heard that it turns out wonderfully with this method. Also want to try Nota Supermom's idea of the broiler pan and the potatoes. Potatoes roasted in drippings – oh my!

  5. We too spatchcock birds almost exclusively. You save time and energy not heating the hollow cavern of an intact bird. And we do potatoes, carrots and onions in the broiler pan (I want to try brussels sprouts next)—cooking veggies using schmaltz is becoming a lost art, but many people find that the fats rendered from meats, chickens included, is superior in flavor and burn temp than other oils. Plus, it is all flavor! In addition, I usually brine the bird after spatchcocking, to ensure maximum flavor–and it allows you to get the veggies nicely browned and the skin extra crispy without drying out the meat.


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