Learn how to spatchcock a chicken like an expert for the perfect roasted or baked chicken every single time!
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Spatchcock is a brilliant thing to do if you’re roasting poultry and let’s admit, it’s an all-around hilarious word.
It’s actually hilarious enough that I was once startled when I opened my mailbox—a few weeks post girls’ night—to find I’d ordered a golden nameplate necklace that says it. Let me say, I absolutely love it, and sober me giggles knowing wine-soaked me thought daytime me would get a laugh from it. No regrets.
What Does it Mean to Spatchcock a Chicken?
In the much more serious culinary sense, knowing how to spatchcock a chicken is a great cooking hack. It also could not be easier and it’s a really smart thing to try next time you’re baking or roasting chicken. Essentially, it means removing the backbone from a bird, and then opening it up like a book so it can lay flat while cooking.
Why would you do this? It cuts down on your cooking time and helps keep the meat from drying out. It’s a dream if you’re a fan of sheet pan recipes, or like me, tend to roast things in the not-so-roomy toaster oven.
Step-By-Step: How to Spatchcock a Chicken
The method is about as simple as can be. Here’s how to spatchcock a chicken:
- Get ready: You’ll need paper towels, kitchen shears or a very sharp, heavy chef’s knife, and a cutting board. To be completely honest, this method can also require a bit of strength. So, get those muscles ready!
- Prep the chicken: To begin, make sure your hands are clean and dry. Take anything like the giblets out of the cavity of the bird. Set those aside to make dirty rice or dressing, or discard them. Pat your bird down with a clean paper towel.
- Remove the spine: Next, identify the spine. Hopefully, it’s pretty obvious, but if not, it runs the length of the bird and is attached to the ribs. There isn’t any meat over it. To remove the spine with kitchen shears, place the bird spine side up on a cutting board. Place the shears about ¼ inch out from the spine, and with a bit of force, cut through the ribs from the head to the bottom of the bird. Repeat that step on the other side of the spine.
- Flatten the chicken: Arrange the chicken skin-side up. Then, using your hands, spread it out as flat as you can get it. You may need to smash down on the joint where the thighs meet the leg with the palm of your hand to help.
- Prop it up: Alternatively, you can prop the chicken up as if it’s sitting and use a sharp knife to cut down through the ribs on both sides of the backbone, then open the bird up. Now you know how to spatchcock a chicken!
Definitely save that backbone to make chicken stock right away. Or, freeze it for up to 2 months to make your stock later. You can use the chicken stock to make flavorful soups, sauces and gravies.
How to Cook Spatchcocked Chicken
- Prepare: Once your bird is spatchcocked, it’s ready to be roasted on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Preheat your oven, and get your pan ready.
- Season: Try coating the chicken with butter, and season it with simple salt and black pepper. You can arrange the chicken on top of large, torn pieces of day-old bread mixed with olive oil or melted butter, sage, chopped celery, and onion. Or, try placing it on top of a single layer of sliced and salted potatoes or any root vegetables. The possibilities are endless, and this method works for all poultry. Maybe you’ll like it so much that next year you’ll even try it with the Thanksgiving turkey.
- Roast: Roast your spatchcocked chicken until the skin is golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Let the chicken cool slightly so the juices soak into the meat. Then, slice and serve!
How to Store Spatchcocked Chicken
Once your spatchcocked chicken has cooled, it can be wrapped in plastic wrap on a plate or transferred to an airtight container and stored in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
Reheat the chicken in the microwave or toaster. Or, pop it back into the oven for a few minutes to heat it back up.
What to Serve With Spatchcocked Chicken
Spatchcocked chicken is perfect for pairing with Mashed Potatoes, Cauliflower Au Gratin, or simple Roasted Brussels Sprouts. If you have a roomy sheet pan, you can roast vegetables alongside the chicken as it cooks!