How To Make Spatchcock Chicken

How To | Meats 

Spatchcock Chicken

The first time I heard “Spatchcock Chicken”, I’m pretty sure I was watching an old episode of Good Eats.  I thought for sure that Alton Brown had made up that word, but actually, spatchcock originated in the 1800s and refers to a game bird or poultry that has had the backbone removed and then flattened in preparation for grilling.  Aside from just being really fun to say, this cooking technique helps to ensure equal cooking between the breast and thigh meats, produces fantastically crispy skin, and reduces the overall cooking time compared to roasting a chicken whole.  Below are the simple step by step instructions for a spatchcock chicken.

Choosing Your Bird

One of the more economical ways to purchase chicken is whole.  We prefer organic, free range chicken and can usually find them whole at Trader Joes.  Per pound costs for whole chickens are usually less than what you would pay for breasts, thighs, or drumsticks because you are paying for the convenience of having the chicken cut up by someone else.  Fortunately, the spatchcock chicken technique only requires you to remove the backbone before cooking, and then once cooked, the chicken is easily divided into pieces.

Unwrap and Remove “Parts”

Whole chickens are usually packaged with the neck and giblets (liver, gizzard) inside the cavity.  Once you unwrap your chicken, be sure to remove them--we save the neck for stock and the livers and gizzards until we have enough for a batch of fried chicken livers or gizzards. 

When learning how to spatchcock a chicken, you will need a pair of sharp kitchen shears.  We have a set of heavy duty multipurpose kitchen shears from Furi - I especially like these because they slip apart into two separate pieces, which makes them easier to wash.

Cutting the Backbone

Once you have unwrapped your chicken and removed the parts, pat the chicken dry so it is less slippery and place the bird on a large cutting board or half sheet pan, breast side down with the legs towards you.

Spatchcock Chicken

If you are right handed, you are going to cut down the left side of the backbone first.  If you are left handed, you will cut down the right side of the backbone first.  This approach will make it easier to cut the second side by ensuring you have the backbone to hold onto with your non-dominant hand during the second cut.

Cut down one side of the backbone, taking care not to cut yourself.  Once you cut through, repeat on the second side.  You should end up with 1.5-2 inch wide backbone when you are done. 

Cutting the backbone

After removing the backbone, I also like to remove the small rib bones on each side.  This can be done by separating the ribs from the meat with your fingers and then using the shears to remove.  Once you have removed the backbone and ribs, you can flip the chicken over and press down firmly on the breasts to flatten the chicken out. Now you are ready to prepare and cook according to your favorite recipe!

Check out the quick video below to see full process for how to spatchcock a chicken.

Spatchcock Chicken Video

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