Food & Drink

How to Cook a Whole Chicken in a Half-Hour. Can You Say Spatchcock?

Published On 09/13/2016 Published On 09/13/2016

Trumping "fatback" and "forcemeat" (the mixture in sausages), "spatchcock" is perhaps the most ridiculous culinary term out there. We could just stick to its synonym, "butterfly," but where's the fun in that? For the uninitiated, spatchcocking is removing the backbone of the chicken and flattening the chicken so that its legs splay out. Roasting a normal whole chicken takes about an hour, but when it lays flat, the cooking time is cut down to a mere 30 minutes. Here is how it's done:

Spatchcocked Herb Chicken With Sautéed Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken (roughly 3 pounds)
  • 1½ tablespoons fresh rosemary, oregano, and thyme, picked, plus 1 extra sprig of thyme
  • 2 lemons, zested
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 spring onion or scallion
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Lots of kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper
  • 2 cups sliced button, cremini, or oyster mushrooms

1. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you're ready to cook it, rinse the cavity, and pat until it's super dry.

2. Heat the oven to 425° F and put a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or heavy equivalent sauté pan inside it.

3. In a food processor, combine the picked herbs, lemon zest, garlic, spring onion and pulse until the mixture is very fine. Add olive oil, pinch of salt, and pepper and continue to pulse until it becomes a paste. If you don't have a food processor, just chop up all the ingredients as finely as possible. Set aside.

4. To spatchcock the chicken, put it breast-side down on a secure cutting board with the neck end closest to you. Using kitchen shears, trim any excess skin and fat from the opening of the neck cavity.

5. Remove the backbone by cutting along each side of it from the neck to the butt. Since you'll be cutting through bones, having a good pair of kitchen shears makes a difference here. Save the backbone and use it for stock later.

6. Using your hands, splay open the chicken. Depending on the chicken, this may happen naturally. Most likely, you will have to remove the breast bone and the cartilage in between. Use the heel of a sharp knife at the neck end of the chicken to make a 1-inch cut on each side of the keel bone. Bend the bird back, splaying it open like a book. Use your knife to cut the membrane along the center of the chicken to expose the keel bone and cartilage. Run your thumbs up and under both sides of the cartilage until it separates from the breast. Gradually pull out the cartilage and keel bone.

7. Flip over the chicken so that it's breast-side up and use your fingers to loosen the skin from the legs, thigh, and breast meat. Spread the herb paste under the skin, spreading it into an even layer by pressing and pushing it around from the top of the skin.

8. Take the hot cast-iron skillet or pan out of the oven and put on the stovetop over high heat.

9. Generously salt both sides of the chicken. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and swirl it around to ensure an even coating. Carefully put the chicken in the pan skin-side down and cook it for 3 minutes, then transfer it to the oven.

10. Roast the bird for 30 minutes. To check for doneness, puncture the thickest part of the thigh with a small knife or fork. If the juices run clear, it's done. If the juice is pink, roast the bird for 5 more minutes. If the bird is done, but the skin hasn't crisped up, finish it on the stove over high heat for 2 minutes, then transfer it to a large plate, lightly tented with foil, to rest for 10 minutes.

11. Remove some of the chicken fat to a bowl if there is a lot. Add sliced mushrooms to remaining fat and cook over a medium high heat. Add sprig of thyme and cook until brown and crispy.

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Julianne Feder is a contributing writer for Thrillist. She now finds unnecessary ways to insert spatchcocking into conversations. Follow her @TheGastroNerd or watch her on her YouTube channel to get more nerdy food insights and other cooking tips.

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