Spatchcock Chicken

How on earth spatchcocked chicken has escaped me so far in life I may never know, but now that we’ve been introduced I think I shall stay by spatchcock chicken’s side forevermore. Spatchcocking is not only a hilarious word to say aloud, it also produces a perfectly cooked bird every damn time.

I’ve shown you how to roast a whole chicken, as well as how to butterfly pork chops before cooking, and spatchcocking is kind of like those two things combined. By removing the backbone and some of the connective tissue, you are essentially “butterflying” a whole chicken. That means it cooks faster and more evenly than a whole bird, producing wonderfully juicy meat while still getting that great golden roasty-toasty skin!
Spatchcocked Chicken

Here I’ve seasoned the bird with a dry rub similar to Cajun blackening seasoning. You can use any rub you like, or even soak the prepared bird in a marinade of your choice before cooking. The sauce I made in the video is this creamy hatch chili sauce I posted a few days ago actually. Told ya it’s great on anything!

How To Spatchcock a Chicken

Oh my gawd, you know what else you could do I bet is grill this mofo. I just bet that would be really really great if you knew how to do that.


5.0 from 8 reviews
Spicy Spatchcocked Chicken
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon sherry or white wine (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Dry rub:
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ancho chili powder
Instructions
  1. Get the chicken out of the fridge and let it sit out on the counter to get the chill off while you get some things ready.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil if you like. You can skip this step, too. Lay a rack in the pan and set the contraption aside. The rack holds the chicken off the pan so that air can circulate under it as it cooks.
  3. Combine the dry rub ingredients together in a small dish. You will only need half the mixture for this recipe so you can set aside half now to avoid contamination. Or you could just halve the recipe to begin with, but it's lovely on seafood too, so you might as well make the extra.
  4. Set your oven to 400º F.
  5. Place the chicken breast-side down on a cutting board. Use heavy-duty kitchen scissors to cut out the backbone by cutting down from neck to tail along each side. Remove and discard or save for homemade chicken stock.
  6. Open the bird up like a book. Use a sharp paring knife to cut down the center of the bird, just deep enough to incise the cartilage covering the breastbone.
  7. Press down on the chicken now to flatten it completely. You might hear a little "pop" - that is the wish bone.
  8. Pour the sherry all over the inside of the bird and sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of the spice mix over.
  9. Flip the bird and brush the skin with olive oil then sprinkle another 2 teaspoons or so of the spices over the skin.
  10. Lift the chicken onto the baking sheet/rack combo.
  11. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the breast meat measures 150ºF and the thigh reaches 170ºF.
  12. Let rest 10 minutes before carving into quarters.
Notes
This dry rub is quite spicy. If you want it less so, reduce or omit the cayenne pepper.

I wrote about making your own chicken stock before, at the bottom of the roasted chicken post. Check that out if you want. It’s an easy, budget-friendly thing to do if you make and freeze a few quarts at once to use in soups and stews later.

Comments

  1. Would tequila work instead of the sherry ? That’s all I got ;)

  2. Sherry? Very interesting! Definitely will try some alcohol-based liquid to adhere the spices to the undercarriage. Your method of cracking the breastbone cartilage seems much easier that others I’ve seen. They flipped the bird meatside-up and just pressed hard in the chest, almost like CPR. Giving it a little headstart, as you do, with a knife is much less work. Oh, yes — did you mention in the video that this is a great way to cook the bird in a covered grill, like a Weber kettle?

    (Stream of consciousness thought: Wouldn’t be cool to have a big enough oven or grill to spatchcock a turkey?)

    • I don’t know that I mentioned it in the video, but I thought about it so perhaps you read my mind. Either way, yes, I think it would work great though I’ve never tried it. Anddddd… I saw a spatchcock (kinda rhymes with Sasquatch I just realized! ;) turkey on the Martha Stewart website when I was trying to figure out where the word came from (no one knows, FYI). Looked like a pretty small turkey, though, honestly.

