How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Once you try this Roast Spatchcock Chicken Recipe, it's sure to be your new favorite way to cook a whole chicken. This special technique magically turns a one pan chicken meal into juicy and flavorful perfection.

In this post, you will learn how to spatchcock a chicken with this step-by step tutorial that is sure to make you feel like a pro.

roast spatchcock chicken on wire rack on top of parchment-lined baking dish with vegetables

Spatchcock is a weird word. It sounds like a cross between a rooster and a spatula on the one hand, but comes across as a technique only professional chefs would know how to do on the other.

Either way, it's a bit intimidating to consider doing something called "spatchcocking" to a chicken when you have no idea what it is to begin with -- you know what I mean?

However, to spatchcock chicken is in fact a very simple method that is so easy even inexperienced home cooks can do it. Promise. And I'm going to show you how.

In this post, I'm going to first of all demystify the strange term, and then walk you through each step of making a roast spatchcock chicken with all of the photos and all of the (literally) juicy details.

What Does Spatchcock Mean?

To “spatchcock” something means to “butterfly” or spread a piece of meat over a larger surface area.

"Spatchcock" is an old Irish term, first appearing in 18th century literature. It's said to be an abbreviation for "dispatch cock," which was an order used to command cooks to get a chicken off the spit and out to their customers.

Today, however, this technique refers to "butterflying" or preparing the chicken (or other bird) so you can cook large pieces of poultry in less time. In addition to saving time, using this method yields a more flavorful bird, yielding more juicy meat with loads of golden-crisp skin.

Why Spatchcocking is Great

If you've made roasted chicken before, you know how it goes--roasted chickens can be problematic since the chicken breast can often dry out before dark meat is cooked through. When you spatchcock a chicken, however, the chicken breast sits on the same level as the legs so it bakes evenly.

I don’t know about you, but any chicken recipe that provides more deliciously crisp skin is a recipe I'm going to be making again and again. and again.

The tenderness of this spatchcock chicken meat paired with the crispiness of the seasoned skin is heavenly.

Essentially, when you spatchcock chicken you remove the backbone and lay the chicken (or turkey) flat. If you are a frugal mama, be sure to save the backbone for a delicious stock later. I freeze the backbone in Saran Wrap until I am ready to make a soup! Here is a great recipe for Homemade Chicken Broth.

Besides the ease of roasting this spatchcock chicken, this recipe is also extremely health conscious. Food allergies are not an issue with this meal because it is naturally free of gluten, grains, and dairy.

Those that follow a specific diet plan, such as Paleo or Keto, will find this recipe quickly become part of your weekly meal plan.

In the off chance my family and I don’t eat this entire spatchcock chicken in one sitting, we re-purpose the remaining meat for lunches later in the week. I shred the remaining chicken to quickly use in chicken pasta salad or quesadillas.

As you can see, this one simple tutorial of How to Spatchcock a Chicken can easily turn into three meals by using the leftover meat for lunch and the backbone for a delicious stock.

Season This Chicken

The simplicity of the seasoning ingredients brushed on the chicken is on purpose.

I like to use seasonings that most of us have on hand.

If you have seasonings that you just love, by all means use them. Make this recipe your own! Barbecue seasoning or paprika would be a lovely addition.

I would strongly encourage you to season generously with salt and pepper, because no one likes a bland piece of chicken.

And I can’t speak for you, but I have yet to have an over-seasoned chicken breast. Somehow seasonings just evaporate when chicken cooks.

You will know you have seasoned it enough with salt and pepper when you feel like you over did it. Trust me, it will be the perfect amount!

Okay, let's get dinner started. Remember, you can do this! It's as easy as 1...2...3. Once you have enjoyed your spatchcock chicken, be sure to let us know down in the comments if you "made this chicken your own" or followed the recipe to a "T."

Recipe Notes

  1. Works for grilling too! The instructions below are for making roast spatchcock chicken. Of course you can adapt this recipe for other cooking methods, such as grilling or broiling, or cooking over an open fire. If you plan to grill or cook over an open fire, you might wish to marinate first to prevent the bird from drying out.
  2. Works for Turkey too! You can also, of course, spatchcock a turkey too. It's a great way to make an amazing Holiday meal.
  3. Make sure to FULLY thaw: You really want the chicken to be at room temperature before cooking. You don't have to, but if not, the cooking time can be higher, so plan ahead.
spatchcock chickens--raw and roasted on top of wire racks above parchment-lined baking pans

How to Spatchcock a Chicken Step-by-Step

The full recipe is below. First, however, are the step-by-step photos.

Step 1--Place chicken, breast-side down, on cutting board.

Raw whole chicken on wooden cutting board with 3 lemons and kitchen shears

Step 2--Cut along both sides of the backbone and remove it.

Sliced chicken sitting on a wooden cutting board, with scissors and lemon

Step 3--{Optional}: Place the backbone in a plastic bag or plastic wrap, then store in the freezer for making chicken stock.

Sliced chicken without backbone, kitchen shears, and lemons on top of a wooden cutting board and backbone wrapped in plastic

Step 4--Flip chicken over.

Raw spatchcock chicken on wooden cutting board with 3 lemons

Step 5--Place the palm of your hand over the breast and press down firmly until you feel the breastbone crack.

Hand pressing down a chicken on wooden cutting board with three lemons on the side

Step 6--Transfer chicken, breast-side up, to wire rack. Set wire rack on baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Tuck wings under body and rotate thighs to lie flat. Whisk together seasoning blend.

Raw chicken placed on a wire rack with olive oil, lemon, and seasonings around it

Step 7--Brush olive oil and seasoning mixture over entire chicken.

