You might be thinking, what the heck does “spatchcock” mean and why would I want to spatchcock a chicken?
First of all, spatchcock is just another term for butterflying a chicken (but spatchcock is much more fun to say than butterfly, don’t you think?). As for why you would want to butterfly a chicken: It results in one really tasty bird. This was by far the most juicy, moist chicken I’ve ever eaten. Let me explain a bit more about the process….
When you cook a whole chicken, you run into the issue of the dark leg/thigh meat and the white breast meat not cooking evenly. A bit of a conundrum. The problem, the breast meat dries out before the leg meat is finished cooking. Spatchcocking or butterflying your chicken helps to alleviate this problem by allowing the chicken to cook more evenly (and more quickly), which translates into moist and juicy chicken, not to mention some really nice, crispy skin (and who doesn’t like the crispy bits?).
A quick side note…for ultimate flavor, you’ll want to pre-salt your chicken a few hours or, preferably, 24 hours in advance (1/2 teaspoon kosher salt per pound of chicken). But, if you’re short on time, you can skip this step. Just be sure to season your chicken well before cooking.
The farmers who are responsible for putting such wonderful food on my table deserve recognition. This splendid chicken comes from Truck Patch Farms in New Windsor, MD.
How to spatchcock (or butterfly) a chicken…it’s quick and easy:
1. Lay the chicken so that its spine is facing up, thighs closest to you. Feel along the chicken for its spine. With kitchen shears, make a cut just to the right of the spine. Continue cutting along the length of the spine/backbone.
2. Flip the chicken around so that the wings are now closest to you. Make another cut, just to the right of the spine, and continue cutting along the length of the backbone. Remove the backbone and set aside (you can roast the backbone too).
3. Flip the chicken back over, so the breast side is now facing up. Gently press down on the breast to flatten the chicken. Voilà, you’ve just successfully spatchcocked a chicken.
Here are a few photos of the process…
I rubbed a mixture of fresh rosemary, lots of fresh garlic, [Meyer] lemon juice and zest, a little hot smoked paprika, salt and pepper, and extra virgin olive oil all over the chicken, including underneath the skin.
For best results you’ll want to place the chicken on a wire rack over a heavy duty rimmed baking sheet. You can can also place the chicken directly in a shallow roasting pan. You don’t want your cooking vessel to be too deep, otherwise the skin will not be fully exposed to the heat, and will not completely brown.
I also placed some thin [Meyer] lemon slices on the baking sheet, which get nicely charred in the process and pair perfectly with the chicken. You can place the backbone and giblets on the baking sheet and roast them as well.
To accompany the chicken, I roasted some sunchokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes, a rather curious name given that they’re neither related to the artichoke nor have any relation to Jerusalem). Rather, Jerusalem artichokes are a member of the sunflower family and native to North America.
Sunchokes have an interesting, rich nutty, earthy flavor. You can enjoy them raw, baked, steamed, or even boiled. When raw, sunchokes have a crisp texture, similar to a water chestnut. I like to roughly chop sunchokes, toss them in olive oil, salt and pepper, fresh herbs, and simply roast in the oven, until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside (just as you would a potato).
You want to cook chicken until your thermometer reads between 165 to 170°F when placed in the thickest part of the thigh, not touching bone. 165°F degrees is the minimal cooking temperature considered safe by the USDA.
My thermometer read 166°F, so I’m good to go. Be sure to let the chicken rest for about 15 minutes before digging in.
I don’t think I’ll ever cook a chicken any other way again…spatchcocking has won me over.
Spatchcocked Lemon Garlic Rosemary Chicken
1 (4-pound) chicken
4 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice (used a Meyer lemon)
zest of 1 lemon (used a Meyer lemon), roughly chopped
1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
salt (if not presalting) and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, cut into thin slices
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Mix the rosemary, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, paprika, and salt and pepper in a bowl.
Spatchcock (butterfly) the chicken as described above, backbone and giblets reserved. Rub the rosemary, garlic mixture all over the chicken, including the breast, thighs, and under the skin. Place the lemon slices, backbone and giblets on a heavy duty rimmed baking sheet. Set a wire rack over the baking sheet and place the chicken on top, breast side up.
Roast the chicken in the oven for 50 minutes or until your thermometer reads 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh (without touching the bone) and the skin is nice and golden brown and crispy.
Let rest for 15 minutes. Enjoy.