Until I put up the below post, I'd never heard the term spatchcock. That day, Russ P. emailed to say he was writing about grilling for the following day's paper and demos a spatchcocked chicken on the grill (he chided me, mr food glossary, for not knowing the term–must have been a little peeved that my spatchcock was posted before his). Alton Brown in an email raised his eyebrows, so to speak, at my tying the legs together with string (they tend to flop around if you don't do something with them—this ensures a purty presentation); Alton pokes his through slits in the skin, also a good method (but you have to be careful not to tear the skin too much), and cooks his in a panini press.  And today comes Bob del Grosso, also a food pro, with a pictorial of grilling his with halved artichokes.  It is officially spatchcocked chicken season.


59 Wonderful responses to “Spatchcocked Chicken Season”

  • Luke

    I love Spatchcoking in the summer because you ca n roast a whole chicken on the stovetop. Once it gets past 90 in DC, it takes a lot for me to turn on the oven. I am a leg tucker, not a tier. Figuring out how to tuck the leg took a little bit of time though. I have some illustrations on how to do it up here.

  • Darryl

    I first saw a spatchcocking receipe in Steven Raichlen’s “How to Grill” and it is now my favorite way to cook chicken. It is the best combination of roasting and grilling. BTW: “How to Grill” is a must have book it’s full of color pictures of the final product and techniques too, inc. step by step on how to spatchcock the chicken. Every receipe is fantastic.

    I usually take the back bone out and if I’m not feeling lazy I take out the breast bone too. I make a slit and tuck in the leg. I mangled the chicken a for the first few times, but I finally got the hang of it. I might try tto tie next time (the photo looks great) Then I rub in salt and pepper. Then toss on the grill the way Michael describes.

    Serve with a nice Belgian beer (Chimay Red) and herb risotto…hmmm heaven.

  • JPW

    Spatchcock is not just a nice technique, it’s one of the greatest words in the English language. It just makes me giggle. Found it many moons ago on eG being wielded by the great Jinmyo.

  • Chad

    The Spatchcock Revolution has begun! It’s such a great technique. I’m glad to see it getting some attention. And it *is* fun to say.


  • Cooking Zuni

    Yes – it is that weather. I use Marcella’s recipe for chicken on the grill. Lots of lemon and black pepper.

    I loved the comments from yesterday’s post. I found it fascinating to see “how America eats.” I would be interested to see what people have as staples in their pantries. We could start with…….you.

  • Adele

    I first heard the term “spatchcooked” from Nigella Lawson on one of her early TV shows. I can’t remember if she tucked or tied, but it is a great word. I’m with Cooking Zuni; I loved the post about staple meals, and I’d love to hear what people have as staples in their pantries. I got some useful meal ideas, and I suspect I’d get some useful stock-up ideas as well.

  • latenac

    Here I always thought it was something more complicated and instead it’s something I’ve been doing. How exciting b/c it is a fun word. We haven’t been tying or tucking but now have a good excuse to try both. I’m in love with spatchcocked b/c it gets the skin just perfect.

  • mel

    I tend to remove the backbone, ribs and the thin section of meat/skin around the belly area. Sometimes I use my skewers (wing to wing and thigh to thigh) to firm up the split bird and make turning easier. Kind of what you might do with quail or other small birds.

  • Natalie Sztern

    Who knew all this time that I was spatchcooking my chickens…except that i place bricks on them and do them in my cast iron pan.

    If I tell someone how I made dinner can I say “I spatchcocked” my chicken?

    (as in a verb..LOL)

  • Natalie Sztern

    or is it spatchcocking my chickens as in the verb? and not spatchcooking…aw i am all confused, but tonight i am asking hubby if wants his chicken “spatchcoked on the grill” errrrr

  • pdhenry

    The term must be more common in the UK. On one UK trip we picked up a recipe card in a Sainsbury’s for “Spatchcock Poussin” and I confess having to look up both terms to determine which was the noun and which was the adjective. The photo accompanying the recipe was attractive enough even if I didn’t know what the name meant…

  • Chris

    Wow, I knew a term Ruhlman didn’t? And it’s a cooking term too, not something random like a vulgar obscenity yelled in traffic!

