Learning to Spatchcock

I’ve been reading about spatchcocking and decided to give it a try.  This adventure has lead me to create a new blog category – The Gringo Gourmet Academy.  I’ll be sharing new techniques I’ve picked up from magazines, television and friends. I’d appreciate comments about the techniques when they appear, and links to readers’ experiments with new ways to achieve good food.

The first Academy posting is about spatchcocking.  The Nov. 2014 issue of Bon Appétite magazine has a cover photo of a spatchcocked turkey that intrigued me and made my fingers itch to get into the kitchen and try it. Fortunately, the photos is accompanied with an article and instructions on the technique.

The word spatchcock itself intrigued me.  I checked Ruth Reichl’s last cookbook for the now defunct Gourmet magazine and found nothing. I check Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Anything and was shocked to find that Bittman didn’t have a 2000 word essay on spatchcocking! Fortunately, the New Oxford American Dictionary had the below definition:

spatchcock |ˈspaCHˌkäk


a chicken or game bird split open and grilled.

verb [ with obj. ] 

split open (a poultry or game bird) to prepare it for grilling.

 informal, chiefly Brit. add (a phrase, sentence, clause, etc.) in a context where it is inappropriate: a new clause has been spatchcocked into the bill.ORIGIN late 18th cent. (originally an Irish usage): perhaps related to the noun dispatch + cock1, but compare with spitchcock.

Spitchcock, by the way, refers to splitting and frying or grilling an eel. My preference is to go with the poultry version.

I decided to try spatchcocking a chicken for the first time instead of a whole turkey.  The the technique is basically removing the bird’s entire backbone with a chefs knife or kitchen shears; turning the bird over  and scoring alongside the keelbone (breastbone) to make a shallow grove.  Once the surgery is done, splay the bird, breast up and press firmly on the breast until hear the keelbone crack and feel the bird go flat. You might think of it as butterflying a chicken.

Spatchcocked chicken with a meyer lemon and pepper rub and left to stand for 30 minutes.

The turkey recipe roasts the bird for 30 minutes at 450 and then reduces the temperature to 350.  The turkey then is rubbed every 20 minutes with an herbed oil until a thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh reads 165.  After it is removed from the oven, it rests for 30 minutes before carving.  It says the skin is super crisp and worth the whole process.

I transferred my chicken from the foil lined pan above to a 400 degree gas grill.  I used a water filled drip pan below the bird to add moisture and catch the drips that otherwise would have caused flare ups.  I didn’t baste mine; nor did I time it.  I did use a thermometer to check the internal temp.

Getting golden on the grill. Smelling so good I can hardly stand to let if finish cooking.


One of the things that attracted me most to the spatchcock article was the carved presentation of the turkey. When I plated my chicken, I cut the bird in half.  One half is compete on the plate.  Carving the other half, I removed the wing, separated the thigh and leg and removed the complete half breast in one piece from the ribs.  I then sliced the breast crosswise.  We got a choice of dark and white that way and still have a half chicken for another evening or another recipe.

For comparison below, here’s the magazine cover and the plated spatchcock turkey.  See why I had to try it?

Spatchcock Turkey cover


I served roasted brussels sprouts tossed with caramelized onions and splash of apple cider vinegar as a perfect Fall accompaniment to the juicy chicken.

Tender juicy spatchcock chicken and savory roasted brussels sprouts with caramelized onions.

Lessons learned at the Gringo Gourmet Academy.  I cooked my chicken with ankles demurely crossed.  The chicken leg was a little more pink at the bone than I like.  Upon checking back with the magazine, I found that they roasted the turkey with legs splayed outward.  I’ll be doing another chicken soon to see if that makes a difference.  It should allow more heat to get to the leg’s interior.

I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year.  I’m seriously wanting to spatchcock the turkey.  Let’s see if that happens, or will I chicken out?

One thought on “Learning to Spatchcock

  1. fromthefamilytable

    The Great Courses Company has a great DVD course entitled, “The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking.” Lesson 19 deals with spatchcocking, and has several very good suggestions. The chef demonstrates cutting along both sides of the keel bone and actually removing it. That way it lies even flatter. It is a fairly easy process. Then he uses a foil-covered brick to weight down the chicken (in this case) during part of the roasting. You should definitely have poultry shears to do this. Don’t know about a turkey, but it would be a fun challenge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *