What is spatchcock chicken?
Spatchcocking is the process of removing the backbone from poultry so that it can lay flat (think of it as laying open like a book) and cook in less time. Major bonus for when you want to cook an entire chicken or turkey!
How to spatchcock chicken
The easiest way to spatchcock a chicken is to have your butcher do it for you! If you’d like to do it yourself at home, here’s the process:
To spatchcock a chicken or turkey, first grab a pair of kitchen shears. Make sure the chicken is breast side down. Use the shears to cut along each side of the back bone, beginning from the the tail end and working your way up towards the neck cavity. Remove the backbone (and any giblets inside the bird). You can store these in a freezer safe container and use them next time you make chicken stock.
Next, simply take hold of the edges you just cut on the chicken and open the bird up like a book. Turn over so the cavity is face down on your cutting board, then use your hands to forcefully press down on one of the breastbones. You should hear a loud crack. Repeat on the other breastbone.
CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve just spatchcocked a chicken! You can rearrange the thighs by pulling them outwards. At this point, you can tuck the wing tips under each breast to keep them secure.
Ingredients for dry rub
- 3 Tbsp kosher salt: the primary ingredients in my dry rubs are always kosher salt and brown sugar
- 3 Tbsp brown sugar: adds sweetness
- 2 Tbsp sweet paprika: a little sweet, a little spice!
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper: for some heat! Like it extra hottt? Go up to 1 tsp!
Yes, the dry rub has a kick to it, but it’s perfect with the sun dried tomatoes in the sauce, which add some much needed sweetness!
Ingredients for Herb Sauce
- Sun dried tomato halves: The key to the sauce! The sun dried tomatoes add a lovely sweetness that plays off the cayenne / heat from the dry rub.
- Basil leaves: A bright burst of flavor that tastes like summer!
- Lemon zest: To round out the flavors of the herbs and olive oil
- Chives or scallions: I love the subtle onion flavor that chives and scallions add. Use whichever you prefer!
- Dill: Fresh herbs add SO much flavor here!
- Garlic: Adds a ton of flavor and a slight heat/bite!
- Kosher salt: Always season your food, and kosher salt is my go-to in the kitchen!
- Extra virgin olive oil: Without it, you’ll just have an herb-tomato paste.
What is dry brine?
Dry brine is the best way to ensure that a large piece of meat — such as a whole chicken or turkey — remains moist and juicy instead of overcooked and dry. Rather than submerging the bird in a wet brine overnight, a dry brine allows salt (and any additional flavorings you use, such as sugar, cayenne, garlic, and dried herbs) the chance to really penetrate into the meat.
The lengthy curing process (a few hours at least, but overnight is even better!) helps the seasoning to really flavor both the meat and skin.
Why it works!
Brining a chicken with salt does a few things: first, the salt draws out the natural juices of the bird. Second, the salt dissolves into the juices. But finally — and most importantly, I think — the juices have time to be reabsorbed into the chicken. At this point, the salt is working double duty, both to flavor the meat, but also to break down those pesky tough muscles, which results in a juicier, more tender bird.
ADDED BONUS: once the salt reabsorbs, the skin is left drier than it was before, resulting in crispy crispy CRISPY AF skin!
Why I never use a wet brine
Avoid a wet brine or you’ll end up with diluted flavor!
When you stick a chicken or a turkey in a large quantity of water, regardless of the amount of salt you add, it’s going to inevitably dilute the natural flavor of the bird. Also, I want any juices in the chicken to be natural juices, not water.
How long to cook a spatchcocked chicken
The cook time here is significantly less than if you were to grill or roast an entire chicken. A 4-5 lb chicken (before spatchcocking) will cook in 35-45 minutes over indirect heat on a grill. Chicken is safe to eat when an internal temperature of 165 F is reached.
We recommend the Thermapen MK4 to check for doneness on all meats!
If you make this Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken, please let me know by leaving a rating and review below!
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For more summer grilling recipes, check out the following:
- Grilled lobster tails and clams
- Homemade black bean burgers
- Grilled romaine with lemon caesar vinaigrette
- Crispy grilled chicken wings
- Grilled potato salad with snap peas and burrata
Juicy Grilled Spatchcock Chicken with Herb Marinade
- 1 6-7 lb spatchcock chicken, see instructions below
- 3 Tbsp Kosher salt
- 3 Tbsp brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp sweet paprika
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 cup basil leaves
- ¼ cup sun dried tomato halves
- ¼ cup chives or scallions, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup dill
- 1 lemon, zested, about 2 tsp
- 1 large clove garlic
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- ½- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Mix the spices. In a small bowl, combine 3 Tbsp Kosher salt, 3 Tbsp brown sugar, 2 Tbsp paprika, and ½ tsp cayenne pepper, then whisk to combine.
- Dry brine the chicken. Place spatchcocked chicken on a rimmed baking sheet, then pat dry with paper towels. Rub spice blend on all sides of the bird, making sure to cover every bit of skin. Let sit uncovered in a refrigerator overnight, or about 8 hours.
- Make the herb sauce. Combine 1 cup basil leaves, ¼ cup sun dried tomatoes, ¼ cup chives, ¼ cup fresh dill, 2 tsp lemon zest, 1 garlic clove, and ½ tsp Kosher salt in a food processor fitted with blade attachment. Pulse until finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in ½-¾ cup olive oil until mostly smooth. I like a little texture in mine, but you can absolutely purée the sauce if you prefer.
- Preheat the grill. We're using indirect cooking for most of our cook time. Preheat grill over medium-high heat so that 1 (or 2) grate(s) will have direct heat, while remaining grates are turned off. Tip: you need a space as large as the spatchcocked chicken to have NO DIRECT HEAT underneath.
- Grill the chicken. When hot, add chicken skin-side down over direct heat for 5 minutes, then flip and move to indirect heat. Chicken will cook for 30-40 minutes, or until an internal temperature of 165F is reached. Allow chicken to cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting. Carve chicken and serve immediately with sauce on the side for serving.
- Dry rub: Can be made far in advance and will keep as long as typical spices remain fresh (so months and months!)
- Sauce: The sauce can be made 1-2 days ahead and stored in a refrigerator until needed. Let sit at room temperature for ~20 minutes before serving if oil has seized a bit.
- Chicken: The easiest way to spatchock a chicken is to have your butcher do it for you. If you’re into doing it yourself, follow the following instructions:
- To spatchcock a chicken or turkey, first grab a pair of kitchen shears. Make sure the chicken is breast side up. Use the shears to cut along each side of the back bone, beginning from the the tail end and working your way up towards the neck cavity. Remove the backbone (and any giblets inside the bird). You can store these in a freezer safe container and use them next time you make chicken stock.
- Next, simply take hold of the edges you just cut on the chicken and open the bird up like a book. Turn over so the cavity is face down on your cutting board, then use your hands to forcefully press down on one of the breastbones. You should hear a loud crack. Repeat on the other breastbone.
- Make sure to allow chicken to rest for at least 10 minutes before carving and serving to allow the natural juices time to reabsorb.