I’m not an overly organized person and my shopping list reflects that. I rarely go to the market with a recipe in mind. I simply throw cuts in the basket I know my family will enjoy. Figuring out what to do with the ingredients I bring home is a problem for future me.
My family loves chicken. I suppose that’s why it always seems to end up in the grocery cart. It’s a protein, it can be prepared countless ways, and it’s relatively inexpensive. Getting whole birds gives future me lots of options. However I’m a creature of habit, and even though there are millions of things you can do with a whole bird, spatchcock chicken is one of my favorites.
What the heck is Spatchcock?
Spatchcock chicken is simply a bird with the spine removed before it hits the grill, oven, stovetop, fire, whatever cooking method tickles your fancy. If you would like a little flare in your presentation and don’t want to separate the bird into individual pieces before cooking, spatchcock chicken is the answer. This method allows the bird to lay flat on the cooking surface. A flat bird allows the light and dark meat to reach their safe internal temperature of 165 with a reduced risk of drying out the breast meat. As an added benefit, removing the spine pre-cook aides in carcass carving post-cook because the bird is already flat and one cut down the middle can divide the bird into halves.
Let’s get to cutting!
Before butchering the chicken, you should go ahead and get your smoker or grill set up for indirect heat, which means ensuring flames won’t contact the bird. Set the temperature for 325 degrees. While the cooker is coming up to temperature, head inside and tackle the process of getting the bird to lay flat. I find that a pair of kitchen shears makes preparing the bird nearly painless.
Locate the spine of your bird and cut a ¼ of an inch on either side from the head to the tail.
The spine should come out in one long piece. Don’t be too quick to toss it in the garbage can: you can save all your excess chicken bits and bones and freeze them to make great stock later.
Once the spine is out, you’ll need to remove the breastbone to assure the bird will lay perfectly flat. To remove it, take a knife and locate a small piece of cartilage between the shoulders. Run your knife down through the cartilage and you should hit a small bone. Bend the shoulders back and the small oval-shaped breastbone will appear. Use your knife to pop this bone out and your bird should now lay flat.
Time for the cook
Dust the flatten fowl with a BBQ rub of your choice or, in this recipe I simply used a pinch of salt and pepper. By now your cooker should be up to 325. Place the bird breast side up on the grate. Let the pancaked poultry cook for 1.5 to 2 hours until the internal temp of both the light and dark meat reach 165 degrees. Sizes obviously vary from carcass to carcass. Your cook time will vary accordingly. Be sure and use a calibrated meat thermometer and be vigilant near the end of the cook.
When checking the temperature of your bird, be sure your meat thermometer is not in contact with a bone. This could give an incorrect reading as a bone will always run hotter than muscle. Saying that, don’t keep puncturing your pullet checking the temperature over and over. The only thing you will accomplish is draining it of all the juicy goodness locked inside. If you like crispier skin, place the spatchcock chicken over direct heat breast-side down after the internal temp hits 150. The flames licking the skin for those last 15 degrees should crisp it up nicely. I like to brush on a little Sweet Molasses BBQ Sauce the last minute or so to give it a nice lacquered finish that makes it pop on the plate that much more.
After all, style points are important, right?
Once 165 degrees is reached, bring the bird inside and carve it at the table. Now, bask in the ooh’s and aah’s from family and friends. Enjoy.
This spatchcock technique will have you nailing a more consistent evenly cooked poultry every time you fire up your grill or smoker.
- 1 3-4 pound whole chicken
- 1/4 cup Classic BBQ Rub
- 1/4 cup Sweet Molasses BBQ Sauce
Place chicken breast-side down
Using a pair of kitchen shears cut 1/4 inch on each side of the spine the length of the chicken.
Remove the spine.
Using a knife cut the small piece of cartilage located between the shoulders.
Bend the shoulders back to reveal the small oval-shaped breast bone.
Cut around the breast bone with your knife and remove it.
Light your smoker or grill and bring the temperature up to 325 degrees F.
Season both side of your spatchcocked chicken and place inside your smoker or grill
Cook chicken at 325 F for 1.5 to 2 hours or until the internal temp in the hip joint reads 165.
Carve and enjoy