How to Spatchcock a Chicken, Step-by-Step

August  1, 2014

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.

Spatchcocked Chicken

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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.

More: Steal a perfect spatchcock recipe from the Canal House ladies.

"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.

Spatchcock Chicken

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

Spatchcocked Chicken

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.

Spatchcocked Chicken

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! 

Spatchcock Chicken

Have you tried spatchcocking your chicken? Would you recommend it? Let us know in the comments!

Photos by James Ransom

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Cara Nicoletti is a butcher and writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Cara started working in restaurants when she moved to New York in 2004, and was a baker and pastry chef for several years before following in her grandfather and great-grandfathers' footsteps and becoming a butcher. She is the writer behind the literary recipe blog,, and author of Voracious, which will be published by Little, Brown in 2015. She is currently a whole-animal butcher and sausage-making teacher at The Meat Hook in Williamsburg.


Johanna H. February 2, 2018
I spatchcocked my turkey this year with a twist. I detached the leg/thighs, then I took the thigh bones out and stuffed the thighs with some dressing, then I trussed them. Thank you, America's Test Kitchen for your brilliance!
Jenny N. October 12, 2015
Sorry, sorry, sorry...I'm an Engish teacher. Chickens LAY eggs, but they LIE on cutting boards, grills, and roasting pans! (Aside from that, terrific cutting. Learned the technique while living in Italy.)
jdcooker August 6, 2014
Another off take, put the chicken on a bed of fresh basil and roast (don't forget to add some garlic with this method). Putting a heave skillet on top of the bird for the first 45 minutes of so, presses the meat into the basil and ,,, well it's just a great way to do a chicken, especially a home grown bird!!!!!
Katie F. August 6, 2014
I cook my spatchcocked chicken in my 14" cast iron pan then make a wonderful sauce or gravy on the stove top while my chicken takes a rest. It has fast become a favorite in our house.
ghainskom August 5, 2014
I thought it was called butterflied chicken. At any rate, this article makes me want to have another go at this:
Cara N. August 5, 2014
Some people call it butterflying, but that usually means the backbone is kept intact and the chicken is just split down the center. Either way, this recipe looks heavenly!
Adrian S. August 3, 2014
You left out the last step! This makes the presentation prettier and protects the breast meat. Scroll down to pictures 4 & 5
Joice August 4, 2014
Love the tip!!! I've been using the spatchcock method for years but recently bought a rotisserie, now I want to spatchcock a chicken just to use this tip!
Practically E. August 3, 2014
I have been doing this for eons but I did not know this had a name beyond ripping the spine out of the chicken and making it flat. Thanks for the vocabulary addition!
Catherine L. August 4, 2014
Glad to help!
Bruce B. August 3, 2014
This is the primary way I grill chicken. It allows all of the bird to be spiced equally, speeds up the cooking and the skin fat melts into the meat and becomes extra crispy. A rotisserie is my second choice.
Waterobin August 3, 2014
I keep on cutting through the breast bone and roast just a half chicken for the two of us. A bed of finely chopped veggies basted with the chicken juices can be mixed with leftover rice or made into a quick pan sauce. The other half chicken waits in the freezer
ddh77 August 3, 2014
I've been spatchcocking my Thanksgiving turkey for a couple of years now and use the same method with chicken that I roast and finish off under the broiler. Either way, I use cut up root vegetables for my roasting "rack" and my family enjoys the veggies more than the turkey or chicken!
Catherine L. August 4, 2014
Yum! It's because of all those delicious drippings... my mom does that too!
Jackie G. August 3, 2014
I have done this and the result is excellent, crispy skin, moist meat. I also do this on the grill.
jpierreantoine August 3, 2014
I've done this with turkey on Thanksgiving. Saved tons of cooking time. Brined it first.
criskoss August 3, 2014
I have done this with Turkey for Thanksgiving and saved hours, the result is moist and tender with crispy skin.
S August 3, 2014
Although the article doesn't mention it, this is an ideal way to prep a whole chicken for grilling.

Also, this works great for smaller poultry like game hens.
Antonio C. August 3, 2014
It does read the last line
S August 3, 2014
Ah, you are right, I guess I was distracted by the pretty picture. ;-)
Joanne M. August 1, 2014
Been making chicken this way with potatoes under it on a broiling pan ever since reading an article in cooks illustrated years ago...rub a little softened herbed butter under the skin and roast in the oven - potatoes cooked in chicken fat and butter - yum!!!
Cara N. August 1, 2014
sounds amazing, Joanne! Chicken fat is magic.