How To Spatchcock a Chicken


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The spatchcock or butterfly technique allows for quick and even cooking poultry like chicken or turkey. Learn this easy method to save time while maximizing taste!

The spatchcock or butterfly technique allows for quick and even cooking poultry like chicken or turkey.

Learning how to spatchcock chicken is a handy technique that is worth the effort. By removing the backbone of the bird and laying it flat on a pan will result in an even cook throughout the whole chicken. Spatchcocking aka “butterflying,” gets its name due to the poultry takes on a winged shape once cut and flattened.

There are three main advantages compared to the traditional roast: even cooking, crispy skin, and faster cooking.

First, more even cooking of the breast and thigh are encouraged as they are both exposed to similar amounts of heat while laying flat. Second, the skin becomes crisper due to the increased surface area and almost equal exposure to the heating element in the oven. Lastly, cooking time is faster because the meat becomes relatively thinner to cook, cutting down the time nearly in half!

How To Spatchcock Chicken

With several benefits to this cooking technique, it’s time to give it a try!

STEP 1: Remove the Backbone

kitchen shears cutting alongside the backbone of the chicken

Use very sharp and robust heavy-duty kitchen shears to cut alongside the backbone of the chicken. Cut a straight line down from the neck to tail. Repeat on the other side of the spine.

STEP 2: Discard the Backbone

Whole chicken on a cutting board with backbone removed

After cutting alongside the spine of the chicken, you can discard or save the backbone to use for stock. Removing the backbone allows for the poultry to be opened up and flattened for cooking.

STEP 3: Flatten the Poultry

Hand pressing against chicken to spread the surface area of the meat

Flatten the chicken by placing the skin side up on cutting board and applying firm pressure with the heel of your hand to the breastbone. The goal is to allow the legs and wings to open up so that it cooks on the same plane as the breast meat for even cooking time.

STEP 3: Place on Pan

Spatchcock chicken placed on a wire rack

Instead of cooking the poultry on a roasting rack, it is set on a large sheet pan on top of a wire rack. This allows the bird to be fully opened up, with hot air circulating beneath for fast and even cooking. Target a doneness of 150-165°F for the breasts, and 165-170°F for the thighs.

Meat thermometer checking the temperature of roasted chicken

Some Recipes To Try

Now that you have a step-by-step-guide to spatchcock, I recommend you try these tasty recipes to see how fast dinner can get on the table!

Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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Jessica Gavin standing in the kitchen

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4 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. ill L says

    This is not quite spatchcock chicken. I mean, the word spatchcock does refer to a technique in which you remove the spine, but without fully flattening it out you get almost none of the benefits. You need to cut the cartilage right at the top of the breast bone from the inside of the chicken (after removing the spine of course), and then you can open the two halves slowly to expose the breast bone. When done properly, the legs will be closer to the middle of the bird than the thighs.

  2. JJ says

    Thanks for posting! I’ve been wanting to try this…it makes SO much sense to even the cooking temps with little trouble.
    I’ve been taking my turkeys & chicken from the oven before temps read 165. Allowing to rest before eating has always shown that the internal temps continue to rise, to the prescribed 165. But the juices are intact and it makes for juicy pieces of chicken.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      For a 5 pound chicken cook at 400°F until the internal temperature reaches 150-165°F for the breasts, and 165-170°F for the thighs, about 45 to 60 minutes.