How To Spatchcock a Chicken
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The reason for spatchcocking a chicken is that it creates a much better shape for a more even cook between the breast and the legs, especially when cooking on a BBQ or directly over coals. It also cooks very well in the oven too!
In my opinion spatchcock is one of the best ways to cook a whole bird. Second only to spit roast, which self bastes as it cooks. But it really is very easy to achieve a perfectly cooked, succulent and juicy chicken by spatchcocking it.
IN THIS GUIDE:
- Spatchcock the Chicken
- Season the Spatchcock Chicken
- Probing a Spatchcock Chicken
- Cooking a Spatchcock Chicken
- Spatchcock Chicken Cooking Tips
- Carving a Spatchcock Chicken
- Whole Chicken
- Good Quality Kitchen Shears
1. Spatchcock the Chicken
Let’s start by placing the bird breast down on a large chopping board with the parsons nose facing towards you.
Using your kitchen shears start by cutting to the left side of the Parsons nose and down running next to the spine. You will have to cut through some smaller bones here, hence the “good quality” kitchen shears.
Once you have cut all the way along the spine and to the neck, turn the bird round so that the parsons nose is now facing away from you.
This time start cutting at the neck end to the left of the spine.
Cut all the way down the spine until you reach the parsons nose, and the spine is completely removed.
Either discard the spine or freeze it and save it for your stockpot
Now turn the chicken over to breast side up. While slightly pulling apart, place it back down on the board.
Place your hand on the breast of the bird and firmly push down. You should hear a slight crack and the chicken should now lay completely flat.
You now have a spatchcock chicken.
Season the Spatchcock Chicken
To season the chicken we’re going to start by carefully separating some of the skin form the flesh. That way we can get a little of our rub directly onto the meat, which will penetrate down into the flesh as it cooks, instead of just sitting on the surface. This is an optional step but it does make for a really flavoursome bird.
With the now spatchcocked chicken sitting bone side down on your board, take the thigh and push your fingers between the skin and the flesh, gently prising apart. Work your way to the drum, then push the drum through the gap you’ve created, exposing the flesh.
If you’re struggling a bit here, a desert spoon can be used instead of your fingers.
Once you’ve done both legs, spin the bird so that the neck end is now towards you. Again push your fingers between the skin and flesh, slightly releasing the breast meat.
Don’t go over the top, you’re not trying to completely undress the bird!
Ok, this is important! For this next bit we’re going to be using something called the “Clean hand, dirty hand technique“. This technique was originally developed for use in laboratories to prevent cross contamination.
One of our hands is going to be the clean hand for drizzling and sprinkling, and the other the dirty hand for slathering and handling the meat.
At no point must you touch the chicken with the clean hand or pick up the rub with the dirty hand. And what ever you do, don’t clap!
I’m right-handed, and I prefer to have my left hand as the dirty hand.
Flip the chicken over, breast down, drizzle a little oil onto the bone side and rub all over to coat. Then sprinkle a little of your rub or spice mix where you rubbed the oil.
Be careful not to use too much rub on chicken. Especially if it’s a shop bought Chicken/Pork rub as many are. These rubs can be particularly salty and you can be quite generous with them on a big chunk of pork. But with chicken, less is definitely more.
If using a home-made rub like I am here, you can adjust the salt accordingly.
Turn the bird over again bone side down and sprinkle a little rub onto the revealed flesh of the legs and breast. Getting the rub onto the breast hear can be a little tricky here especially with larger birds and only using one hand to pick it up.
If you are struggling, there’s a trick, season your fingers of your “dirty” hand with the rub, and apply to the flesh using that hand.
Pull its trousers back up, and now drizzle some oil and rub it all over the skin. Lastly sprinkle a little seasoning all over and your ready to go.
Probing a Spatchcock Chicken
Using BBQ meat probes is a great way of ensuring a perfectly cooked, succulent and juicy spatchcock chicken. I usually probe mine in 2 places:
- Probe in through the neck end of one of the breasts. (If there’s a bigger one, use that). Get to as close to central in the meat as possible.
- Probe up through the leg and in into the crook of the joint where the leg meets the thigh, without hitting bone.
I usually set my probe alarms to 74°C/165°F in the breast. Which is the main alarm I’m looking at. The Thigh probe is just a guide, I set this to 80°C/176°F. But would expect to see this rise to at least 80°C/176°F, but any ware up to 90°C/194°F.
Once the bird gets up to temp, always double check with a good quality Instant Read Thermometer.
In case anyone’s wondering? The probes in the pic are from the Weber iGrill 2 Bluetooth Thermometer. There are many more advanced and fancy probe systems on the market, but for the price, as an entry level system, it’s pretty good. Put it this way, I’ve been using this system since way before Weber got its hands on it, and before it was called the iGrill. Its first incarnation was the iDevices – Kitchen thermometer, and I’m pretty sure it was the first wireless Bluetooth thermometer to market.
That’s not a bad one paragraph review!
Cooking a Spatchcock Chicken
When it comes to cooking a spatchcock chicken there seems to be lots of debate online about the correct way of doing things.
To be honest there is no real “correct” way of cooking a spatchcock chicken but there are many ways it can be done.
I’ve cooked them direct, indirect, hot and fast, low and slow, breast up, breast down, on iron grates, in an iron pan, roasted, smoked, braised, under bricks and in a rack.
All different results yet all fantastic!
The main thing is to experiment and have fun. The cooking times will vary a fair bit depending on what technique you’re using, but as long as you’re sticking to the internal temps given above, you’ll be fine.
Spatchcock Chicken Cooking Tips
- The main secret to cooking a fantastic chicken is…… buying a fantastic chicken. The difference between a Fast growth, hormone filled, battery bleached chicken and a Free range, high welfare, classically farmed chicken is worlds apart! It’s your main ingredient, buy the best.
- For better more even cooking, let the chicken get up to room temperature before placing on the heat. This can take between 1 and 3 hours out of the fridge depending on the ambient temperature.
- Cooking at a lower temperature will be easier to control an even cook, will gain more smoke, but skin will be chewy and rubbery.
- Cooking at a higher temperature will, take on less smoke, the bird my need to be flipped for an even cook, and the skin will cook properly.
- Don’t over smoke a chicken! Chicken really doesn’t lend itself well to a heavy smoking. A 3-4 hour smoke over Mesquite, Oak or Hickory is no way to treat a bird. But a quick 45 minutes to 1-1/4 hours with a little fruit wood such as Apple or Cherry is delicious. Wood like Hickory can be good with chicken but just a hint.
- Cooking over direct heat will add a nice bit of char and a crispy skin, but will be slightly more difficult to control.
Carving a Spatchcock Chicken
Carving a spatchcock chicken is very simple. Divide into portions by sliceing through the joints in this order
- Remove one full leg and divide the drum and thigh.
- Repeat with the other leg and divide leg and thigh.
- Remove both full wings.
- Remove one breast by slicing centrally just past the breastbone then at a 90° to meet the first cut. Lift off the breast and slice at a slight angle.
- Repeat with the other breast
Spatchcock chicken can also be pulled, to make Pulled Chicken Sandwiches. Either whole, straight after the rest or as leftovers.
Hopefully I’ve helped with this guide?
If you have any questions, suggestions or requests, please leave in the comments below and I’ll get back to you.