How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Snipping out the backbone of a chicken was not as difficult as I had imagined it would be. Be firm and decisive in your cuts and it should come out rather neatly. The practice of spatchcocking is really nothing more than butterflying, from what I understand. And while the etymology of the word is up for debate, the simplicity of method is not. Your happy little hen ends up splayed in the roasting pan with its wings tucked under the body, therefore cooking much more quickly and evenly than a whole and undefiled bird. Roasting a chicken is a Sunday afternoon affair. Listening to music and sipping wine while you perfume the room with the heady scent of garlic and aromatic herbs; lovingly massaging butter into and under the skin; reading the book review section of the New York Times that you saved all day just for this delicious interlude, while the bird slowly roasts in its own juices. Sundays are the best.

But then comes Monday again and the hectic workweek begins anew. Sigh. Spatchcocking is a perfect way to make something wholesome without a tremendous time commitment. A whole bird roasts under the broiler in about a half an hour. It definitely yields a juicy, tender, delicious bit of bird, and is easy as cake and satisfying, to be sure. However, I am not entirely convinced a simple roast chicken needs improvement. See, here. Decide for yourself. It’s something you should try if you haven’t already, to add to your arsenal of cool kitchen maneuvers you do to impress your friends and influence people. Host a lively dinner party this weekend, and spatchcock that bird, just for kicks.

Spatchcocked Roast Chicken


  • 1 4-5 lb chicken
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon each ground fennel seeds, coriander seed, cumin seed, and paprika
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper


How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Turn the broiler on high whilst you prep the bird. Remove the innards and thoroughly wash and pat dry your chicken. Place chicken breast side-down on a plastic cutting board.

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Use sharp kitchen shears to cut along one side of the backbone. (You’ll know it when you see it.)

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Cut up other side of the backbone, and remove. You can save the bone for making stock.

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Spread chicken apart, and flip over, so that the breast faces up.

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Spread the legs akimbo, tucking the wings back.

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Tuck the wing tips under the skin of the breast.

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Cover it with olive oil and season with spices and herbs, salt and pepper.

Broil on high, breast side up, for ten minutes. Flip. Broil on high, back side up for ten minutes. Flip. Turn down the broiler to low and finish cooking, approximately fifteen minutes, until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees. The chicken should be golden brown with crisp skin. If skin begins to blacken and burn, cover with foil. Remove from oven.

Let it rest for fifteen minutes. Carve it up and serve with lemon wedges, an herb salad, white wine, and crusty bread. The end.


Jillian Bedell

Jillian Bedell is a writer and mother living in a farmhouse in Cushing, Maine. She is very good at talking about herself in the third person. She is co-author of Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road.

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