Spatchcock Chicken is a popular method of preparing chicken these days. I am the first person to say you should cook what you like and not what’s trendy but here I am, posting a spatchcocked chicken.
Spatchcocking is obviously a fun word to say. The term refers to the preparation method of removing the backbone of the chicken and flattening the bird, while leaving it in one piece. Since it is simply a method you can season your chicken any way you like and cook it in the oven, on the barbecue or perhaps even a campfire.
Family Food Tales
This summer we visited my niece and her husband who served us a barbecued spatchcocked chicken. It was one of those magical nights, a warm summer evening in the Okanagan valley. We sat outdoors on their patio enjoying the best local wines, the sounds of summer activities and watched the spatchcocked chicken cook. The chicken was memorable but the mishap was indoors.
When we weren’t looking, as so often happens, our dog jumped up and grabbed the remaining chicken off the counter. She devoured the entire thing before anyone noticed. Why the dog was even there is a different story but as guests we felt bad for our hosts. They went to a lot of trouble to prepare us dinner and of course we hope to go back.
Although not forgotten the story is well behind us but the spatchcock method intrigued my husband. He has repeated it several times and being the photographer he has some say in my recipe choices. So I spatchcocked this chicken, rubbed it with achiote butter for a Mexican taste and baked it in the oven.
As luck would have it, or stupidity you might say, that same dog (Astrid is her name) got the remains of this chicken. There was a follow up photo (immediately sent to my niece) but it was just a few crumbs on the floor. For dog owners you know the story but in our defence, she is used to photo shoots. She is much more likely to grab a pound of expensive cheese off the counter. We try and take the necessary precautions but this sort of thing does happen.
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Organize For Success
I often talk about a seasonal strategy to ensure variety in the meals you prepare and avoid that “same old, same old” rut. How many ways can you cook chicken? Baked, roasted, braised, poached, sautéed, grilled and stir-fried to name a few. And how many ways can you prepare the bird itself? Whole or cut, bone-in or deboned, skin on or off, sliced, cubed, ground, butterflied and even spatchcocked. You can cook chicken every day and find lots of variety if you try.
So if your family loves chicken then buy a whole bird and try this spatchcock chicken.
What is Achiote Paste?
If you are intrigued by the sound of achiote paste I wrote about it in both of these recipes, Grilled Achiote Chicken and Achiote Butter Basted Turkey. Coming from the Yucatan area, achiote paste is made from annatto seeds and gives foods a unique, earthy flavour. The brand I buy is La Perla Del Mayab. In Calgary I can find it at Unimarket but of course it can be bought through Amazon.
Our favourite YouTube video demonstrating the spatchcock method is this one from John at Food Wishes, Spatchcock Chicken Technique. I used my favourite kitchen scissors but a knife works too. We think he is always accurate and very entertaining.
Let me know in the comments below if you tried your hand at spatchcocking and if your dog likes chicken.
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- 3 lb whole chicken
- 1½ Tbsp achiote paste
- 6 Tbsp butter
- salt and pepper
- For visual instructions watch the video (link in recipe description).
- Lay chicken breast side down. Using kitchen scissors cut along the backbone, staying close to the bone, right through to the butt of the chicken.
- Cut along the other side of the backbone, staying close to the bone, cutting right to the end and remove the backbone.
- With a sharp knife cut through the cartilage, about ¼ inch, to expose the sternum. Using your fingers bend the chicken until the sternum pops out. Now the chicken will lay flat.
- Flip the chicken over and tuck the wings under.
- Melt butter in microwave. Add achiote paste and whisk until combined. Brush all over the chicken.
- Bake in 350°F oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Add vegetables, brushed with olive oil, part way through the cooking time if desired.