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How to Spatchcock a Chicken in 4 Simple Steps

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 2 min read

Learning the cooking process known as spatchcocking or butterflying can help you cook beautifully browned chickens with crispy skin in less time than a traditional roasted chicken.



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What Is Spatchcocking?

Spatchcocking, also known as butterflying, is a method of preparing a whole chicken that involves removing the backbone and breaking the breastbone of the chicken.

What Is the Purpose of Spatchcocking?

Spatchcocking ensures that a whole chicken cooks evenly. Since different parts of the chicken cook at different rates, whole roast chicken often ends up with overcooked chicken breast meat and undercooked dark meat. A spatchcocked or butterflied chicken, on the older hand, stays juicy because the thighs are exposed to more heat than usual. Spatchcocking also exposes more of the skin to heat, which allows it to get extra crispy.

A spatchcocked chicken will also have a shorter cooking time than one left whole, making it a good option for weeknight dinners. Spatchcocking opens up the possibility of combining indirect heat (such as roasting) with the direct heat of grilling, broiling, and searing. You can use the same spatchcocking method for other types of poultry, such as turkey, game birds, or Cornish game hens.

How to Spatchcock a Chicken in 4 Steps

Although it sounds complicated, spatchcocking is relatively simple if you take it step-by-step.

  1. Prepare the chicken. Pat chicken dry with paper towels to make it easier to handle. Remove any giblets or water from the inside of the chicken. Set the chicken breast side down on a large cutting board.
  2. Remove the backbone. Using a sharp knife, sharp kitchen shears, or poultry shears, remove the backbone. Starting from the tail end, cut all the way up one side of the backbone. Then, repeat on the other side to remove the backbone. (Reserve for chicken stock.)
  3. Break the breastbone. Flip the chicken over so that the breast side is up and the inside of the chicken is on the cutting board. Using the palm of your hand, press firmly down on the center of the breastbone. You should hear a crack from the breastbone breaking. If not, try again, applying more pressure until you break the breastbone.
  4. Flatten the chicken. Press down on the chicken with your hands, massaging it to lie as flat as possible. If desired, use a sharp knife or shears to remove the wing tips, which often burn during cooking. (Reserve for chicken stock.) If you prefer, cover the wing tips with aluminum foil during cooking, or tuck them underneath the breasts.

You now have your spatchcocked bird. Now that you know how to butterfly a chicken, try it out for yourself with an easy spatchcock chicken recipe.

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