Spatchcock chicken is a real family favourite that I make again and again. When you want a tasty roast chicken, but don't have the time to do a traditional roast, this dish is tasty, easy to prepare and much quicker to cook.
Perfect in the summer with salads or in the winter with roast potatoes and vegetables, the family will love this. I promise you.
What is a Spatchcock Chicken?
A spatchcock chicken is normally a smaller younger bird. It relates to the preparation of the chicken where the backbone is removed and the chicken flattened out.
It's difficult to trace the origins of the word 'spatchcock' ,but it is said to be derived from 'dispatching the cock' or killing the chicken.
A Spatchcocked chicken means that, as a flatter piece of meat, it cooks much quicker and there is less chance of undercooking the thigh meat and overcooking the breast meat.
It also means that there is more surface area to get some extra flavour in and every bit of skin gets flavoured and crispy.
What are the ingredients?
I've used a 2.25 extra large chicken for this, mainly because there is lots of meat leftover and it is delicious cold in a sandwich or used in another dish. Use any size chicken you like.
To flavour the meat and keep it moist when cooking, you will also need:
- 25g butter at room temperature
- 4 crushed garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- zest and juice of a lemon
- 2 sprigs of rosemary /1 tablespoon fresh and chopped
- 2 sprigs of tarragon / 1 tablespoon fresh and chopped
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil (not extra virgin)
- ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper
How to prepare a spatchcock chicken
You can use a sharp boning knife for this or poultry sheers, if you have them. Good kitchen scissors can also work. Don't use a big carving knife or chopping knife or you won't have enough control.
Lay the chicken on a board, breast side down. You can start at either end and begin cutting through the ribs.
Cut all the way down one side
I find it's easier to rotate the chicken 180 degrees and repeat to remove the backbone. It's great to keep a bag in the freezer for bits like this so you can make some stock later on.
Turn the chicken over and you now have the classic spatchcock shape.
In the middle at the top, take a small knife and tease out the small breast bone. You don't have to do this but it will make it easier for the chicken to sit flat and to carve later.
Press down hard on the middle of the breast and the chicken should now lie flat and ready for cooking.
Spatchcock Chicken Recipe
To make this spatchcock chicken recipe start by making the garlic butter by mixing the crushed garlic with the salt and butter.
Mix the chopped herbs, salt and pepper with the lemon juice and zest and olive oil.
Place the chicken in a large roasting pan.
Carefully separate the skin from the breast meat and the thighs and use a spoon to place the butter under the skin. Massage the skin on the outside to spread the butter over the meat.
Use a pastry brush to spread the herb mixture over the chicken.
Cook the chicken at 180 C / 350F / Gas 5 for an hour and 20 minutes then check to see if it is cooked. It may need a further 20 minutes.
I prefer to use a carving fork in the thickest part of the breast and thigh and see if the juices run clear.
Alternatively use a meat thermometer which should register 165F.
How to serve this dish
Leave the meat to rest, covered loosely with foil, for about 20 minutes.
The legs and wings should easily come off and then it's easy to remove each breast.
I prefer to slice across the grain so that everyone gets some breast meat and crispy skin.
Make this dish your own by changing some of the flavours in this recipe.
You could try adding these to the lemon mix:
- chilli flakes
- cajun spice
How to store
Once cooked and cooled, this spatchcock chicken recipe will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.
Use these leftovers in pasta dishes, stir fries, curries, salads and sandwiches.
Freeze the leftovers in a container for 3 months.
Other roast recipes
- Lamb with Pomegranate Molasses
- Pulled Pork with Pineapple Sauce
- Gammon with Bourbon Ginger Glaze
- Lamb Kleftiko
- Roast Lamb with Rosemary and Garlic
- Slow Roast Belly Pork with Chilli and Fennel
- Tuscan Roast Pork
- French Tarragon Lemon Roast Chicken
This Spatchcock Chicken recipe was first published on the 30th August 2015 and has been updated with new pictures and instructions.
Spatchcock Chicken Recipe
- Sharp boning knife or poultry shears
- 2 kg chicken
For the butter
- 25 g butter
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
For the marinade
- 1 lemon zest and juice
- 1 tablespoon rosemary chopped
- 1 tablespoon tarragon chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- mix all of the ingredients for the garlic butter together.
- First prepare the marinade my mixing the lemon juice, zest, oil and chopped herbs.
- Prepare the chicken by cutting down either side of the backbone and removing it.
- Spread the chicken out, skin side up Use a knife to carefully remove the breastbone at the neck end.
- Flatten the chicken by pushing down hard on the breast area
- Carefully separate the skin from the breast either side and repeat with the thighs.
- Divide the garlic mixture into 4 and spread under each breast and thigh.
- Spread the herb marinade all over the skin of the chicken.
- Cook in the oven at 180 C /350 F or Gas 5 for 1 hr 40 mins.
- Rest for 20 minutes before carving.
Disclaimer: The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.
Detailed instructions for this recipe, including step by step photographs, hints and tips, can be found in the main article.
We sometimes take for a granted that we have years (or decades) of cooking experience, that the average visitor may not. Add to, or remove from, the list below with health and safety tips.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
Thanks Cate. I hope yo enjoy it.
Thanks Julia. It's so easy when you can see the process.
Thanks so much Kim!
Such a helpful step by step recipe and it looks so delicious! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for including process photos so I can visualize how to actually cut a chicken as I had no idea!
Yum! This recipe was easy and so tasty. I will definitely be making this again!