It’s a well-known fact in the culinary world that things which are cut evenly cook evenly. A chicken in its natural form presents a problem; it’s shaped like a ball with pieces hanging off. Spatchcock refers to a method of fabricating a chicken so that it lies flat and cooks evenly.
The word “spatchcock,” by the way, is Irish for “splitting open a bird.” And it’s fun to say. Spatchcock! Spatchcock! Spatchc…!
While a spatchcock chicken is a fairly simple preparation, handling a chicken held at odd angles can be a little tricky, so above everything else, make sure you’re holding the chicken firmly when cutting.
The Back of the Chicken
Start with the chicken breast side down.
Cut Out the Backbone
With a sharp knife, start on one side of the tail and slice through the bones all the way through the neck.
Cut Out the Backbone (continued)
Cut down the other side of the backbone and remove from the chicken. Reserve the backbone for stock.
The Backbone Removed
Open up the chicken flat on the board to expose the inside.
Cracking the Breastbone
Using your knife, slice it into the breastbone, the twist the knife to crack the breastbone. I moved the knife during the picture, but you should use the curve at the tip of the knife, like the picture on the right.
Flatten the Chicken
Turn the chicken over. Using the heel of your hand, press the center of the breast down until it touches the board.
The Spatchcock Chicken
The final spatchcock chicken should be more or less uniformly flat. The thighs will flatten out to the sides, and the joint might dislocate.
Spatchcock chicken needs a low and slow method of cooking. Grilling and smoking are ideal. One of the most common methods is called “under brick”.
Chicken Under Brick
Wrap the Brick
Using a long piece of foil, wrap a washed brick tucking down the edges after each half turn.
The Wrapped Brick
The Foil should be smooth when you are finished.
Pressing the Chicken
Over a low flame, lay the chicken flat on the grill and place the brick on top. Cook 15 minutes.
The Finished Chicken
Using tongs, remove the brick, turn the chicken, and replace the brick. Cook another 15 minutes over low heat.
And, while the pictures show the method on my gas grill, this would work over coals. Don’t put the chicken directly over the coals though; bank them and use indirect heat to cook the spatchcock chicken. And if you’re using a gas grill, turn the heat down all the way.