  3. Beautiful looking chicken Hilah. If you made the breast bone cut the opposite direction, I think you would find it easier. At the top of the breast bone (the end closest to the neck) there is a small piece of cartilage (white) attached to the dark piece of the breast bone. Cut through the white part (approx. 1/4-3/8 in. thick) until you hit the breast bone. The two breast pieces will now snap apart. At this point you could slip your index and middle fingers around the breast bone and pull it out. (makes it easier to cut after it’s cooked)

    • Thank you Mark! I’ve done that once before when deboning a whole raw chicken, but never thought to try it before spatchcocking. Why not?! That is a great description you’ve given. Thanks for writing. :)

  4. I make spatchcocked chicken with an orange marmalade jam glaze that I brush on an almost finished chicken and turn off the oven. It finishes perfectly crispy and sticky all at once.

    • OH MY GAWWWW.
      You just rocked my world, Mother E. That sounds amazing and wonderful and I want it right now!

      • It really is. It’s one of those accidental things I did when I didn’t have orange juice to make a marinade! What I do is this: Brush a really well-dried spatch-cocked chicken with melted butter or olive oil. Season with garlic salt, pepper, paprika and Herbes de Provence (the best herbal blend in the world, I must say!) Bake according to weight and 20 minutes before it’s done, spoon over orange marmalade jam that you’ve melted in a sauce pot over a low heat.
        Take the drippings, orange bits and all, skim the fat, and make a gravy with a corn starch slurry and a spoonful of Dijon mustard. Keep the bird in the oven to keep warm, or put a tent of foil over it.
        Your people will worship you as the goddess you are. They are now malleable tools in your hand to do with as you please.

        • Bwahaha! With our powers combined, we shall rule the… wait. what were we talking about?
          I bet that marmalade sauce would be delish on a pork tenderloin, too, maybe with some grated ginger mixed in!

  5. Mmmmmmmmmm tastes like chicken!

  6. Spatchcocking is the ONLY way to cook a whole chicken and it’s awesome over charcoal. And it’s fun to say. Spatchcock. Can’t wait for the new season, Hilah.

    • Oh man! I HAVE GOT TO TRY this grilling over charcoal thing! You’re not the first person to mention it, Drew — it must be something amazing! But yeah, srsly this is the only way to do it anymore. Still can’t believe I’ve been roasting whole chickens all these years like a fool. ;)
      Thanks for writing!

  7. Yep, definitely spatch cock the chicken and roast it that way. You know that apricot jam is equally delicious on the wee bird, too! Jelly, it is the cure for what ails ya!

    Tonight, we are making shredded chicken tacos with YOUR TORTILLA recipe! I made tacos last week, and now the fambly won’t let me BUY tortillas anymore. My youngest came wandering in for a sample and thought she was at the fair.
    They are that good.

  8. This is now my new favorite way to roast chicken! As I said before, I have always used vertical wire roaster cones and placed the whole uncut bird on the roaster. Now I cut out the backbone and even trim the wings and legs, and use those parts for chicken stock. And I pan-roast the flat bird in the oven, with spectacular results! Easier and faster. Sanctuary much Hilah!

    • So glad about your success, Larry! Great idea to use the wings for stock, too. There’s so little meat anyway, but lots of great collagen for a good rich stock.

  9. Just spatchcocked my first chicken and it was sort of a traumatic experience! Guess my bird had a very strong spine because I had to fight with it for a while. Guess it just feels a little weird hacking at the chicken like that. Nevertheless, just put it in the oven! Fingers-crossed!

  10. Hi Hilah,
    I spatched, I co… well, you know the rest. After getting in touch with my caveman side, splitting the carcass and crunching bones, the only thing left was to cook over coals. It was amazing. I started hot…maybe too hot then slowed down and it was crispy and juicy. That is hard to do with chicken on the grill.

  11. Hi Hilah,
    Please forgive the newbie question, but how do I cook the chicken so that the thigh reaches 170 and the breast reaches 150? When the thigh reaches 170 wouldn’t the breast be at 170 as well? Thanks and keep up the great vids!

