This recipe for spatchcock chicken gets a tender, juicy oven-roasted bird on the table in less than an hour’s time. Faster than roasting a whole bird and just as delicious!
If you’ve never tried spatchcocking a chicken before, today is your day! This cooking method gets a perfectly roasted chicken on the table in a fraction of the time as baking a whole chicken. In short, it’s the definition of foolproof. With just a little technique and context, you’ll be an expert in no time.
What is a Spatchcock Chicken?
The method of spatchcocking a chicken consists of slicing out the chicken’s backbone, breaking the breast bone, and laying the bird out flat. From roasting to grilling, this process significantly cuts down the cooking time by increasing the surface area the heat can hit at once. To put this in perspective, it typically takes a whole roasted chicken around an hour and a half to cook, while a spatchcock chicken can take as little as 50 minutes.
Essential Kitchen Tools for Spatchcocked Chicken
Spatchcocking is super simple, but a couple of solid tools will supercharge the process.
- Poultry Shears – Sharp kitchen shears are essential for cutting out the backbone easily (be warned: this process can be finicky if your shears are dull).
- Sharp Kitchen Knife– To slice the back of the breast bone, you’ll want to use a sharp knife that touts minimal slippage.
- Large Cast-Iron Pan – A large cast-iron, oven-safe pan that you can tuck the chicken into semi-snugly makes all the difference in retaining moisture.
How to Spatchcock a Chicken Step-by-Step
To kick off the process, pull the butter out of the fridge and let it soften at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
- Season the Butter: In a medium bowl, mix the softened butter with salt, pepper, and garlic.
- Slice out the Backbone: Using kitchen shears, cut along one side of the backbone. Next, slice along the other side of the backbone to free it from the chicken.
- Open up the Chicken: Next, flip the chicken breast-side down and make a shallow slice down the backside of the breast bone. Flip the chicken back over, turn the legs inward, and use your palms to press down on the breasts until the chicken is flattened.
- Pull the Skin: Next, carefully pull the skin free from the breast meat so you can stuff butter under it.
- Butter the Chicken: Spread the butter mixture all over the chicken and pop some underneath the skin.
- Roast the Chicken: Place the chicken in a baking dish big enough so it can lay flat. Tuck the wings underneath the chicken slightly and bake at 450°F uncovered for about 50 minutes.
- Allow the Chicken to Rest: Pull the chicken out of the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Carve and enjoy!
Save the Backbone! Whatever you do, don’t throw the backbone away! It will make wonderful chicken stock. If you have to, toss it in a plastic storage bag and freeze it.
3 Pro Tips for Amazing Spatchcock Chicken
A handful of tips to help you get crispy skin and juicy meat…
- Pat the chicken dry. Use paper towels to pat the chicken dry of any excess moisture. This will help the skin to crisp up nicely.
- Allow the butter to soften at room temperature. Softened butter will be easier to spread all on the chicken’s surface and underneath the skin.
- Air chill the chicken overnight for super crispy skin. If you have the time, spatchcock the chicken the night before, sprinkle it with a generous amount of salt, and leave it uncovered in the fridge overnight. The salt will pull out the excess moisture and turn the skin ridiculously crispy.
Different Seasonings for Spatchcock Chicken
There are a million and one different ways to season spatchcock chicken for any occasion. Below, find a couple of different options to mix straight into the butter.
- Herbs: Thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, dill
- Spices: Paprika, cumin, garlic powder,
- Citrus: Lemon zest/lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice
Ways to Serve Your Chicken
For a quick one-pan dinner, roast the spatchcock chicken alongside potatoes, carrots, onions, green beans, and/or celery. The chicken also goes wonderfully with a homemade caesar salad or a Russian beet salad with garlic. Alternatively, you can shred the chicken and use it for tacos, salads, chicken salad, or enchiladas.
Storing and Freezing Spatchcock Chicken
Spatchcock chicken is perfect for meal prep. Here you’ll find all the best storage tips.
- Storing: To keep chicken on hand for a week, either shred it or trim it down into breasts, drumsticks, thighs, and wings. Then, transfer it to an airtight container and pop it in the fridge.
- Freezing: To have chicken on hand for up to 3 months, shred it and store it in a freezer-safe bag. Make sure all the air is taken out, or else it will get freezer burn faster.
What is the difference between spatchcock and butterfly chicken?
Spatchcock chicken is a whole chicken that has had the backbone removed and is laid flat, while butterfly chicken typically refers to a chicken breast that has been sliced in half.
Does a spatchcock chicken have bones?
Yes, spatchcock chicken typically is bone-in. If you’d like, you can partially remove the rib bones.
What side do you spatchcock on?
You should always roast spatchcock chicken breast side up.
Can you grill a spatchcock chicken?
Yes, grilling spatchcock chicken is a great method. You can BBQ it over charcoal or gas and it will have an amazing smokey flavor.
Do you need to sear a spatchcock chicken before baking it?
If you like extra crispy skin, you can sear the chicken skin-side down for 5-8 minutes in a pan over medium heat before baking it.
More Tasty Protein Recipes
- Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs (30 Minutes!) – Paprika and herb chicken thighs
- Whole Baked Duck – Juicy, tender and stuffed with buckwheat
- Instant Pot Chicken Thighs (Fresh and Frozen) – Tender pressure-cooked chicken thighs
- Air Fryer Buffalo Chicken Wings – Tangy, no-guilt chicken wings
- One-Pan Roasted Chicken and Potatoes – Sheet pan chicken and potatoes
- In a medium-size bowl, combine the softened butter with the salt, pepper, and garlic. Set aside.
- Flip the chicken breast-side down. Using kitchen scissors, cut out the backbone of the chicken. Next, make a shallow slice down the back of the breast bone (this will help the chicken "open up").
- Flip the chicken over and turn the legs inward. Using your hands, press the breasts down to lay the chicken flat (you might hear a slight crack and that's a good thing).
- Carefully pull the skin away from the meat around the breast area.
- Spread the butter mixture all over the chicken, reserving a bit to stuff underneath the skin.
- Place the chicken in a baking pan or cast-iron skillet. Bake the chicken at 450°F uncovered for about 50 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165°F. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes before cutting into it. Enjoy!