Summer BBQ: Try Spatchcocking a Chicken!
By Yosef Silver
Until recently, I’d never spatchcocked anything. Not a turkey, nor a chicken, but I did know that this technique that is a nice way of saying “removing the backbone and laying the bird flat” is always a winning recipe. By laying the bird flat, it cooks evenly and stays moist. Even the breast.
A spatchcocked, or butterflied, chicken cooks very well on the grill or in the oven and if you’ve ever heard of people referring to Brick Chicken, it’s a spatchcocked bird that has cooked under a foil-wrapped brick for an even quicker cooking time.
Now, this fancy word sounds like it’s a technique for the masters. Let me tell you, it’s not. I know this because since submitting our spatchcocked turkey at the Kansas City Kosher BBQ Festival in August, 2015 (and placing fifth), this has become my go-to method of roasting poultry.
Smoked spatchcocked turkey at the 2015 Kansas City Kosher BBQ Festival byTeam Epicurean Bite. The bird is covered in onions and garlic from our 36 hour French brine.
Per our team shirts… “May you always be surrounded by good friends and great bbq.” To prove that this isn’t just a competition technique, I defrosted two of the delicious organic chickens that KOL Foods sent me and I made the perfect roast chicken dinner in about 45 minutes. KOL Foods are, in my humble opinion, the go-to company for all your organic chicken and meat. Not only are they raising animals without pesticides and with organic feed, their entire operation is socially responsible. Their facilities are LEED certified and they pay their farmers a livable wage. I’ve written about KOL Foods a number of times and I am very public about my admiration for this company and as always, it’s an honor to work with them to bring you this post.
Step 1: Defrost your chicken if frozen, pat it dry with a towel to remove any excess moisture. This will help you get a crispy skin when you roast or grill it. Lay the chicken on it’s breast.
Step 2: By putting your fingers inside the cavity, feel for the edge of the backbone. Cut along one side of the backbone, all the way across the chicken. Repeat for the second side of the backbone. Store the backbone and the neck for making soup or stock another time.
Step 3: Turn the bird over and use the palm of your hand to put pressure on the chicken breast to flatten the bird. Don’t worry if you hear bones crack. That’s a good thing. It means your chicken is laying flat and even.
Now that your chicken is flat on your baking tray, you can brine it for 24 hours (which is an excellent idea!) or simply season it with your favorite family recipe. This time, I used a garlic and zaatar blend which I applied to the chicken after drizzling it with a little chipotle infused olive oil.
Brining the chicken (optional):
If you let your chicken sit in a brine for a couple of days it's going to be full of flavor. Here's a recipe for one of my favorite brines.
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bunch fresh rosemary
1 bunch fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
2 head garlic, cut in half horizontally, including the skin
1 onion, sliced, including the skin
2 shallots sliced, including the skin (optional)
3 tbsp black peppercorns, crushed
1 cup red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a non-metallic pan large enough to hold the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24-hours, turning occasionally.
Grilling the chicken:
If you brined the bird, remove any sprigs of herbs before putting your chicken on the grill. Pre-heat the grill to about 350 degrees then place the whole chicken, skin side down on the grill for 12-15 minutes then flip once the chicken skin is nice and brown.
Continue to grill the chicken until the temperature of the thickest part of the breast reads 160 degrees F. Remove from the grill and let the chicken rest for five to 10 minutes before serving. If you cut the chicken without allowing it to rest, the juices along with their flavor will be lost rather than being absorbed by the chicken. (If you remember just one thing from this post, it should be to always let your meat rest before serving!)
* If this is a last minute BBQ and you’re looking for succulent and juicy, evenly cooked chicken, you can do the “brick chicken” method. Place a brick wrapped in foil, or a cast iron skillet on top of the flat chicken while it grills.
Yosef Silver is an enthusiastic food writer who shares his unique perspective on kosher cooking at This American Bite. When out of the kitchen, Yosef is Director of Strategy at Venta Marketing where he works with clients to make the internet better for everyone. Yosef lives in Overland Park, Kansas with his wife and three children. Share his adventures by following @yosefsilver on Instagram or @ysilver on Twitter.