Spatchcock: Cooking Lickity Split Whole Chicken

22 Aug

Many folks shy away from cooking whole chickens on the grill because they worry parts of bird will end up raw or overcooked. One way to improve your chances of thoroughly cooked poultry is to spatchcock it.

Sounds a bit naughty, doesn’t it? Spatchcock is a term of late 18th Century origin (Irish, it’s believed) of murky definition. Some swear it means a chicken less than 6 weeks old (as preferred by the English). Others suggest it was a word mash-up describing the act of turning a living bird into ones food — “dispatch the cock”— not to be confused with the more modern term of “Bobbitt.”

A flattened or Spatchcocked Chicken cooks faster.

A flattened or Spatchcocked Chicken cooks faster.

“‘Here’s supper, luv,’ said Harry with the bloody cleaver in one hand and the headless hen in the other. ‘How soon before we eat?'”

A similar term spitchcock refers to splitting and then grilling or frying eels for ones meal.

For modern urban cooks, spatchcocking still involves sharp implements but only, thankfully, to remove the spine of the bird. This permits you to flatten the flesh for a more even application of heat and to speed up the time between fridge and plate.

In my next post, I’ll offer a favourite recipe for Pollo al Mattone or Chicken under Bricks. It’s a flattened whole fryer chicken marinated overnight and grilled to crispy, tasty skin and moist flesh in 40 minutes.

Steps to Spatchcock your Bird (fryer chickens, Cornish hens, turkey)

1.     Rinse the bird inside and out. Pat dry.

Rinse and pat whole chicken dry.

Rinse and pat whole chicken dry.

2.     Use a good pair of kitchen shears (mine look like this) or a sharp cleaver or carving knife. I find the scissor technique easier and faster.

Breast down, use good kitchen shears to cut along spine.

Breast down, use good kitchen shears to cut along spine.

3.     Turn the poultry breast down on a cutting board and find the end of the bird’s spine. I started at the butt end between the legs where the larger cavity gives you more room to work.

Cut rib bones away from spine.

Cut rib bones away from spine.

4.     Place your shears along the right hand side of the spine (reverse if left-handed) and cut as close to the bone as possible. You will be cutting away the ribs bones from the spine.

Repeat cutting along other side of the spine.

Repeat cutting along other side of the spine.

5.     Repeat with the opposite side of the spine.

6.     Cut away the extra skin flaps and fat at both ends of the spine. Discard along with the spinal column.

Remove extra skin flaps and fat from both ends of the spine.

Remove extra skin flaps and fat from both ends of the spine.

7.     Flip the bird skin-side up. Using the heel of your hand, apply pressure to the breast bone (as you might when performing CPR). The aim is to crack the breast bone so the poultry lies as one, flat piece.

With breast-side up, apply pressure to breast bone to crack it.

With breast-side up, apply pressure to breast bone to crack it.

8.     While you still have dirty, chicken hands, bend the wing tips under the skinless side of the chicken. You are now ready to marinate, grill, roast or fry your bird.

Bend wing tips to the underside of the flattened bird.

Bend wing tips to the underside of the flattened bird.

Note:

To prevent food-borne illness and contamination, be thorough in cleaning the cutting board, shears or knife, hands and kitchen counters after spatchcocking poultry. Take the kitchen shears apart to disinfect at the leverage point.

Photo credit to Paul T. Young for this post (using my ancient Canon point & shoot).

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3 Responses to “Spatchcock: Cooking Lickity Split Whole Chicken”

  1. Susan at Savvy Single Suppers August 29, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    I knew there would be someone chiming in to tell us there are some urban chicken-keepers! Thanks for the link-up. Bet your birds taste better than what I buy at the grocery store.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Quick Chick BBQ: Pollo al Mattone | Savvy Single Suppers - August 23, 2013

    […] my last post, I demonstrated the technique of Spatchcock — removing the Delicious served with skewered new potatoes, steamed market green beans and […]

  2. Google Alert – keeping chickens | Chicken Ark - August 25, 2013

    […] in Piedmont!January 2013 – Interview With Outgoing Supervisor Tom Tryon – Part 2Spatchcock: Cooking Lickity Split Whole ChickenSpatchcock: Cooking Lickity Split Whole Chicken […]

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