I kept going back to the same roast chicken recipes. One, in a preheated cast-iron skillet, a trick I nabbed from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Two, spatchcocked—less flashily known as butterflied—a whole-poultry technique also introduced to me by Bittman, who developed a “45-Minute Roast Turkey” for the New York Times in 2002. People have been spatchcock-crazed ever since.
And yet, it was another trend entirely that gave me the idea to combine the two: sheet-pan suppers. I need not tell you that our love for sheet pans knows no bounds. We use them for sweet potatotes. Tofu. Eggs. And, of course, chicken.
As I read recipe after recipe, I started to wonder: Could sheet pans be the secret to merging my two favorite roast chickens? An experiment was in order. So, grab your poultry shears and the nearest dead chicken. Good? Good! Let’s get started.
Question: Does a spatchcocked chicken on a preheated sheet pan take less time to cook than either original method?
Observations: A 4-pound chicken roasted at 450° F will take about an hour. Preheating a cast-iron skillet—and using it as the roasting vessel—lowers that time to 50 or so minutes. Spatchcocking the chicken and roasting at the same temperature: 45 or so minutes.
Hypothesis: A 4-pound, spatchcocked chicken roasted at 450° F on a preheated sheet pan will take less than 45 minutes.
Constants: 450° F oven. Rimmed sheet pan. 4-pound chicken—I used air-chilled, which is a little pricier but less waterlogged (read: crispier skin!). 1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, for rubbing. 2 teaspoons kosher salt, for seasoning. Freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning.
Before we preheat our ovens—a word on spatchcocking: You cut out the spine, flip the bird over, then press it flat. That’s it. The benefits: a flat shape means more even cooking. And faster cooking. And crispier skin. And it’s easier to carve. Spatchcock or bust!
Chicken #1: classic spatchcock. I set the oven to 450° F. While it preheated, I spatchcocked the chicken, patted it dry with paper towels, then rubbed it with 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. I transferred the chicken onto a room-temperature sheet tray. By this time, the oven had reached temperature. I got the chicken in. It took about 45 minutes to cook (that is, to reach 165º F in the joint between the thigh and body).
Chicken #2: spatchcock on a preheated sheet pan. I set the oven to 450º F and immediately put the sheet tray in. When the oven reached its temperature, I set a 15-minute timer. Meanwhile, I spatchcocked the chicken, patted it dry with paper towels, then rubbed it with 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. When the timer went off, I pulled the sheet pan from the oven, quickly added the chicken, then put it back into the oven. It took about 30 minutes to cook.
Conclusion: 30 minutes?! The skin was crispy and varnished and I felt like a weeknight warrior. Some suggestions for other kitchen scientists, like yourself, who wish to yield similar results: Secure a loaf of crusty bread and your favorite wine. Make a just-greens salad with olive oil and a lot of vinegar. After you carve the chicken, add the pieces back to the sheet pan. This is—ta-da!—your serving platter. At the table, tear the bread into hunks and use those to sop up anything and everything on the pan. Your hands will be chickeny and your clothes might get messy. Good.
- 4 pounds chicken
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper