There are many ways to cook a whole chicken on the grill. You can use the Beer Can Method, which can cause a messy shower inside your BBQ, or just the whole bird, turning frequently to make sure it grills evenly. But I’ve got a method Chefs love that will cook a whole Chicken fast and juicy…
Ever had, or even heard of ‘Flat Chicken’? That’s basically a whole Chicken flattened for the grill. It’s an old Chef’s trick to cook poultry quickly and evenly and can be employed with birds from Squab to Turkeys. It’s also pretty way to present a whole bird at the table. And it’s easy to carve!
Officially, it’s called ‘Spatchcocking’
But it’s commonly known as ‘butterflying’, a term applied to different techniques for flattening or thinning various kinds of foods prior to cooking. One thing I found interesting was, the term ‘spatchcock’ may not have originated with Poultry at all, but with Eels, a great delicacy in Olde England. Eels were commonly split lengthwise and often spitted for cooking. Thus, the Eel-specific term, ‘spitchcock’. There’s also a legend among etymologists that ‘spatchcock’ comes from ‘dispatch the cock’, or ‘cook the cock with dispatch’. In this sense, a Cock is a nice 3 – 4 lb. / 1.3 – 1.8 kg broiling or roasting Chicken.
So, how do you do it?
It’s a lot easier than it might sound.
You just cut close down each side of the breastbone with kitchen shears, right through any skin that might be holding the bird together, and remove the bone, Then, turn of bird over and press down as hard as you have to, to flatten it out. No need to remove any other bones or make any other incisions. Just season both the skin side and the inside with Salt and Pepper and any other Herbs or Spices you might fancy and toss it on the grill.
Yes, you can brine a spatchcocked bird if you like, or marinate in any other manner of your choice. But there is one part of traditional Spatchcock preparation that all practitioners throughout history have insisted upon: you must liberally Oil or Butter the entire exterior of the bird.
Cook your Spatchcock on the grill as you would individual Chicken parts – not too long; just long enough for the interior temperature of the breasts to come to 165 F. And turn only once, with tongs, never pressing down on the meat. That’ll just make your Chicken tough and dry.
Enjoy more sittin’, talkin’ and drinkin’ time at your own backyard party this weekend, and grill a Spatchcock or two!
~ Maggie J.