    • Hey Byron! That is a great question, actually, and it’s one I’ve never even thought to ask!
      White meat cooks at a different rate than dark meat for reasons I’m not exactly sure of, but would guess that because dark meat has more fat and fat carries heat better than water, the dark meat heats faster than the white meat and therefore, the thighs and legs will reach a higher interior temperature than the white breast meat, though they are in the oven for the same amount of time and at the same temperature. OR maybe it’s just because the breast portions are so much larger than a thigh or leg, they take longer to reach the same temperature.
      Whatever the reason, at the end of the cooking time, the breast meat will be a lower temperature than the thighs and that is just great! If the breast were to reach 170, it would be dry and over cooked. Thanks to the extra fat in the dark meat, it’s still moist and juicy at 170.
      Thanks for writing!

  12. Huh. I “spatchcocked” a chicken a few months back without know that’s what it’s called. It does sound a little “dirty,” like maybe you should tell the chicken how naughty it’s been while you do it. FYI, a pair of those outdoor clippers for small branches works great for cutting through the bones. Of course I never use the same ones for cutting plants outside. Well, not unless I’ve looked *everywhere* for the outdoor pair and can’t find them! ;-)

    The recipe I used was kind of a lime/curry-esque thing but REALLY good. Fair warning though, treat the marinade like nuclear waste because it stains EVERYTHING it touches bright yellow! And marinate in a ziplock bag instead of a glass dish because otherwise you’re just asking for a messy spill. http://chefprivato.blogspot.com/2008/10/foods-for-new-depression-chicken-in.html

    • Haha! We won’t tell. ;)

      That marinade you linked to looks DELICIOUS! I suspect it will be something I want to put on everything.

  13. Just Spatchcocked my first chicken tonight, used a different rub though, because I was in the mood for a different taste profile.
    Bird was quite fun to cook (It has to be fun and interesting or I get bored and won’t cook it), but the rub didn’t quite (read “at all”) make it through the skin to flavor the meat. Next time I will try rubbing it under the skin to see if that helps. Have you tried that?
    Also the skin was just on the edge of being burnt after 45 minutes at 400, but the chicken was still a little bloody at the joints. Should I maybe tinfoil the breast and cook it a little longer after about 40 minutes? or maybe adjust the temp/time? Sorry for the silly questions, just trying to learn how to do this without a whole bunch of experimentation. Thanks!
    Keep up the great work, you’re the one I turn to when I need a tip or starting point!

  14. OK, here we go…

    Spatchcocking my first turkey as I type this…

    wish me luck…

    • My fingers and toes are crossed!

      • Everything turned out great! I did cook the bird a tad long, but it was still delicious, and I can adjust the cook time next time out. I Was going to post before and after pictures, but don’t have a superphone and couldn’t figure out how.
        Besides, hash tags scare me, and dag nab it anyway, they’re just wrong!

  15. john mckenna says:

    Wow Hilha…You Knocked that one out of the park!!.Every cooking show..When someone is about to carve a chicken they just pulled out of the oven..It’s like ..wait for it..here it comes…oh yes dark pink bloody chicken as the camera quickley pans away…That was perfect..Nice Job.

  16. Made this tonight! It was easy, quick and delicious! Fiancee loved it!

  17. retrobella says:

    Hilah, have prepared chicken this way before but look forward to making it with your rub. Sounds delish! Just found your site and can’t wait to explore and try more of your recipes.

  18. Thank you for this! My family has been so bored with regular roasted chicken. This was easy and amazing, and you made me a hero. Thanks a bunch!: )

  19. Trying it now. Used Smoky Whisky instead. used red chili pepper and turkish yoghurt. I cut the chicken from the wrong side, hopefully it wan´t matter. Cheers from Norway

  20. MrsLawrence says:

    I’m with you, how I manage to miss this marvel is beyond me. I happened upon your website while looking for something else and saw this post. I decided to try this on Sunday and MY GOODNESS, the juiciest chicken EVER!!! No turning back.

