How to Spatchcock a Chicken Step-by-Step

  • 01 of 07

    What Does Spatchcock Mean?

    Roasted spatchcock chicken
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    What is spatchcock chicken?

    Scholars are unsure of the exact origin of the term, but most agree it dates back to 18th-century Ireland. The word is used as a verb, (ie., to spatchcock a chicken), as an adjective, (as in spatchcocked chicken), and as a noun on its own (like in "the finished spatchcocked bird").

    Basically, spatchcocking is a method of preparing the chicken for cooking. The method involves removing the backbone from tail to neck so that the bird can be opened out flat (also...MORE referred to as butterflying). This method results in a shorter cooking time. It also allows for easier access to the cavity and exterior of the chicken for seasoning purposes.

    Keep in mind that this method comes in handy for all types of poultry, including but not limited to Cornish game hens, capons, goose, pheasant, quail, and turkey.

    The following easy steps show how to spatchcock a chicken or any other type of poultry. A good pair of poultry shears or kitchen scissors is needed.

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  • 02 of 07

    Prepping the Chicken

    Trowbridge Filippone

    Before you begin the spatchcocking process, you need to prep the chicken. Remove any neck parts and gizzards. Freeze for other uses (such as homemade chicken stock or chicken soup) or discard. Rinse the whole chicken, inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Place the chicken, breast-side down, on a cutting board.

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  • 03 of 07

    Cutting Along the Backbone

    Trowbridge Filippone

    The first step to flattening the chicken is to remove the backbone. You can use either a pair of poultry shears or kitchen scissors for this step. Cut along the right of the backbone from the tail to the neck.

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  • 04 of 07

    Cutting the Other Side

    Trowbridge Filippone

    Next, cut along the left side of the backbone, just as you did on the right side. Freeze this removed backbone piece for future chicken stock or discard.

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  • 05 of 07

    Breaking the Breastbone

    Trowbridge Filippone

    To flatten the bird, you need to break the breastbone. To do this, press down on each of the wings, at the same time until the bone cracks.

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  • 06 of 07

    Removing the Wing Tips

    Trowbridge Filippone

    Turn the chicken over so that it lays flat. Because the wing-tips usually burn and become inedible during the cooking process, it is best to snip them off. Use the kitchen shears to do this. Add these wing tips to the backbone to save for future stock or discard.

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  • 07 of 07

    Your Spatchcock Chicken

    © 2012 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Your spatchcocked chicken is now ready to be seasoned and cooked using any whole chicken recipe. Be sure to properly clean your cutting board after this process in order to avoid cross-contamination that could lead to foodborne illnesses.

    If you want to take this process a step further and remove all of the bones, learn how to debone a chicken or turkey.