Roast chicken is both a crowd-pleaser and a comforting classic. But it can be a little fussy too because ensuring every part of the bird cooks as evenly as possible is a challenging endeavor. Luckily, since discovering "spatchcocking," a simple technique for removing the backbone before roasting chicken, I no longer worry about dry, unevenly cooked pieces of meat. As a bonus, the cooking time for roasting a chicken with this technique is significantly shorter than a traditional roast.
This dish features spatchcock chicken marinated in herby yogurt, harissa, and spices, then roasted with citrus and potatoes. The yogurt helps tenderize the chicken, and the harissa and herbs provide the flavor.
As the chicken roasts, its juices coat the potatoes, while the citrus brightens the whole meal. And who doesn't like chicken and potatoes? For the finishing touches, the herb yogurt comes in once again as a dipping sauce for the chicken. I highly recommend trying out this flavorful spatchcock chicken roast for a date night or dinner party gathering.
Key Ingredients in Roasted Spatchcock Chicken
A few special ingredients are important in this dish, balancing spicy, bright, and acidic notes. The recipe itself is somewhat flexible, so you can adapt the ingredients as needed to maintain the same flavor profile.
- Harissa paste: Harissa is a spicy paste originating in North Africa, typically made with chili peppers, garlic, oil, spices, and herbs. There are many regional variations, and each brand has a distinct flavor profile. Harissa is often used as a condiment, marinade, or base for a stew. Some harissa pastes pack a punch, so I recommend adding a little at a time as you taste the marinade to ensure it is well balanced. For a milder flavor, purchase a mild harissa paste (or use less). This recipe also works with many chili pastes, like gochujang or sambal.
- Herb yogurt: I recommend using full-fat Greek yogurt (I love Wallaby) for its thicker texture and tart flavor. Cilantro provides a warm, citrusy touch, but any combination of soft herbs will do!
- Citrus: I love the combination of citrus with spice. The lemons and oranges are sliced into rounds and baked with the chicken. Feel free to use a variety of oranges and lemons, just oranges, or just lemons.
How to Spatchcock a Chicken
Spatchcocking is a method that involves removing the backbone from a piece of meat, allowing you to open up the bird and lay flat on a surface. The benefit here is that you get a flatter surface where all of the skin is fully exposed, which means a faster, crisper, and a more even roast. In addition to spatchcock chicken, you can also spatchcock a whole turkey.
- Using kitchen shears, remove the chicken's backbone by placing the bird breast-side down and making two cuts on either side of the backbone.
- Turn the bird over and press down with your hands to flatten the chicken.
- Pick up the legs, pulling them away to separate them from the breast. From there, the chicken is ready to bake.
Tips and Tricks
To achieve the most flavorful, moist roast chicken, keep in mind a few tips:
- Taste the marinade as you build it (before adding in the chicken, obviously!) A marinade will taste overly salty, punchy, and spicier than you'd like since it still has to penetrate the meat to get the full flavor. But if all you taste is heat, you may need to adjust the other ingredients to balance the flavor.
- You may need to use a bit more force to cut out the backbone with duller kitchen scissors. Use your free hand to grip the skin tightly so that the scissors move more easily through the meat.
- Use a meat thermometer to achieve the juiciest chicken. The chicken is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the breasts and thighs register at least 165°F.
- If the chicken is browning too quickly, tent it with foil by fully covering the chicken with a piece of foil.
The chicken, potatoes, and yogurt sauce can easily be a complete meal, but if you're looking for a few accompaniments, I recommend the following:
- Warm up flatbread, pita, or naan to sop up the juices; these also serve as a great leftovers meal if you want to make a wrap.
- Make plain or herb-scented rice to serve alongside the chicken.
- Serve with a hearty green, like sauteed spinach
- For a dinner party, I love the combination of this chicken with a bright salad like this Fennel Radicchio Slaw or grilled vegetables, such as these Blistered Shishito Peppers.
Roasted Spatchcock Chicken with Harissa, Herb Yogurt, and Citrus
This recipe calls for Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt. If using another kosher salt or sea salt, I recommend halving the quantity of salt.
You’ll need 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt per pound of chicken (so, if your chicken is 4 pounds, you will want to use 3 teaspoons salt).
- For the herb yogurt
- 1 bunch cilantro, leaves roughly chopped and stems minced to yield about 2 loosely packed cups
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 small cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups full-fat Greek yogurt
- For the roast chicken
- 1 cup herb yogurt
- 2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 3 tablespoons harissa paste
- 1 (3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pound) whole chicken
- 1 pound small Yukon Gold potatoes, halved lengthwise
- 1 lemon
- 1 orange
- Food processor
Make the herb yogurt:
Add the cilantro, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse, until no large bits of herbs or garlic remain, and the mixture takes on the appearance of pesto or herb chutney.
Add in the yogurt and process until homogeneous, occasionally scraping down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula as needed. The herb yogurt should have a consistency slightly thinner than Greek yogurt. Season with additional salt if needed. Transfer mixture to a medium-sized bowl.
Prep the marinade:
In a large bowl, pot, or casserole dish large enough to marinate the chicken, whisk together 1 cup of the herb yogurt, garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and garam masala. Mix in 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt per pound of chicken (so, if your chicken is 4 pounds, you will want to use 3 teaspoons salt). Add harissa, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it reaches your desired spice level.
Set aside the remaining herb yogurt in the fridge, covered, until ready to serve.
Spatchcock the chicken:
On a meat safe cutting board, place the whole chicken breast-side down. Locate the backbone in the center of the chicken. Using kitchen shears, make an incision just to the left of the backbone, cutting through the ribs. You may need to use some force to cut through the bones. Make an incision on the right-hand side, cutting down, then remove the backbone. The backbone can be reserved for stock.
Turn the chicken over so that it now faces breast-side up. Then, firmly place your palms down on the chicken to flatten it. Separate the legs from the breast; the legs should roughly be at the same height as the breasts. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel.
Marinate the chicken:
Cover the chicken in the marinade, generously coating all surfaces, including the areas under the skin. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, up to overnight.
Position oven rack, preheat oven, and line baking sheet:
Once marinated, you’ll begin to preheat your oven. Set a rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 425°F. Meanwhile, line a 9-inch by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil (the rim prevents leakage).
Season the potatoes:
Place potatoes on the baking sheet and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice of one halve onto the potatoes. Season the potatoes with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and toss to ensure they're fully coated. Arrange potatoes on the outer edge of the baking sheet.
Cut citrus and arrange on baking sheet:
Slice the remaining lemon half and orange into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Arrange citrus slices in the middle of the baking sheet. Transfer chicken to the baking sheet and place on top of the citrus rounds skin side up.
Roast the chicken for 45 to 55 minutes or until a meat inserted in the thickest part of the breast or thigh reads at least 165°F. (Exact cooking time will depend on the heat of your oven and the size of the bird, so always double-check the internal temperature.)
Let chicken rest and serve:
Remove chicken from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Carve the chicken into pieces and distribute potatoes and citrus among plates. Serve with the reserved herb yogurt drizzled over the chicken.
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