    Anytime I make a whole chicken, I prepare it like this. It’s easier (for me anyway) to cook it evenly. It’s faster too, which is always nice on a weeknight. Also good done “under a brick” in this manner, which is common for me in the summer.

  • PaniniKathy

    Hmmm…I never heard of it either! I’m curious now. I use my panini press all the time, so I’ll have to try spatchcocking with it like Alton. I can hear my husband now: “You’re gonna WHAT??”

  • Sara

    Does “chicken under a brick” fall into this category? I freakin’ LOVE chicken under a brick.

  • Sara

    Does “chicken under a brick” fall into this category? I freakin’ LOVE chicken under a brick.

  • Amy

    YAY I learned something. Plus Spatchcocking…er..Spatchcock…Spatchcooking…is a fun word! : P

  • Charlotte

    We actually did the turkey this way last Thanksgiving — spatchcocked over the pan of dressing. It was delicious and the dressing had that lovely cooked-in-the-bird texture without the food poisoning worries …

  • dbutler4

    I am curious about the panini press.
    Does anyone know of the Alton Brown version?
    Have a link to a recipe?
    Dang that chix looks yummy on the front page!

  • grocer

    I worked in a restaurant that had a spatchcock pit and oven (like you would a wood-fire pizza separate from the main kitchen) in 1994!

    In Australia we (rather incorrectly) use it to describe the type/size of bird that is most frequently served “spatched”.

  • Rob B

    I haven’t spatchcocked in a long time. I think this is what we’ll do tomorrow.

    Can “spatchcock” be a noun? My, what a nice looking spatchcock you have there.

  • Bob delGrosso

    Spatchcocked? Damn, I’ve been cooking grilled chicken like that since whales trundled out of the sea and diverged into various land mammals and never knew that I was fraking spatchcocking.

    Damn, that is a great word! Extend my thanks to Russel P. for bringing that word into the discussion. Wow, spatchcock this!

  • Sam

    I just did a spatchcocked chicken (local, free range, organic) with a rub of ground chipotle peppers, cumin, coriander, and black pepper. It was amazing! thanks for the inspiration.

  • Cameron S

    I made spatchcock chicken tonight too.

    Because of this blog millions of chickens cried out with “renewed enlightenment” today as they saw the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

    I used a rub of fresh ground ancho, guajillo, and hatch peppers with some cumin and salt and pepper. A nice fresh pico de gallo and some hand made tortillas book ended the spatchcock.

  • guthrie

    I’m amazed so many folks, but especially Ruhlman, had never heard of the term spatchcock before. This exposes a worrying gap in the CIA curriculum, heh? Perhaps an new litmus test for all those celebrity chef’s, judges, hosts….on the Food Channel.

  • carri

    We actually recieved a very large George Foreman grill for our 10th anniversary last summer (my 85 year old mother in law really needs to stop watching QVC!) and had fun seeing what we could do with it. After ‘grilling’ everything he could get his hands on, my husband spatchcocked a chicken and cooked it in there, it worked just like the panini grill (which is pretty much what we use the thing for now) and the finished bird was yummy! Who knew?! Well I guess Alton Brown did, but doen’t he know everything?

  • Doodad

    So how does one go about removing the backbone? I have seen this in restaurants, but never done it myself.

    Isn’t there a Chinese technique of this for cooking chicken as well?

  • Culinary Sherpa

    So how does one go about removing the backbone? I have seen this in restaurants, but never done it myself.

    Lay the chicken breast down on the cutting board with the legs facing you. Take a French knife and start cutting at the wing end just to one side of the back bone and continue to the thigh end – seperating the thigh and ribs from the backbone. (This will usually require some force and two hands, but don’t get too caveman on it, you don’t want to slice through the breast after getting through the ribs) Repeat for the other side of the backbone. Then, spread the chicken flat, into a position that nature never intended, using a little force to crack the breast bone.

  • Harry

    Since a cock is a chicken, I always thought that “spatching” was the technique and “spatchcocking” was applying the technique to a male chicken. I’ll have to drag out the OED now.

    I’d be scared to try to list the so-called staples in my kitchen. My kitchen is actually the kitchen and dining room knocked together and the resulting cabinet space is awesome. And stuffed full.

