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Each week this summer, Cara Nicoletti of The Meat Hook is helping us get to know our favorite cuts a little bit better – and introducing you to a few new ones, too. Read on, study up, then hightail it to your nearest butcher.
Today: Meet your summer-friendly hack for roast chicken: the spatchcock method.
A roasted chicken is a beautiful thing any time of year, but having your oven on for long periods of time in the summer kind of stinks. By using the spatchcock method, you cut your cooktime down to just thirty minutes; That’s a solid 20 to 30 minutes less than usual, which makes a huge difference when it’s 95 degrees outside.
"Spatchcocking" is just a fancy way of saying that you are removing the backbone and flattening the breastbone of your chicken. The result is a butterflied chicken that lays perfectly flat, allowing it to cook quickly and evenly. Extra bonus: More of the skin is exposed to the heat during cooking, which makes it extra crispy.
Now let's get spatchcocking.
First, lay your bird breast side-down on a cutting board. You will see the tailbone just above the chicken’s cavity. Using a pair of poultry shears, cut along the outside of the tailbone in a straight line all the way up past the neck. Do this on both sides to release the backbone and neck.
More: Don't throw those bones away! Store them in the freezer, then use them to make stock.
In order to get the chicken to lay flat, you'll have to slice a bit into the breastbone. Open up the chicken cavity and place a sharp knife up by the neck in the center of the rib cage, parallel to where the backbone used to be. Press down lightly to make a 1/4 inch-deep cut. Push down on the wings; the breast should split just enough for you to get the bird to lie flat.
Flip the chicken over so that it’s skin side-up, and voilà! If you're worried about burning the quicker-cooking wings, feel free to tuck them into the chicken's armpits, like it's doing the chicken dance. Once your chicken is prepped, you can cook it any way you like! Keep it classic with an herb and garlic pan sauce, cozy it up on top of some roasted vegetables with thyme pesto, cover it with a barbecue rub, or brine it in some coffee -- just remember, your cooking time will be reduced since you took the spatchcock shortcut. Since it's summer and all, try cooking your chicken on the grill, too!
Have you tried spatchcocking your chicken? Would you recommend it? Let us know in the comments!
Photos by James Ransom