How to Spatchcock a Chicken
Are you ready for a cooking hack that will change your life in the best way? Yes? Good, buckle up for magic.
I’ve previously shared my whole roasted chicken and even the best maple herb butter turkey (Thanksgiving, I see you) but I realized I had never given you my secret, super easy spatchcock chicken recipe! If you’ve never spatchcocked a chicken before, you’re in for a wonderful surprise.
When you spatchcock a chicken instead of roasting it whole as-is, you’ll not only save time but you’ll also end up with a full chicken that is perfectly cooked throughout. I’ve included step-by-step instructions, tips, photos, and everything you’ll need below so that you’ll become a pro in no time.
We love to grill our spatchcocked chicken, but I’ve included roasting instructions as well! Any way you do it up I guarantee it’ll be delicious. Don’t forget to try my amazing marinades, side dishes, and ways to use your grilled or roasted spatchcock chicken leftovers (yes, you’ll find them all below). Give it a try for your weeknight dinner soon and let me know how you like this easy method!
What is “spatchcocking?”
Spatchcocking, also known as butterflying, is a method of preparing a chicken or turkey by removing the backbone and cutting or removing the breastbone so that you can lie the chicken flat.
Benefits of spatchcocking your chicken
When you cook a whole chicken as-is, different parts of the chicken naturally take different amounts of time to cook. The breast, for example, is done faster than the thigh, so the cooking can be uneven and you may end up with dry meat from the chicken breast. When you spatchcock a chicken, the whole thing can cooks so you eliminate this problem! Cooking a spatchcock chicken results in:
- Quicker cooking times
- More even cooking and thus juicier chicken
- Crispy, flavorful skin
There are a few essential tools you’ll need when spatchcocking a chicken:
Get all of our kitchen staples here.
How to spatchcock a chicken
Trust me when I say spatchcocking a chicken is easier than it looks! Let’s walk through it step-by-step:
Step 1: place your chicken on a large, sturdy cutting board breast-side down, and pat it dry with paper towels. Use sharp poultry kitchen shears to cut closely along both sides of the spine or backbone.
Step 2: remove the backbone and discard it or save it to make homemade stock.
Step 3: flip the chicken over so that it’s skin-side and breast-side up and firmly press down on the breast of the chicken to flatten it until you hear a small crack. This is the breast bone breaking, which will allow the chicken’s ribs to lie flat. Then you can flip your chicken back over.
Step 4: once the chicken is spatchcocked, pat it dry again with more paper towels and marinate it however you’d like! Be sure to season it well with oil, herbs, spices, salt & pepper so that the skin gets nice and crispy. See below for some of our fav marinades and seasonings!
Option 1: grill your spatchcock chicken
Congrats, you have a successful spatchcocked chicken! Now it’s time to cook it up to perfection. I have two great methods for cooking a spatchcock chicken: grilling and roasting. We love to grill ours! Here’s how to do it:
- Prep your grill. Start by preheating your grill to 400 degrees F. Then place your chicken skin-side down over the middle burner.
- The first cook. Grill the chicken on the middle burner for about 5-10 minutes with the lid closed.
- The full cook. Flip the whole chicken over and turn OFF the middle burner so that the chicken is now in indirect heat. Cook it with the lid closed for 45 minutes to an hour until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees F.
- Rest & serve. Once the chicken is done, let it rest for about 20 minutes before cutting into it and serving it up.
Option 2: roast your spatchcock chicken
If you don’t have a grill, you can easily roast your spatchcock chicken instead! I guarantee it’ll be the best roast chicken you’ll ever eat. Here’s how to do it:
- Prep your oven. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F and place your chicken skin-side up on a large baking sheet lined with foil or in a cast iron skillet.
- Roast it up. Roast the chicken for 40-45 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees F.
- Rest & serve. Just like with grilled chicken, be sure to let the chicken rest before cutting into it.
How do you know when the chicken is done?
Your chicken will be done when a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken reads 165 degrees F. The cooking time will vary depending on the size of your whole chicken.
Tips for the perfect spatchcock chicken
Don’t forget these easy tips and tricks to ensure you have the perfect spatchcock chicken every time:
- Cut close to the bone. When you’re cutting the backbone out, be sure to cut very close to the bone on both sides so that you don’t lose any meat in the process.
