The Whole Chicken Project TM_WC_SPATCH_FI_001

No Time Flat

Spatchcocking (quit giggling) is the secret to a quick chicken dinner


For this month’s Whole Chicken Project, we’re going to talk about spatchcocking. Go ahead, giggle. It does sound like an impossibly dirty thing to do to a poor bird. The first time I heard the word, I conjured
up mental images of a raw chicken being trussed up and given a
firm rub-down.

In reality, you spatchcock a bird by taking a pair of sturdy kitchen shears and using them to cut out the chicken’s backbone. It can take a little persistence to convince your scissors through the bones, but once you remove that one-inch strip, a world of quick-cooking options opens up.

You can marinate your flattened chicken in teriyaki sauce and quickly grill it without worrying about losing pieces between the grates. You can lay two chickens on a large baking sheet and roast them off in half the time that it takes for an unaltered chicken. Or you can try the pan roasting technique I’m going to show you here today.

It all starts with a spatchcocked bird. Once you’ve wrested the backbone out, you flip the chicken so that the skin-side it up. Put your palms on the breastbone and press down, in order to ensure that it stays flat. Season it with salt and pepper and turn your attention to your cooking vessel.

removing the backbone

You need a large, low pan for this task. I like to use a large enameled cast iron braiser, but any 12-inch skillet will do the trick. Add enough oil to coat the bottom and prevent sticking (2-3 tablespoons) and let it heat to a shimmer. Once it’s ready, place the chicken in the pan, skin-side down (salt and pepper the inside while you can see it). Cook until it’s just brown. Then flip the chicken back over so the skin is up and slide it into an oven that’s been preheated to 425°F. It will be ready in 20 minutes.

While the chicken cooks, make your sides. I like to serve it with a mountain of broccoli and risotto cakes. When the chicken is done (an instant read thermometer should register 160-165°F), remove the pan from the oven. You can make a pan sauce from the drippings if you feel like being fancy (1 tablespoon butter, 2 tablespoons flour and 1 cup white wine), or you can dress it with a squirt of lemon juice and call it good (that’s typically my speed).

Note: When you spatchcock your chicken, make sure to pop the discarded backbone into a zip-top bag and put it in the freezer. Over time, you’ll find yourself with enough chicken bits for a batch of stock, and no waste!

Spatchcocked and Pan-roasted Chicken

spatchcock chicken


1 chicken (approximately 3 pounds)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 425°F. Using kitchen shears, cut along each side of the chicken’s backbone until it can be removed.

Flip chicken over so the skin side is up and press down on the breastbone to flatten. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil. When oil shimmers, add chicken, skin-side down. Cook until brown, then flip the chicken over so the skin-side is up. Slide pan into the oven and cook until the chicken has an internal temperature of at least 160°F.

Remove chicken from pan, dress with a little lemon juice, cut into pieces and serve.

Dutch Oven Broccoli

dutch oven broccoli


2 pounds broccoli
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
salt to taste


Wash broccoli and cut into florets. Place a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid over high heat and add olive oil. When oil begins to shimmer, add the broccoli and put a lid on the pan.

Cook for 60-90 seconds, then remove lid, stir vigorously, add a splash of water and replace lid. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until broccoli is vividly green and tender-crisp.

Remove pan from heat. Add butter and a liberal shower of salt. Serve.

Risotto Cakes

risotto cakes


2 cups cold leftover risotto (like this one)
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil


Place a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and bring to temperature

Form risotto into four or five patties. Dredge them in the parmesan cheese and place them into the hot skillet as soon as each one is dredged (the less you handle them, the better). Cook for two to three minutes per side, until they are browned and heated through. Serve immediately.

Marisa McClellan is a food blogger, freelance writer and canning teacher based in Center City Philadelphia. She runs a website called Food in Jars, where she writes about canning, preserving and delicious things made from scratch. She regularly writes for the Food Network, USA Today, Grid Philly and Mrs. Wages. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.


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