    Doesn’t everyone need 5 types of rice and 4 types of flour (And I’m not a baker)? IIRC, back in the days of Gail’s Recipe Swap we posted competing versions of The Twelve Days of Kitchen Staples to celebrate our excesses. The tough part was to come up with something of which we had only one or two varieties.

    @pdhenry: grin!

    @Doodad: short version – cut out the backbone. Since I don’t have chicken shears (I consider them too much of a single-use item) I use regular full-sized desk scissors to cut along each side of the backbone.

    I like doing it for several reasons. One, a flat chicken is more likely to cook evenly. Two, I get another large raw chix bone for my stock. Three, you can lay the spatched (also known as butterflied) chix on top of a LOT of stuffing, while you can only put a little stuffing into the bird.

  • Cali

    Hey, Chris (@12:40), I’m pretty sure Ruhlman can hold his own in any traffic obscenity contest. After all, he’s buddies with Bourdain, fergawdsakes!

    BTW, I love the word spatchcock, too. It’s one of those words that sounds sort of naughty and kind of dangerous at the same time. The etymology is vague but is probably Irish and a slightly shortened version of “dispatch the cock (male chicken.)”

  • latenac

    For removing backbone I actually use kitchen shears and just cut on either side of the spine to remove. I have too many fears of a kitchen accident. Which is strange since I’m fine with a knife turning the chicken in to 8 pieces.

  • Kate in the NW

    Duuudes – I was at a Spatchcocks show in, like, ’84, before they went all big-label. They were totally AWESOME!!!! I still have the t-shirt.

    Kidding aside, I’m in favor of anything that places summertime cooking outdoors, beer-in-hand. Plus, the more flesh that gets exposed to charcoal, the tastier the result.

    When preparing any sort of chicken at our house, I always try to rub some oil/herbs under the skin because my hubby refuses to eat the skin and I want his meat to be flavorful too (can I say that here?…well, I guess if we can say ‘spatchcock’ it’s open season…). I can’t understand it because the skin’s the best part as far as I’m concerned, but there it is. Plus, the herbs/lemon slices under the skin (once cooked) look pretty.

  • iron stef

    Looks like the spatchcock chicken might overtake the beer butt chicken in popularity! Both are fun to say, though, so I’m cool with that.

  • iron stef

    Oh! I just had the most brilliant dirty-sounding meal idea ever! Spatchcock chicken with kumquat chutney! Doing it.

  • Jesse

    I learned this technique from “Jaques Pepin’s Complete Techniques” last year, and the first time I tried it I just about couldn’t believe it! Currently my favorite way to grill a chicken.

    I’m happy that spatchcocking is getting the attention it deserves! Plus, the work is just so darn fun to type…

  • dbutler4

    Is that a spatchcock in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?


    Try the veal… I’ll be here all week…

  • Shannon

    I should spatchcock more often.

    I never think about doing that when it’s too hot to run the oven in the house and I want to grill instead.

  • Harry

    @dbutler4: no, no, no; the line for Michael is “Try the veal STOCK.”

    According to OED, spatchcock has it’s origins in “dispatch” but doesn’t go into any more detail. In this context dispatch could mean faster, or to kill or do away with. Take your pick.

  • luis

    Nuts spatchcock = Butterfly….Hello!!!
    (and folks that breast bone is called the KEEL BONE, thank you!).

    Besides, I can’t see grilled chicken coming out right..no way!.
    On the other hand you roast it at low to medium temp say 300-350 until it reaches 155 degreees and you grill it under the broiler to brown the skin after basting it a bit and I say Good Chicken. What’s even the point in grilling when you folks know that you put the coals to the side and the darn chicken to the OTHER SIDE….Folks there are a few things a grill can do.. but the all around go to champion cooking utensil is the oven.. not the grill, not the smoker, not the toaster oven..and definitelly not the microwave. It is your oven!. If you can’t use your oven then learn how to. Best thing in the world you can do to really cook.

  • luis

    Charlotte , I have done Turkey over stuffing in the past too… Delish doesn’t begin to describe it. But I have not tried to butterfly a turkey to date. It could happen.. if it worked for you.. I might give it a go sometime. Bravo, it seems you went out of the box that time. Great, nice going.
    My new quest is to search for a cooking book of fillings… Honestly, The only thing that is holding me back from going all out on many different dishes is the filling or stuffing…
    galantines, pot stickers, wontons, Turkey’s… it comes down to the stuffing but specifically the stuffing needs more work more balance and more attention in my kitchen.

