Spatchcock chicken

Photo: Thinkstock

1. Spatch-what?
If you're stuck in a rut of boneless, skinless chicken-breast dinners, we've got one word for you (and don't laugh): Spatchcock. It's a funny name for an old-fashioned technique used to prepare poultry, also known as butterflying, in which you cut out the backbone and open the chicken like a book, so it lies flat. A foolproof way to roast or grill a whole chicken, spatchcocking also protects the meat from drying out (you don't have to worry about some parts being closer to the heat source than others). And it's great for cooks on a budget, since you pay less per pound when buying a whole chicken versus buying a bird cut into eight or 10 pieces. Spatchcocked chicken roasts in nearly half the time it takes to roast a whole chicken, says Melissa Clark in The New York Times. And it's not difficult—we promise.
Spatchcock chicken

Photo: Lynn Andriani

2. All You Need Is a Sharp Pair of Scissors
Mindy Fox, author of The Perfectly Roasted Chicken, has been using the same pair of red-handled kitchen shears to spatchcock chickens for years, and recommends using sharp scissors over a knife; they're easier to maneuver so you can get closer to the bone (and therefore waste less meat). First, she says, place the chicken breast-side down (if you're unsure, poke the meat with your finger; the breast feels soft, while the back feels bony). Cut along one side of the backbone first, and then the other. Next, turn the bird breast-side up and gently but firmly press between the breasts to break the breastbone and flatten the bird. Finally, tuck the wings under. (This video gives a helpful demonstration; it shows how to break the breastbone using a knife instead of your hand.) Now, you're ready to cook. (And don't toss the backbone; it makes delicious stock.)
Devil's Chicken

Photo: Ellen Silverman

3. Grilled or Roasted, You Can't Go Wrong (Honest!)
There are a few ways to cook a spatchcocked chicken—and you really can't screw any of them up. Grilling is one great option, since there's a lot of surface area for the meat to make contact with the flames. Roasting is another: It results in supercrispy skin, thanks again to that increased surface area. You can just slide the chicken into a 400-degree oven with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, and check for doneness about 45 minutes later. Or, says Susanna Hoffman, co-author of the new book Bold: A Cookbook of Big Flavors, take advantage of a spatchcocked chicken's looser skin (it's less taut than a whole bird's), and slide something savory—such as herb butter or thinly sliced lemons—underneath it. A big-flavored recipe from Bold has you rub a mixture of sautéed beet greens, mushroom, garlic, buffalo mozzarella, capers and dill under the skin; The Perfectly Roasted Chicken features a similar dish, using a savory mixture of lemon zest, lemon juice, herbs, black pepper and chilies.

Get the recipes:

Spatchcocked Chicken with Roasted Baby Beets

Devil's Chicken with Sweet Peppers and Onions (Roast Chicken Diavolo)

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