DIY Food

How to Spatchcock a Chicken (or Turkey)

November  6, 2012

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

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"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

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • Frau Neudecker
    Frau Neudecker
  • laurel'skitchen
  • Erika Kotite
    Erika Kotite
  • DocdMomDeb
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


AntoniaJames November 24, 2014
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)
Frau N. February 8, 2013
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.
Kristen M. February 8, 2013
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.
laurel'skitchen November 9, 2012
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!! :-))
Erika K. November 8, 2012
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).
DocdMomDeb November 8, 2012
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!!!!
Ambitious November 7, 2012
It's my favorite way to cook a chicken! The meat gets cooked through more evenly and it cuts cooking time- I love!
AntoniaJames November 6, 2012
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)
hardlikearmour November 6, 2012
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.
Kristen M. November 7, 2012
Thanks for these tips!
Roger H. September 12, 2016
You have never done CPR I am guessing. Find your local paramedic, they fix that.
iguanachef November 6, 2012
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.