  • Cameron S

    Luis – this method doesn’t involve an oven – not sure why you are so intent on dropping obvious knowledge without removing misinformation. People know how to use an oven.

    The whole point of this thread is mention an interesting term that Michael was unfamiliar with, and to talk about how to spatchcock the chicken without heating your home by using the oven. Butterfly is also a term that can be used obviously but spatchcock is more interesting to know about.

    The thread would not exist in this way or be as amusing if he talked about butterflying a chicken. Boring.

    Also – Grilling is direct heat on the meat. BBQ is using indirect heat to cook the meat. Both involve smoke from when the juices hit the hot grill surface. This adds to flavour.

  • ntsc

    You don’t roast in an oven, you bake in an oven. Roasting is done on a spit over an open flame, usually in a fire place equiped with dogs.

    An oven is simply one of many tools used to heat food, there are many others. None is the best, they cause the food to be cooked in different fashion and may cause a different result

  • Maryann

    Just a short note to tell you how much I enjoyed you on Iron Chef! I loved the back and forth disagreements on the judging. It made for great TV!

  • Linda

    Haha, I made spatch-cocked chicken last week. I learned the term from a Sophie Grigson cookbook that I picked up because I love her mother’s books so much. Those British, they certainly have a way with words…

  • luis

    Cameron, I get it!. “Grilling is direct heat on the meat. BBQ is using indirect heat to cook the meat. Both involve smoke from when the juices hit the hot grill surface. This adds to flavour. ”

    Honest, I am waiting for a vegetable cooking book I think will help me tremendously. It is by season and has recipes…Veggies are simply 50-75% what I love to eat.
    But my next cook after that book is BBQUSA.
    Not because I want to grill or even bbq anything at the moment. (Although is only a matter o’time)(I have a small gas unit I have never fired up yet).
    It is because I know my old decrepit crappy oven/broiler range can do all of that just fine. But your point is very well taken.
    There are so many ways to add flavor to a dish that grilling or bbqing just hasn’t been on my mind since the last hurricane blew past here.

  • Ted

    I like to spatchcock rock cornish hens and I do it over charcoal after marinating in mojo criollo (with a lot of garlic, thyme & lime juice.

    I’ve used jerk merinade, too with this method.


  • Chuck Shaw

    Anita and I love this method. Poultry shears make dismatling chicken little a whole lot easier. You could buy one of those fancy presses or just cover a brick with foil. Don’t forget to lube the business end of the brick.

  • FoodPuta

    Just Spatchedcocked this weekend. I poached garlic and thyme in Olive oil for my Baste.

    That’s one damn fine Spatchcock I tell ya!!

  • Tommy

    I’ve heard this called “butterflying” before. But “spatchcocking” has a way better ring to it. Tried it last summer, rubbed some red thai chili paste under the skin and grilled it, which worked out very nicely.

  • LucyD

    Thanks, Michael. As usual, I had about half of tonight’s dinner figured out: brined whole chicken marinating in olive oil, garlic, rosemary, lemon peel, s, p — but no real plan about how to make it. Then I read your post and remembered how much I love spatchcock chicken. Cooked up a little angelhair pasta with pecorino romano and some butter-steamed, julienned carrots. Voila. Merci

  • LucyD

    Thanks, Michael. As usual, I had about half of tonight’s dinner figured out: brined whole chicken marinating in olive oil, garlic, rosemary, lemon peel, s, p — but no real plan about how to make it. Then I read your post and remembered how much I love spatchcock chicken. Cooked up a little angelhair pasta with pecorino romano and some butter-steamed, julienned carrots. Voila. Merci

  • Judith in Umbria

    I love spatchcocked chicken. I love it best fra diavolo. I rub it with strong mustard and then press on highly seasoned breadcrumbs with lots of paprika forte. Let it sit in the fridge for a while to firm up, and then bake at a blazing high temperature or grill outside– not my specialty at all, that grilling thing. I can easily make lunch for 50 with this recipe.