- Dry your chicken. Make sure you pat the chicken dry before spatchcocking it so that it’s not too slippery to handle. Be sure to then pat it dry again before adding your dry rub or marinade so that the seasonings stay on the chicken get the skin nice and crispy.
- Don’t skimp on seasonings. Remember to marinate and/or rub ALL parts of the chicken so that you get lots of flavor evenly throughout the whole thing.
- Bring it to room temp. Before you grill or roast your chicken, bring it to room temp so that it cooks evenly.
- Let it rest. Don’t skip the resting phase after your chicken is done cooking! This will not only ensure that you don’t burn your hands while handling the chicken, but also that the juices stay inside the chicken and keep it nice and juicy.
Easy spatchcock chicken marinades
In this spatchcock chicken recipe, I like to season it simply with butter, garlic, paprika, lemon zest, and lots of freshly ground salt and black pepper. You could also use any of the following delicious seasonings and marinades (just note that you may need to double or triple the ingredients):
Get all of our fav chicken marinades here!
Spatchcock your chicken ahead of time
Yes, you can spatchcock your chicken ahead if time if you want to cook it later! Simply go through the spatchcocking process, then cover the chicken well and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1-2 days before you’d like to cook it.
Our fav side dishes to serve with a spatchcock chicken
Get all of my amazing side dishes recipes here!
Storing & freezing tips
After you’ve cooked and carved your spatchcock chicken, you can use it right away or store the leftovers for later:
- To store: let the chicken cool completely and transfer it to an airtight container. Place the container in the fridge and use the chicken within 4-5 days.
- To freeze: repeat the steps above but instead place your chicken meat in the freezer. Cooked chicken will stay good in the freezer for about 3 months. When you’re ready to use it, simply thaw it in the refrigerator and enjoy it cold with salad recipes or heat it up in the microwave for warm recipes.
Use the chicken in these delicious recipes
Get all of our delicious chicken recipes here!
I hope you love this spatchcock chicken recipe! If you make it be sure to leave a comment and a rating so I know how you liked it. Enjoy, xo!
How to Spatchcock a Chicken
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
This easy spatchcock chicken recipe will give you juicy, flavorful chicken every time! Get easy, step-by-step instructions for how to spatchcock a chicken, add your favorite marinades and seasonings, and then grill or roast it to perfection. You’ll come back to this method time and time again!
- 1 (5 pound) young chicken, preferably organic
- For seasoning:
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- Zest from 1 lemon
- Lots of freshly ground salt and pepper
Place chicken on a sturdy cutting board breast-side down and pat dry with paper towels.
Using sharp, strong kitchen shears, cut closely along one side of the spine or backbone, then repeat with the other side of the backbone. Be sure to cut as close to spine as possible so you do not remove excess meat. Remove the backbone and discard or save it to make homemade stock.
Flip the chicken over so that it’s skin-side and breast-side up and firmly press down on the breast of the chicken to flatten it until you hear a small crack. This is the breastbone breaking, which will allow the chicken to lie flat. Alternatively, with the legs facing away from you, you can make two small incisions on either side of the breastbone along the neck to help flatten the chicken.
Once the chicken is spatchcocked, pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and marinate it however your heart desires. It’s important to really season the chicken well with oil, herbs, spices and salt and pepper to really get it flavorful and to ensure the skin is nice and crispy.
Turn on all of the burners on your grill and preheat to 400 degrees F. Place chicken skin side down (top down) over the middle burner and grill for 5-10 minutes with the lid closed.
Flip chicken over (keeping chicken in the middle of the grill) and turn off the middle burner so chicken is over indirect heat. Grill with the lid closed for roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour, and be sure heat stays in the grill at 400 degrees F. Grilling time will depend on the size of your chicken. Chicken is done when it reads 165 degrees F. Remove from the grill and allow to rest for 20 minutes before cutting into so that it’s cool enough to carve/cut.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place seasoned chicken skin-side up on a large baking sheet lined with foil or in a large cast iron skillet and roast the chicken for 40-45 minutes or until chicken reads 165 degrees F with a meat thermometer.
Recipe by: Monique Volz of Ambitious Kitchen | Photography by: Eat Love Eats