Spatchcocked Roast Chicken

By • August 11, 2010 24 Comments

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Author Notes: My default method for roasting chicken involves smearing an herby, garlicky butter under the skin, so it's in direct contact with the meat. Then, I simply truss and roast at high heat for the first twenty minutes, lowering the oven temperature to 350 to finish.

While this process always results in juicy, tender legs, on one more than one occasion it has failed to yield the same results with the white meat, which remains forlornly attached to the bird, rejected until every last scrap of dark meat has been devoured. For some reason, the other week I decided to spend five extra minutes and spatchcock -- or butterfly -- my bird before applying the usual ministrations. A couple of snips with my kitchen shears, and the backbone was no more. Laid flat in the roasting pan, the breast and legs on an even plane, the chicken cooked in record time. When I cut into the breast, I could immediately see that it was juicy and succulent. For the first time in a long time, I chose white meat instead of dark.
Merrill Stubbs

Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons thyme leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 4-lb. organic chicken
  1. In a small bowl, combine the butter, lemon zest, garlic, thyme, mustard, a teaspoon of salt and some pepper. Set aside.
  2. Remove the gizzards from the chicken and discard. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and set it on a cutting board. Flip it onto its breast and using sturdy kitchen shears, remove the backbone by cutting carefully down each side of the bone, starting at the tail end of the bird. The entire inside of the chicken should be exposed when you’re finished.
  3. Sprinkle the cavity thoroughly with salt and pepper, and then flip the chicken over so that it lies flat. Trim any excess deposits of fat from around the cavity, and gently slide your fingers under the skin and ease it away from the meat, around both sides of the breast and both legs. Carefully smear the compound butter underneath the skin all over the meat, being careful not to break the skin. Reserve about a tablespoon of the butter, and then spread that evenly over the skin, followed by a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.
  4. Lay the chicken in a shallow roasting pan just large enough to accommodate it and put in the refrigerator for an hour or two (this will help the skin crisp more when you cook it).
  5. When you’re ready to make dinner, heat the oven to 425 degrees and remove the chicken from the fridge. Roast for 20 minutes, then baste and decrease heat to 375. Cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, basting once again in the middle, until cooked. Let the chicken sit for a few minutes before carving; serve with the pan juices and some crusty bread or roasted potatoes for sopping them up.

More Great Recipes: Chicken|Entrees

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Comments (24) Questions (2)


about 1 year ago Miche

sorry, was trying to comment on a different spatchcock post


about 1 year ago Miche

get your "lay" and "lie" straight!


almost 2 years ago LittleMissMuffin

Really good even with half the butter. Cooked on the grill at 400. But what to do with the breastbone?


almost 2 years ago the_lewist

So Quick. So Tasty. I made this for a small dinner party last night and it got rave reviews. Today's mission : Chicken Soup.


over 2 years ago littlesister

This is my new go-to for roast chicken. So good and cooks so quickly. It makes roasting a chicken a weeknight option. I made this for family and my brother in law loved it. I recommend cutting the lemon zest in half if you prefer a more subtle lemon flavor.


over 2 years ago DjeenDjeen

New favorite roast chix recipe, hands down. The pickiest eater in my family requested this for xmas eve, quite an endorsement!


over 2 years ago Frau Neudecker

Yesterday I tried my second spatchcocked chicken, exactly following your instructions re temperatur und time. But once again the breasts were over- and the legs underdone. I didn't arrange my chicken like in your picture, but put the legs slightly on top of the breasts. But that should have protected the breasts and exposed the legs even more, non?
I'm beginning to think that I will never have a juicy chicken, except when I poach it.


about 3 years ago Margaret Lacher

I am not the most creative person in the kitchen and would like to ask: What would you suggest as a substitute for the mustard? I absolutely CANNOT stand mustard, but can't really thing of anything to use instead. Thanks!


almost 3 years ago LAchowman

Just leave it out and don't substitute anything. It will be delicious!


about 3 years ago pshipper

You just answered my question! I was wondering if anyone tried doing this on the grill. Anyone have suggestions on timing or an internal temp to check for?


about 2 years ago mimin

I grill spatchcocked chicken all the time. Indirect heat, rotate- not flip- every 15 min for approx an hour. Delish, juicy meat, crispy skin.


almost 4 years ago Shalini

This looks delicious. I like the way you spread the garlic butter under the skin, and spatchcock the bird yourself. Lazily, I get my butcher to do it and often use the Nigella Lawson method of throwing it in a bag with lemon, rosemary, garlic and olive oil. You're right, it cooks in record time and the high heat then low and slow method is perfect for a delicious juicy bird.


about 4 years ago Missallfun

I've made this twice and it has been perfection. I must note that I did it on the fly and didn't marinate. I also didn't measure but guestimated and it was still lovely. I can't even Imagine how perfect it will be when I actuall follow all the steps. Great combo flavors!


about 4 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

So glad you liked it!


over 4 years ago Glo Coat

This was absolutely perfect. Wouldn't change a thing! The skin on mine didn't come out crispy enough but that's due to the shortcomings of my own roasting abilities.


over 4 years ago Rebacrea

This is the only way I make roast chicken. It is always perfect.


over 4 years ago matthewddsg

I made this for a dinner with a dear, carnivorous friend this weekend. It was my first time spatchcocking and it was a great success. Thanks for a great addition to our list of chicken recipes.


over 4 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I got a similar pan by LODGE - in apple green which I love - it's a little cheaper than LeCreuset ....


over 4 years ago FlangeSqueal

Hey tracey181 -
The roasting pan is an au gratin made by LeCreuset......they come in a couple sizes and I use mine for everything!

I'm going to try this tomorrow night!


over 4 years ago tracey181

This might be a strange question but I really love this roasting dish. Who makes it?


almost 5 years ago cookbookchick

I made this last night with buttered orzo to eat with the juices from the roast -- delicious!! My lemon had already been "denuded" for another recipe so instead I squeezed the fresh lemon juice over the finished roast which added a lovely brightness to the sauce, I have made similar roast chickens, spatchcocked and whole, with herbed butter under the skin, but the addition of Dijon mustard sent this one over the top. A keeper! Thanks Merrill!


almost 5 years ago cookbookchick

(Make that a period after "sauce" instead of a comma!)


about 5 years ago vivaLaCocina

We had to cook for 20 people the other day and everybody loved it!
GREAT taste!!!


about 5 years ago testkitchenette

I do this on the grill frequently when I suddenly remember that I have invited my family over for dinner. It's a great quick hacked over some salad greens and vegetables and bread to mop up the juices.