Raw chicken brushed with olive oil and seasoning mixture on top of a wire rack with olive oil and seasoning surrounding it

Step 8--Season generously with salt and pepper

Raw chicken brushed with olive oil and seasoning mixture and sprinkled with salt and pepper placed on top of a wire rack

Step 9--If desired, add veggies under the rack of chicken.

Raw prepared spatchcock chicken with chopped vegetables on parchment-lined pan under wire rack

Step 10--Roast chicken in the oven for 45 minutes or until cooked through.

Roast spatchcock chicken and vegetables on wire rack atop parchment lined baking pan.

Doesn't that look amazing?

Roasted chicken with perfectly crispy skin on the outside and juicy meat on the inside, atop roasted veggies.

All done much faster than a roasted chicken normally takes.

Dinner done right and done deliciously.

I guarantee that this will be your new favorite way to make chicken.

roasted spatchcock chicken on wire rack atop baking pan with roasted vegetables

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

This Roast Spatchcock Chicken Recipe is sure to become your new favorite way to cook chicken. It's a great way to cook a whole chicken quickly and perfectly. Learn how to spatchcock a chicken with this step-by step tutorial.
Print Pin Rate
Course: Entree
Cuisine: Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Keto, Low-Carb, Paleo, THM:S, whole30
Keyword: how to spatchcock a chicken
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Resting Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds whole chicken (dry off damp skin with paper towel)
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • salt
  • pepper
  • veggies (optional - options include beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, etc)
  • sage (optional - as garnish)
  • parsley (optional - as garnish)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450ºF. Place the chicken, breast-side down, on a cutting board. Make sure the chicken is clean and dried thoroughly.
  • Using kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbone and remove it.
  • Optional: Place the backbone in a plastic bag or plastic wrap, then store in the freezer for making chicken stock.
  • Flip the chicken over, breast-side up.
  • Place the palm of your hand over the breast and press down firmly until you feel the breastbone crack. The chicken should lie relatively flat now.
  • Transfer the chicken, breast-side up, to a wire rack or wire cooling rack. Set the wire rack on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Tuck the wings under the body and rotate the thighs to lie flat. In a small bowl, whisk together extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice.
  • Before you brush the mixture over the entire chicken make sure the chicken skin is dry. The drier the skin is before you apply the seasoning, the crispier the skin will be after it is roasted.
  • Brush olive oil and seasoning mixture over entire chicken.
  • Season generously with salt and pepper.
  • If desired, add 1" pieces of preferred veggies on the parchment paper-lined pan under the rack of chicken.
  • Roast chicken in the oven for 45 minutes or until cooked through. When a thermometer is inserted into the thigh to check for doneness it should read 165ºF or higher. After the chicken is roasted, transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. If desired, garnish with chopped sage or parsley.

Nutrition

Carbohydrates: 0.2g | Protein: 87.6g | Fat: 23.3g | Saturated Fat: 6.3g | Cholesterol: 269mg | Sodium: 317mg | Potassium: 741mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 0.1g | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 3.8mg

Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is merely an approximation. Optional ingredients are not included and when there is an alternative, the primary ingredient is typically used. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the nutritional information given for any recipe on this site. Erythritol carbs are not included in carb counts since they have been shown not to impact blood sugar. Net carbs are the total carbs minus fiber.

The above nutrition facts are estimates only. Please read my Nutrition Disclaimer here.

Now that you know how to spatchcock a chicken, will you try it?

Sammi

Sammi Ricke likes to keep things simple, delicious, and nutritious in her kitchen. She enjoys the challenge of finding unique ways to incorporate “just one more whole food” into every meal, while leaving just enough room for life’s essentials: chocolate and almond butter. If you are looking for “healthified” versions of your family’s favorite meals be sure to visit Sammi’s Grounded & Surrounded Blog. You can also find her on Pinterest and Facebook.

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9 Comments

  1. I loved the seasoning on this chicken but I had a hard time getting it all completely cooked to the right temperature. The chicken was frozen, but I did thaw it. Maybe it needs to be more at room temperature? Not sure what I did wrong, but it took me 90 minutes to get it cooked. Would love any helpful suggestions so that I can have the courage to try it again (more successfully).

    1. I'm sooo glad to hear that about the seasoning. Can you tell me about how thawed you think it was / how cold it was? Is it possible that your oven's temp is off at all?
      I did a bit of research into it and there are a few other possibilities but they aren't likely (like elevation issues).
      The temperature and time are pretty spot on compared to other spatchcock recipes out there so there is something going on for sure--we just have to figure out what it is.

      Let me know and we'll sort it out so you can be empowered for more spatchcocking in the future ;).

  2. Many years ago, a friend shared this method for spatchcocking chicken. It made so much sense, but I still haven't tried it! We have a small household, so I almost never buy a whole chicken. But I really want to try this!

    1. You have to do it! We did it last Thanksgiving and it worked great with turkey. We aren't a big household either, but you can use the leftovers for soup, wraps, etc :). Enjoy!

        1. Hi there - it depends on the size but at 350 degrees it should be about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Hope you like it--we did! I have a few holiday recipes coming soon so stay tuned!

        2. It was thawed but definitely cold. There was still some ice in the cavity. Oven tends to run hot.

          1. Hi Kelly! I think this comment is in the wrong place...feel free to comment again and put it in the thread where we were talking....but golly. I did read online that non room temp chicken can really drive the time up. It seems surprising to me that it went twice for you especially considering the running hot oven, but......I can't think of what else it would be!

            I went over quite a few things online and that's all I can see that could make sense. I will make a note in the post about complete thawing. I didn't see any other post out there that mentions it, however, so I wonder hwo many others have run into this! Thanks for bringing it up!

          2. Another recipe O just read recommended letting the bird sit for 45 minutes at room temperature before cooking.