Today we are welcoming Doug, from “The Kitchen Professor“. He is teaching us his savvy knife skills regarding “How To Butterfly a Chicken”. I am really excited about this post because it is the fastest way to cook a whole chicken! Check out his fool proof step-by-step tutorial to butterfly AKA spatchcock a chicken:
Roasted chicken is a staple in most kitchens and it’s the cornerstone to so many classic meals. Even the aroma of a chicken roasting in the oven is a trigger that dinnertime is near.
While I love roasted chicken, it seems that it’s hard to get it right –Golden brown and crispy skin while still having juicy white meat.
Most of the time a whole roasted chicken ends up with the breast meat overcooked and dry. There just isn’t any fat there to keep it juicy. The issue is that if you cook the thigh meat to the right temp, about 165ºF, then the breast meat will be dried out.
Butterflying takes care of the uneven cooking.
What is Butterflying?
The main idea is that you remove the backbone of the chicken using kitchen shears. Then you can lay the bird flat.
We are looking at broiling the butterflied chicken, but this works great for grilling too.
Why Butterfly the Chicken?
When you butterfly the chicken, it lays flat, and the bird gets cooked in a more even fashion. You also have the ability to flip the chicken over so you can heat the underside of the chicken.
Because of this, you can also cook a chicken faster. You aren’t missing out on any of the good parts of the chicken since most people don’t eat any of the chicken back!
(And, I always make homemade chicken stock with the backbone. I just simmer the backbone in about 1 – 2 quarts of water for about 45 minutes to an hour and a half.)
Economically, it is much cheaper to buy a whole chicken than any other form. It makes sense since the butcher didn’t spend extra effort cutting up a chicken. Check the prices of whole chicken if you haven’t before – you’ll be surprised.
How to Butterfly a Chicken
It’s easy after you’ve done it a couple of times. Beware that you are cutting through chicken bones and it’s going to take some elbow grease. The sound of cutting through the chicken is distinct so be ready for that if you haven’t done it before.
You need a couple things to do this:
- You will need some heavy duty kitchen shears – I like the Wusthof brand. Some people actually like to use a chef’s knife which is very hard on the blade and dulls the knife edge quickly so I advise against that.
- A plastic or composite cutting board, not a wood cutting board. It just makes cleanup faster.
- A whole chicken, of course. Aim for about 3 – 4 pounds. A bigger bird takes longer to cook so plan accordingly.
Rinse the bird in cool water. Remove any giblets if they are inside the chicken.
Cut along one side of the backbone with your shears. I scored the back of this chicken with my chef knife so you can see approximately where to cut with your shears.
Those are the basic mechanics of butterflying a chicken. Here is exactly how I prepared it. I am terrible at recipes so these are my best estimates at the amounts.
A roasting pan of some kind. I covered mine with foil to make cleanup easier.
- 1 Whole Chicken about 3 – 5 pounds
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (stems removed)
- 2 – 3 cloves of garlic – chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
- ½ Tablespoon of Kosher Salt
- 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
- Plus more salt and pepper to taste
- Dash of paprika (optional)
*The USDA guideline is to cook chicken to 165ºF.
Here is what to do:
Turn the oven to Broil and adjust the rack to be about 8 inches from the flame or coil.
Put the garlic, salt, pepper, and most of the thyme in a small bowl and mash it together. If you have a mortar and pestle, that will be perfect. If you don’t, the back of a wooden spoon will work. You want to have a paste.
Take your butterflied chicken from above and pull back the skin from the meat for the breast and thighs. Put the garlic and thyme paste under the skin.
Flip the chicken over and drizzle and spread a bit of the olive oil on the underside of the chicken. Add salt and pepper to taste. You need enough oil to coat the chicken. I like salt and pepper so if you don’t, then you can skip this step.
Flip the chicken back to be breast side up. Drizzle and spread the rest of the olive oil on the skin. Add salt and pepper generously. If you want a little more color add the dash of paprika on the skin.
Place the chicken in the oven for about 18 minutes. Most people advise to leave the door ajar just a bit, but I close the oven. I stand right next to the oven and watch very closely. The grease can pop and reach the heat source, so it’s really important to keep a close watch.
Check the oven at the 10-minute mark to make sure things look okay. I had to adjust my broil to “LO” from “HI”. The skin was getting too dark too fast.
After 18 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and flip over the bird. A big spatula and tongs make it easy.
Place the pan back in the oven for about 12 – 18 minutes. The temperature of the chicken should be about 150º in the breast meat and 165º – 170º in the thigh. The juices should run clear. Let the chicken rest for 2 – 3 minutes before cutting and serving.
Try out a butterflied chicken the next time you are in the mood for chicken. It only takes a few minutes to butterfly the chicken and it’s the fastest way to broil or roast a chicken. Don’t forget the economic value of buying a whole chicken either.
Doug isn’t really a professor, but he geeks out in the kitchen. He can barely follow a recipe and just uses them as guidelines. Doug blogs about everything from knives and cutting boards to cast iron, with some recipes thrown in just for fun. Check out more at The Kitchen Professor!
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