How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Learn how to spatchcock a chicken with our video and step-by-step how-to.

February 25, 2022

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By Fraya Berg for Food Network Kitchen

Fraya is a chef and a contributing writer at Food Network.

The term "spatchcocking" might sound funny, but there's a backstory. If you lived in Ireland in the 1800’s and you wanted a quick and simple dinner, you’d tell the cook to “dispatch a cock." The cook would then cut open and flatten the bird to hasten cooking. Eventually the saying got shortened to "spatchcock." The technique is a fantastic way to achieve juicy, crispy-skinned chicken extra quickly. Read on for answers to all of your questions and a step-by-step how-to. And psst: you can also spatchcock turkey; here's how.

What Is Spatchcocking?

Spatchcocking is a way to butcher poultry that flattens it and allows it to cook more evenly and quickly. As we’ve outlined below in the how-to, cutting the backbone out and opening up the bird like a book is the technique we suggest.

What Is the Reason to Spatchcock a Chicken?

  • Faster cooking: Spatchcocking a chicken causes it to cook faster because the inside and outside of the bird cook simultaneously.
  • More flavorful meat: In addition, the heat will sear both inside and out, providing the meat with the maximum amount of flavor.
  • Easier to grill: Once flattened, the chicken can be easily grilled; the meat cooks easily and flipping it is a snap. No beer can necessary.
  • Perfect chicken under a brick: With a large enough cast iron pan, the spatchcocked bird can be cooked as chicken-under-a-brick, giving you unbeatable crispy skin.

Tools You Need to Spatchcock a Chicken

The tools you need to spatchcock a chicken are generic, and we like advising you to have tools that are multipurpose. The list is small, and you may already have most of them already.

  • Large cutting board: You need a cutting board that is large enough to hold the chicken once it has been flattened. It’s always important to have a board that doesn’t slip. If your board doesn’t have rubber feet, place a wet towel under it to keep it from slipping.
  • Paper towels: Chicken can be slippery so pat it dry with paper towels. For food safety reasons, you should not wash a raw chicken, just pat it dry.
  • Poultry shears: A pair of strong poultry shears will easily cut the backbone out of the chicken. Look for a pair that can come apart for easy cleaning—you don’t want to have little pieces of raw chicken stuck in it.
  • Sharp, sturdy knife: Your best bet is a utility knife, not your good chef's knife. You may hit bone, and bone can damage your knife.

Spatchcock Chicken Cooking Time

When cooking chicken, the be-all and end-all way to determine doneness is temperature. Insert an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and it will read 165 degrees F when the chicken is done cooking.

When grilling, if you’re using indirect medium-high heat, a 3 1/2 pound spatchcocked chicken will take about 50 minutes to cook (significantly faster than a whole chicken).

When searing a 3 1/2-pound spatchcocked chicken and then roasting it in a 400 degrees F oven, it will take about 35 minutes to cook to doneness.

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Follow our simple steps to master this technique, then watch our how-to video. Your chicken will cook faster and more evenly this way.

HOW TO SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN

HOW TO SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN

Photo by: Matt

Matt

Step 1: Dry the Chicken

Butterflying a chicken, also known as spatchcocking, is a great technique for the grill or for roasting in the oven. First, pat your chicken dry.

HOW TO SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN

HOW TO SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN

Photo by: Matt

Matt

Step 2: Remove the Backbone

To butterfly, you'll need to remove the backbone. Flip the chicken so its back is up. Poultry or chicken shears are the best tool for the task. Cut along each side of the spine. Tip: Freeze the extra bones for stock.

HOW TO SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN

HOW TO SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN

Photo by: Matt

Matt

Step 3: Make a Notch

Lay the chicken flat. Make a notch in the white cartilage (it's in the breastbone at the neck end). Pull wings apart to open the notch and further flatten the bird.

HOW TO SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN

HOW TO SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN

Photo by: Matt

Matt

Step 4: Pop Out the Breastbone

Make a slit on each side of the breastbone. Pop out the breastbone and remove it entirely. Tip: Butterflying exposes more of the bird to the heat source, so it cooks about 25 minutes faster.

HOW TO SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN

HOW TO SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN

Photo by: Matt

Matt

Step 5: Tuck in the Wings

Tuck the wings forward and under to keep things neat. Now your butterflied chicken is ready for the grill or the oven, and your dinner will be on the table before you know it!

Spatchcocked Chicken Recipes

Food Network Kitchen’s Grilled Spatchcocked Greek Chicken as seen on Food Network.

Food Network Kitchen’s Grilled Spatchcocked Greek Chicken as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Matt Armendariz ©Copyright 2015

Matt Armendariz, Copyright 2015

Lemon, garlic, oregano and dill bring all the flavors of Greece to this grilled spatchcocked chicken.

We've transformed the restaurant classic into the ultimate salty-sweet cookout main course. Cutting the chicken in half and grilling it flat gets you super-crispy skin and a shortened cook time.

An overnight brine ensures flavor all the way through the chicken, while grilling with apple wood chips with low, slow heat permeates the meat with rich smoke.

Photo by: chris court

chris court

Roasting at 500 degrees F for 20 minutes and then at 450 degrees F for another 30 minutes at gives this chicken its golden crackly skin.

Commissioned Photographer

Photo by: Stacy Howell

Stacy Howell

The food from the area around Charleston and Savannah, known as low country cooking, is characterized by spice blends that contain pepper, herbs, garlic and old bay. This spatchcocked chicken uses a homemade spice blend.

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