Have you spatchcocked your chicken lately?
For a long time, I’ve roasted my chickens the traditional way–sometimes trussing, sometimes not; sometimes stuffing with Meyer lemons, sometimes sprinkling with fennel seeds & cayenne pepper–but almost always keeping it whole. Then I read J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s article on Serious Eats: “How (Not) To Roast a Chicken.” In his amusing and scientific way, Kenji explains why roasting chicken the traditional way (the way I normally roast) leaves you with a dry breast and undercooked thighs. If you want the chicken to cook evenly, you’ve gotta spatchcock.
What is spatchcocking? (Besides being a really fun word to type and say?)
Spatchcocking’s where you cut out the back bone of the chicken and flatten it so that it cooks evenly. As Kenji explains, heat in the oven circulates in a certain way and when you flatten the chicken–or spatchcock it (sorry, had to type “spatchcock” again!)–more heat goes to the legs and thighs (which take longer to cook) and less heat goes to the breast (which dries out quickly). What you get is a moist, moist, moist chicken that cooks (on a cookie sheet) in a shorter period of time: 50 minutes at 400 degrees before the breast reaches 150°F and the legs reach 170°F (you should definitely get an instant-read thermometer for this; it comes in handy whenever you cook meat.)
As far as seasoning, I kept it simple with lots of salt and pepper. And when it came out of the oven, I let it rest for 15 minutes and then cut it up (that’s pretty easy to do when it’s spatchcocked) and squeezed a lemon over everything:
As an alternative to this spatchcocked chicken, there’s another spatchcocked chicken I came across in this past weekend’s New York Times Magazine section: Pete Wells’s Butterflied Chicken with Cracked Spices. (Both Kenji and Pete Wells use “butterflied” as a euphemism for “spatchcocked.” These people don’t know what they’re missing.)
In Pete Wells’s recipe you make a rub with fennel seed, coriander seed, black peppercorns, cumin seed, coarse sea salt and hot paprika then cook the chicken under the broiler. Needless to say, the next time I spatchcock I’m going to spatchcock in the Pete Wells style.
So for tonight’s chicken dinner, don’t hassle yourself with twine and don’t dirty your roasting pan: spatchcock! It’s my new favorite way to cook chicken.