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How to Spatchcock a Chicken (or Turkey)

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Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today, we're showing you how to spatchcock (a.k.a. butterfly) any bird for quicker, more even cooking.

Spatchcocked Roast Chicken

"Spatchcocking" is just the fun way to tell people you're butterflying a bird, by taking out its backbone. Why would you do such a thing? Well, it's much easier than it may sound, and your chickens and turkeys will cook quickly and evenly -- cutting the time almost in half. Here's how you do it.

All you need are some strong kitchen shears and your bird -- this guy's a chicken, but, with a little practice, turkey works too. You can do this with a sturdy boning knife or chef's knife too, but scissors make for very easy navigation.

Start by snipping down along the spine (most people think of this as the underside of the bird). You can start from the tail or neck end, whichever is more comfortable.

Now snip down along the other side of the spine. Stay close, lest you lose any delicious thigh meat.

Now you have a spineless bird. Keep that spine for stock, or throw it in the roasting pan with the chicken for extra drippings and some good meaty bits to nibble on.

At this point, Amanda likes to truss it back together and roast it normally -- it'll still cook faster than a whole chicken, and it's a little easier to carve. For a lazy truss: tie off the ankles first.

Then tie the breast and wings up. Now you can roast as you normally would (just check it for doneness sooner) -- it looks like a chicken again, doesn't it?

Or, if you want to go for the full spatchcock, and even speedier cooking, skip the trussing and simply lay it flat. Push the breast down until you hear a pop -- this is the breastbone giving way.

A flattened chicken is a quick-cooking chicken.

Now, you can roast it, braise-roast it, or even grill it, in about half the time. Or you can tackle turkey next, for a swifter Thanksgiving meal.

Top photo by Sarah Shatz; all others by James Ransom

Tags: kitchen confidence, chicken, roast chicken, spatchcocking, tips and tricks, how-to & diy

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Comments (13)


9 months ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Would just note here that for a turkey, you really do need to cut the "keel" bone (aptly named) -- the bone running down the center of the breast inside. A good butcher will remove it altogether. Just carefully snipping through the cartilage on one side should be sufficient if you're doing this yourself.
Also, a new trick - well, an old trick this old dog just learned earlier this year -- if you remove the wishbone before you roast, the breast is much, much easier to carve. My son discovered this in Thomas Keller's roast chicken recipe in "In the Green Kitchen," by Alice Waters. Such a good idea. (Have your butcher do that, too, while she or he is butterflying the bird.) ;o)


over 2 years ago Frau Neudecker

How does spatchcocking help with the fact that breasts and legs just have different temperatures of doneness? Legs still need a few degrees more than breasts.


over 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

By freeing the thighs and legs from being tucked up next to the bird, the heat can get to them more easily and they cook more quickly.


almost 3 years ago laurel'skitchen

I have been having the butcher 'butterfly' my chicken for several years. Great for chicken under a brick.
I also brown a chicken in a cast iron pan, and finish in the oven for about 40 minutes. It's great, evenly cooked, and much faster. Love the term 'spatchcock'! Can't wait to try it out on the butcher!! :-))


almost 3 years ago Erika Kotite

Erika is the founder of Toque magazine and is guiding us through classic cocktails from A to Z in the Booze52 series.

I love the term spatchcock! Great idea to tuck away for next time I roast a chicken (sister-in-law's turn to do the turkey this year).


almost 3 years ago Marc Osten - Marc's Culinary Compass

Erika. I also love the word. I especially like turning it into a verb - spatchcocking! LOL Did you see my video where I share the secret meaning...or actually the conflict about the meaning.It's about a third of the way through this video


almost 3 years ago DocdMomDeb

This is the same prep for my absolute favorite technique for cooking chicken...Pollo Al Mattone..."Chicken under a Brick". A turkey may be too large to fit in a pan on the stove but the chicken is sublime!!!!


almost 3 years ago Ambitious

It's my favorite way to cook a chicken! The meat gets cooked through more evenly and it cuts cooking time- I love!


almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I strongly recommend simply taking your kitchen shears and cutting down one side of the keel bone (the bone separating the two sides of the breast) if you wish to flatten the bird. (Unless you're extremely strong, I don't believe that a turkey breast can be flattened simply by pressing down on it.) Also, one of the primary advantages to spatchcocking a turkey is that the bird requires significantly less vertical oven space. You have more oven shelves available when you flatten the breast. ;o)


almost 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I agree. I had to really whack the one I did with my cast iron frying pan before it broke! Now I just take the easy way out and have my butcher do it for me.


almost 3 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Thanks for these tips!


almost 3 years ago iguanachef

I actually debone my Thanksgiving Turkey and fill it with stuffing and tie it up. Easy to slice and all the meat has seasoning and all the stuffing has flavor too.


almost 3 years ago Marc Osten - Marc's Culinary Compass

Sounds like a great idea. One of the things I like most however is that spatchcocking, at least for me, means the breast can come out of the over at the same doneness as the thigh with out anything being too dry or undercooked. Marc