Spatchcock Roast Chicken

Spatchcock roast chicken is an easy technique that lets you roast a chicken in a shorter amount of time. A seasoning of butter, garlic, lemon, white wine, and herbs gives your juicy bird a bright finish.

A spatchcock roast chicken in a deep roasting pan with sprigs of thyme, lemon halves, and garlic cloves.

Adapted from Beth Dooley | The Perennial Kitchen | University of Minnesota Press, 2021

With very little attention, this chicken practically cooks itself. Then, when everyone wanders into the kitchen, wondering what smells so good, it’s time to eat.–Beth Dooley

WHY WOULD I SPATCHCOCK A CHICKEN?

If learning this technique just seems like a gimmick, hear us out—it’s definitely not. It’s incredibly easy and really does make a difference. Poultry that’s been spatchcocked (or butterflied) cooks 25% faster which should be the only reason you need. Faster food? Yes, please. However, you’ll also get a more evenly roasted bird, as the breasts and thighs cook at the same time so nothing dries out. Finally, if you love crispy chicken skin, you’ll get an entire chicken’s worth because nothing is tucked underneath. If that didn’t sell you, nothing will because…crispy skin. One last suggestion—if you want to try it but aren’t sold on doing the butchery bits yourself, any decent butcher counter will do it for you.

Spatchcock Roast Chicken

A spatchcock roast chicken in a deep roasting pan with sprigs of thyme, lemon halves, and garlic cloves.
The key to a great roast chicken is of course a good chicken. Look for a larger bird (aka roaster) that has been raised on pasture. The spatchcock method of roasting chicken yields a bird that is evenly cooked, golden, and juicy.
Beth Dooley

Prep 20 mins
Cook 1 hr
Total 1 hr 20 mins
Entree
American
4 to 6 servings
338 kcal
No ratings yet
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Ingredients 

  • 1 whole (3 to 5 pound) roaster chicken
  • 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter softened
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic unpeeled
  • 1 lemon cut in half
  • 1 cup dry white wine

Directions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 450ºF (232°C).
  • Place the chicken breast side down on a cutting board. Using poultry shears, cut along both sides of the backbone and remove the backbone (save it for stock). Turn the chicken breast side up and open the cut underside of the chicken like a book. Press firmly against the breastbone until it cracks.
  • Place the chicken in a roasting pan, skin side up. Gently lift the skin around the breast and insert half of the softened butter and the chopped parsley and thyme. Rub the remaining butter over the outside of the chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Tuck the garlic cloves under the chicken, squeeze half of a lemon over the chicken. Add the wine to the roasting pan.
  • Roast the chicken, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Baste the chicken with the pan juices. Reduce the heat to 325ºF (163°C) and continue roasting, basting every 15 minutes, until the thigh wiggles easily, the juices run clear, and a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest portion registers 165ºF (74°C), 35 to 50 minutes.
  • Squeeze the remaining lemon half over the chicken and allow to stand 5 to 10 minutes before carving.
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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 338kcal (17%)Carbohydrates: 5g (2%)Protein: 7g (14%)Fat: 28g (43%)Saturated Fat: 16g (100%)Trans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 86mg (29%)Sodium: 33mg (1%)Potassium: 186mg (5%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 1g (1%)Vitamin A: 1189IU (24%)Vitamin C: 19mg (23%)Calcium: 43mg (4%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

Winner, winner… this spatchcock roast chicken recipe did produce an incredibly moist, juicy, and flavorful chicken! Obviously, the buttery-garlic-infused wine and lemon broth the chicken roasted in were big factors, as well as the flavor-packed herbs tucked under the skin. In this case, I used fresh chopped Italian parsley and lemon thyme, my all-time favorites with chicken. I drizzled the remaining lemon juice over the chicken and let it rest while I finished up my side dishes of a quick stuffing and steamed green beans. You will end up with a lot of wonderful tasting pan broth with this dish that you can drizzle over when serving, sop up with crusty bread, or save to add a great pop of flavor to another dish where chicken stock is used.

This was an incredibly easy recipe to follow and spatchcocking the chicken really does allow it to roast more quickly and evenly throughout. I’ll definitely be making this dish again.

I have all sorts of thumbs up for this spatchcock roast chicken. I did start with an amazing bird. A big bird. 3 kg of organic free-range bird. Let me tell you, the meat on this chicken was tender and flavorful but the spatchcock process required a bit of teamwork. These free-roaming gals are tough to crack.

Once butterflied, the process was seamless. There’s something so satisfying about massaging chicken skin with butter. I used my parsley and thyme butter mostly under the skin as my chicken was a bit bigger than the recommended size for this recipe. The outside of the skin was pretty much a vehicle for cleaning the butter off my hands.

The timings and temperature were fairly accurate. Both the breast and thigh meat were cooked to perfection and remained juicy. I had left my second half of the lemon in the roasting pan. It had already roasted for 30 minutes when I realized it was meant for drizzling fresh at the end. For comparison, I squeezed the juice of the roasted lemon on half the roasted chicken and fresh lemon on the second half. Both juices wakened up the chicken flavor but I actually preferred the cooked lemon juice flavor. It just lent a more rounded and interesting depth of flavor. As for the seasoning, I used a total of 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. From this I removed one teaspoon which I mixed with the butter and herbs for under the chicken skin. The remaining salt was mixed with 1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper and sprinkled all over the chicken before roasting. No adjustments were required at the end.

The recipe didn’t mention a sauce. This chicken didn’t really need a sauce but I definitely had some really delicious stuff in the pan. I separated the fat from the pan juices, reduced the remaining elixir, and served this on the side. I also drizzled the sauce over my steamed and sautéed long beans with slices of elephant garlic. A fluffy potato mash with just chicken broth and thyme was another perfect addition to the meal. As I used Sauvignon Blanc as my wine in the sauce, we also accompanied this meal with a glass of this slightly acidic and crisp wine which brought out the herby flavors in this perfect roast chicken. Cheers!


Originally published May 18, 2021

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Comments

  1. In the first paragraph the author states that the backbone and sternum are removed yet in the directions, removing the sternum isn’t mentioned.

    I’ve never heard of removing the sternum. I also like to eat the cartilage. Grilled over charcoal with a savory tare, it is called nankotsu and is one of the many types of yakitori in traditional Japanese cuisine.

    1. Thanks, Bkhuna. You’re correct. In this recipe, only the backbone is removed and the breastbone is simply cracked so the chicken can lie flat. Although it isn’t as common, some people do choose to remove the breastbone as well when spatchcocking. The advantage to this is that the chicken truly lies flat, however, the method generally works very well with the breastbone left in and it lets you enjoy the cartilage if you choose to.

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