How to Spatchcock (Butterfly) a Chicken

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

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


  • 1 whole chicken

Special equipment:


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.

Spatchcock or Butterfly Chicken for Even Cooking Using chicken shears 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.

Exerting force to Butterfly 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.

Step by Step How To Butterfly a Chicken Butterfly Chicken for Crispier Skin

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.

Spatchcocked Chicken in baking Dish Evenly cooked Spatchcocked Chicken

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  • Ann

    Could you use bone-in breasts?

  • Ania

    Super easy to make and the chicken is great!


  • Carla Shuster

    In the instructions it mentions to set the backbone aside – what does one do with it, other than throw it away???

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Carla, I freeze chicken parts like this to make chicken stock later.

  • Lucie

    Thank you for this great tutorial !
    I first read about this method in the book “Salt Fat Acid Heat” (can’t recommend it enough” and I was really intrigued by it. Glad I stumbled upon this post, I will be trying it very soon, for my Friendsgiving !!

  • 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.

  • 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.