Spatchcocked Roast Chicken

August 11, 2010

Test Kitchen-Approved

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
Prep time: 1 hrs 25 min
Cook time: 40 min

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons thyme leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 4-lb. organic chicken
In This Recipe

Directions

  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.

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Reviews (23) Questions (2)

23 Reviews

Kate November 7, 2016
Just made this for dinner tonight and loved the flavors! <br /><br />I had trouble with the first of the juices/melted butter overheating, splattering, and then smoking (triggering the smoke alarm twice, oops!). The only thing that fixed this was adding some liquid (chicken broth/water) to the bottom of the pan. I propped my chicken up off the bottom of the pan with some carrot and celery sticks which roasted nicely.<br /><br />I used a much bigger chicken (7 pounds!) and it took much longer. When making a bigger chicken would you still recommend keeping the temperature at 425 for 20 minutes and then the rest at 375, or would you cook it at 425 for a longer time? Thanks for your thoughts!
 
Miche August 3, 2014
sorry, was trying to comment on a different spatchcock post
 
Miche August 3, 2014
get your "lay" and "lie" straight!<br />
 
LittleMissMuffin October 8, 2013
Really good even with half the butter. Cooked on the grill at 400. But what to do with the breastbone?
 
the_lewist September 21, 2013
So Quick. So Tasty. I made this for a small dinner party last night and it got rave reviews. Today's mission : Chicken Soup.
 
littlesister March 19, 2013
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.
 
DjeenDjeen February 3, 2013
New favorite roast chix recipe, hands down. The pickiest eater in my family requested this for xmas eve, quite an endorsement!
 
Frau N. December 10, 2012
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?<br />I'm beginning to think that I will never have a juicy chicken, except when I poach it.
 
Margaret L. June 18, 2012
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!
 
LAchowman October 10, 2012
Just leave it out and don't substitute anything. It will be delicious!
 
pshipper June 11, 2012
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?
 
mimin September 2, 2013
I grill spatchcocked chicken all the time. Indirect heat, rotate- not flip- every 15 min for approx an hour. Delish, juicy meat, crispy skin.
 
Shalini November 14, 2011
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.
 
Missallfun June 27, 2011
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!
 
Author Comment
Merrill S. June 27, 2011
So glad you liked it!
 
Glo C. May 15, 2011
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.
 
Rebacrea May 15, 2011
This is the only way I make roast chicken. It is always perfect.
 
matthewddsg January 31, 2011
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.
 
aargersi January 11, 2011
I got a similar pan by LODGE - in apple green which I love - it's a little cheaper than LeCreuset ....
 
FlangeSqueal January 11, 2011
Hey tracey181 -<br />The roasting pan is an au gratin made by LeCreuset......they come in a couple sizes and I use mine for everything!<br /><br />I'm going to try this tomorrow night!
 
tracey181 December 20, 2010
This might be a strange question but I really love this roasting dish. Who makes it?
 
vivaLaCocina August 15, 2010
We had to cook for 20 people the other day and everybody loved it!<br />GREAT taste!!!
 
testkitchenette August 11, 2010
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.