How to Spatchcock (Butterfly) a Chicken

Ever spatchcocked a chicken? It's easier than you might think! It's the same method as butterflying a chicken, and you only need a pair of kitchen shears.

Print
Photography Credit: Emma Christensen

Have you ever spatchcocked a chicken before? It’s surprisingly easy! It’s also exactly the same as butterflying a chicken, but with a name that is way more fun to say.

There are two major advantages to spatchcocking a chicken that, for me, put this method head and shoulders above all others.

First of all, even cooking. For a spatchcocked chicken, you remove the backbone and open up the chicken so it lies it flat for cooking. This means that the breast meat and the thigh meat are on the same horizontal plane, so both cook at pretty much the same rate.

This means no more waiting around for the thighs to finish cooking while the chicken breasts dry out. Which means that the white meat and the dark meat lovers in your family will all be very happy.

Second, lots and lots of crispy skin. Since the vast majority of the skin is exposed and facing upward, you don’t wind up with those flabby, sad areas on the undersides of the thighs and drumsticks. All crispy, all the time.

How To Spatchcock a ChickenMost butchers will spatchcock a chicken for you at no charge, but truthfully, it’s really easy to do at home. It will make you feel like a boss, and all you need is a strong pair of kitchen shears (I love my OXO shears).

Turn the bird over so the breasts are down and you’re looking at the back. See the backbone? You’re going to cut along both sides of that backbone to remove it.

You can go from the top of the chicken or the bottom; just pick a direction and go for it.

Now, you’ll need to exert a bit of force to cut through the rib bones, but I’m always surprised at how not-terribly-hard this is to do. Make sure you’re cutting near the pivot point of your scissors, where the two blades are screwed together. You’ll have the most force here; don’t try to snip with the tips of the scissors.

Cut all the way up one side of the backbone, and then all the way up the other. Remember, you’re cutting beside the backbone, not actually through it. Once the backbone has been cut free, lift it out and set it aside. (It’s great for making chicken stock.)

How To Spatchcock a ChickenUse your hands to open up the chicken a little bit, and then flip it over so that the breasts are now facing up. Use the palm of your hand and press firmly down on the breast meat, right over the breast bone. You should hear a little bit of crunching.

The goal here is to flatten this area so that the breasts and the thighs are basically at the same level. Some pros recommend snipping the cartilage beneath the breast bone or even entirely removing the wish bone. This does help the chicken to lay more flat, but personally, I don’t feel like the extra fuss makes a huge difference in how the chicken cooks.

And now you have a perfectly spatchcocked chicken! From here, you can either roast it or grill it. I’ve included some very basic roasting instructions below, which you can certainly gussy up as much as you like.

Still a bit nervous? Just watch the video below!

How to Spatchcock (Butterfly) a Chicken

Print
  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 or more servings, depending on the size of the bird

This method will work with any size bird, even turkeys.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken

Special equipment:

Method

1 Lay the chicken breast side down on a cutting surface. You should be looking down at the chicken's backbone.

2 Using kitchen shears, cut out the backbone. You can start from the top of the chicken or the bottom. Cut slightly to one side of the backbone, so that you're cutting through rib bones and not  the backbone itself.

If it feels very difficult to cut through the bones, try repositioning your scissors slightly further away from the backbone.

Cut all the way up one side of the backbone and then all the way up the other. Remove the backbone and set it aside.

How To Spatchcock a Chicken How To Spatchcock a Chicken

3 Use your hands to open up the bird slightly, then flip it breast side up. Now the breast of the chicken should be facing up. Fold the legs so they are facing inward and the majority of the meat is facing up.

How To Spatchcock a Chicken

4 Flatten the chicken: Use the palm of your hand and press down firmly over the breast bone.

The aim is to flatten the chicken so the breast meat and the thighs are at roughly the same level. You will likely hear some crunching (though it's ok if you don't). You can also pick up the chicken and use your hands if that feels more comfortable.

How To Spatchcock a Chicken

5 Tuck the wings under (optional): The tips of the tiny, thin wings tend to cook quickly and burn during cooking. Tuck them behind the body of the chicken to help slow down their cooking and keep the tips protected.

How To Spatchcock a Chicken How To Spatchcock a Chicken

5 Roast or grill the chicken. If roasting, place the chicken in a roasting pan, rub it all over with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 450F for 35 to 45 minutes, until the chicken registers at least 165F in both the thighs and the breast.

How To Spatchcock a Chicken How To Spatchcock a Chicken

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to How to Spatchcock (Butterfly) a Chicken on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

Print

If you make this recipe, snap a pic and hashtag it #simplyrecipes — We love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, & Twitter!

Emma Christensen

Emma Christensen is the managing editor for Simply Recipes, as well as a food writer and homebrewing expert. She was formerly the recipe editor for The Kitchn and is the author of three books on home-brewing, True Brews, Brew Better Beer, and Modern Cider. Emma is a graduate of The Cambridge School for Culinary Arts and Bryn Mawr College. She lives in San Jose, California.

More from Emma

3 Comments

  1. Wayne Rivali

    Shouldn’t the sternum bone also be removed prior to roasting? I use this technique for duck. Also, I never use olive oil in preparations that require more than 350dF. I would use avocado oil, if anything. I personally don’t baste with oil. I would rather roast the bird with 1/2 inch water,or so, in an oval enamel roasting pan on a wire rack above the water. I roast my chicken whole and covered with a lid after brining overnight. Then, roughly 20 minutes at 500dF, 20 at 450, and 20 at 400. Remove an keep lid on until cool enough to de-bone or carve. De-boned chicken bones go into a round enamel stock pot with water to cover the bone plus a cup or two more, with 2 TBS ACV to soak for 2 hours before heating on very low heat (180dF) for about two days. And I never cook black pepper, but I always welcome critique.

    • Emma Christensen

      You can remove the sternum bone if you like, but I don’t think it’s really necessary. Mostly I think removing this bone makes it easier to carve the chicken after cooking; I don’t notice that it makes a huge difference in terms of actual cooking.

      Avocado oil is great! You can definitely use it for roasting if you like.

  2. FoodJunkie

    I highly recommend this a way to cook chicken and as described in the post it is pretty darn easy as long as you have a good sturdy kitchen shear. Not much more difficult to carry on and cut up the entire chicken as well from this point which is handy when they go on sale. Spatchcocked chickens also fit and flavour better in most household smokers. Give it a try you’ll be glad you did.

Post a comment

Your comment may need to be approved before it will appear on the site. Thanks for waiting. First time commenting? Please review the Comment Policy.

How To Spatchcock a ChickenHow to Spatchcock (Butterfly) a Chicken