When I first started cooking, the “butterfly” technique was considered the best way to roast a chicken: cutting alongside the backbone to flatten the bird not only resulted in faster cooking times, it allowed you to put potatoes or root vegetables (or whole sprigs of rosemary) under the bird while roasting in order to soak up (or create) the delicious juices.
Lately I’ve seen some restaurants using the term “spatchcocked” chicken, but rest assured, it’s still the same process—with one minor exception: a “spatchcocked” bird typically has the backbone (and sometimes the sternum) removed (rather than just cutting alongside it).
Since cutting into a bird can be daunting for some, and because I believe that more roasted chicken bones = more delicious chicken soup tomorrow, I’ll stick with the “butterflied” technique.
First things First: if you don’t already own a poultry shears, drop everything and run to your nearest kitchen store. Trust me. This is a tool you will use again and again in your kitchen. It’s great for cutting all sorts of food items, both during preparation, and after it’s cooked (i.e., removing my favorite wing parts from the bird is SO much easier when you can just snip them with a scissors). Shown above: my vintage Gerber poultry shears, with its handy rotating connection mechanism that allows you to quickly separate each side for cleaning or sharpening.
How to Butterfly (or Spatchcock) a Chicken
- Place the bird breast side down, with the drumsticks / legs towards you.
2. Using a sturdy scissors or poultry shears, cut along one side of the backbone, from bottom to top. If you’re using a good poultry shears, you’re no longer wondering why you needed one. 🙂 (If you want to do the full “spatchcock” treatment, repeat this step on the other side of the backbone, and remove it, including the attached tail.)
3. Use both hands to open up the bird, and place it breast side up into your roasting pan. But wait! First you need the rest of the recipe!
Preheat your oven to 425° F.
6 sprigs rosemary: 2 de-stemmed and chopped, 4 left whole
Zest and juice of 1 lime
3 TBL good olive oil
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Mix all of the above ingredients directly into your roasting pan (a deep roaster, a 13×9 glass pan, a low aluminum pan… whatever you have that will amply fit a butterflied bird). Here’s what that marinade looked like in my 13×9 glass pan:
Lay your butterflied (or spatchcocked) chicken into the pan, and turn repeatedly until it’s fully coated with the marinade.
With the breast-side facing up, cover the chicken lightly with a tent of aluminum foil, and place it into the oven to roast for 45 minutes. (Photo at right shown at the end of the 45 minute roasting time.)
After 45 minutes, remove the foil and roast for another 15-25 minutes—your total roasting times may be faster or slower depending on your oven and the size of your chicken; use a meat thermometer to gauge correct cooking times: a chicken is done when the thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (but not touching the bone) reaches 165° F.
Serve with your favorite side dish. 🙂