    • Thank you! So glad it turned out. I honestly don’t ever roast a bird whole anymore. It’s always spatched. ;)

  21. Hey! I made your spatch cock chicken! It tastes really good! Thank you!

  22. This is the only way to do chicken on the grill. I start the skin side down over direct coals to get a bit of crispiness started and then move over to the side with no coals, skin side up to do the roast. Toss on a chunk of cherry or apple wood and let it smolder. It imparts a wonderful color and flavor.

    It works well on a full sized Weber with small turkeys also (12-14 lbs).

    • Thank you! I have yet to try it on a grill, though I’ve been meaning to. No time like the present. I even bought a bag of wood chips (hickory I think?) on a whim a couple weeks ago. Must be kismet. :)

  23. Great Recipe and the video was so much fun and humorous!!! It was such a great find! the Creamy Hatch Sauce was a huge hit (and I even added the green onions!) i made some veggie pasta that it tasted great drizzled on! the only issue was I had to subsitute a high rack to hold the bird on with a lining underneath it i dont know if that was the reason that it did not crisp up underneath :) either way great recipe to make again and would love to try other things underneath the chicken to add flavor (i did more garlic and onions)

    • Hi Brandon!
      So glad to hear you enjoyed the bird and found some more uses for the Hatch chili sauce! I love when that happens. Sounds awesome over pasta. :)
      One thing I love doing when roasting meats is to make a “rack” out of celery sticks and carrots and set the meat on that. Edible rack!

  24. This is probably my 3rd or 4th recipe that I’ve used from your site. They all have turned out amazing! This one is no exception, The skin was crisp and the chicken was juicy. No more wrangling beer can chicken anymore, I will be using this technique from now on. You’re a great teacher keep up the good work! Any word on when you Will be trying out for the next Food Network Star?

    • Thank you, Nayrb!
      Isn’t this a great way to make chicken? It’s perfect every time. I’m so happy to hear of your success in the kitchen. Thank you for writing. :)

  25. Christine says:

    Oh, Hilah! Every video you produce is a gem! Can I spatchcock tofu? :) I’ma vegan doncha know! I can spell, too….just not that sentence!

    Oh, yeah. Food Network Star. You ARE a star..and much more talented than so many on that network. Hmmmm, can you make a sandwich? Can you go into a restaurant kitchen and highlight what they’re famous for? Can you work a pressure cooker and order around a team of 3 chefs to get 5 meals finished in an hour? YOU can do all of this and MORE!

  26. This is how I’ve always cooked my chicken except I split the breast instead of the back. I’ll try it your way next time because it might help keep the breast more juicy. It is a great way to grill or BBQ chicken, too.

  27. Hay Hilah

    I’m a sad old guy from Essex, England and have just recently found your site. Its a great and refreshing change from some of the dour standard sites on the web.

    I have been cooking spatchcock chicken for a few years now both on the bbq and in the oven. The rub I use is made up with one tablespoon each of whole pepper corns, sugar, salt and paprika (either smoked or plain), grind all these up in a spice mill spread over the chicken and leave for a few hours to let the flavours permeate. Then cook as you did.

    Will definitely be trying you spice rub though.

    Thanks for some great recipes.

    Richard

    • Hi Richard!
      Thank you for writing. And thank you for sharing your rub – I love recipes that are made of equal parts of everything because it makes them easy to remember. :)
      Let me know how you like this rub recipe!

  28. Megan Fuldauer says:

    I make this all the time. I make a spiced mixture add a little water to it and spread it under the skin. It tastes great and you still get the crispy skin. I used to use olive oil instead of water but the oil seemed to burn and smoke in the oven=[ you right though perfectly cooked chicken every damn time! And the kids love it too! The only way to bake a whole bird!

  29. Wendy S. says:

    Hum, don’t have a grill but have an indoor smoker that I have been thinking about getting out again. This seems like a novel way of making the chicken fit in there so I don’t have to build the foil tent, then I can just sit it under the broiler to crisp up the skin at the end. Love all the different ideas for rubs. I have made an apricot one before. Thanks for the video!

  30. Allen Dodge says:

    Just made the Spatchcock chicken and it was great, great, great. Thanks for the recipe. What else ya got?

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