“Deary me! Mention that you are serving spatchcock chicken, and the ladies blush, the men frown and the children giggle. However, it is a real word that has been around since the 18th century. Numerous dictionaries agree on its usage as a noun and as a verb.” ~ The Naked Whiz (www.nakedwhiz.com)
That term raise an eyebrow? Pique your interest? It’s an actual term, I swear, I didn’t make it up and it’s been around at least since the 18th century. The benefits of spatchcock chicken is that 1)the bird cooks faster and 2)it allows the legs and thighs to reach a higher temperature than the breast. Breast meat needs to reach 165F, after that, it tends to dry out. Unfortunately, the legs and thighs are not usually done when the breast is. I like to take legs and thighs up to 175-180 before I consider them done. Spatchcok allows you to accomplish this. This really is a great way to prepare and cook a chicken in a shorter time with amazing results and after reading this post, I hope you give it a try.
So what is it and how do I do it? Very simple. Spatchcock means to dress and split a fowl (in this case chicken) in order to grill, roast or broil. No need to worry about dressing your chicken these days. All that is done for you before it gets to the store, but you will need to split it. I’m sure there are butchers who will do this for you if you ask nicely, but it’s easily done at home. Take a pair of poultry shears, you know, those sharp scissors you got with your knife set that you may or may not know what to do with (please don’t use these scissors for normal cutting jobs, save them for cooking). Flip your chicken breast side down and look for the backbone. You want to cut out that backbone, so starting on one side, cut just to the side of the backbone from the bottom to the top. Repeat on the other side. Whatever you do, please do not throw that backbone out. Seal it up and throw it in the freezer. They are great for making stock along with wing tip, but that’s another post.
Next, flip that chicken back over so the breast side is facing up. Place one hand on each of the breast and press down. You will hear a pop. This is the breastbone breaking. You have successfully spatchcocked your first chicken. Some sources will have you actually take a knife and cut out the breastbone. I find this to be a tricky and unnecessary step. Breaking it works well enough. Now that I think about it, I probably should have taken pictures of this process to make it easier to understand, but working alone without my partner and getting chicken yuckiness all over my hands does not lend itself to very sanitary conditions. Maybe I’ll add some next time I do it, or just google how to spatchcock a chicken.
To cook this chicken, I went simple on the seasoning and just applied Dizzy Pig’s Swamp Venom, a rub that is very similar to most Cajun seasonings you might be familiar with like Tony Cachere’s, but with bolder flavors and more of a kick. I then set up my Egg at 400F for a direct cook, but using BGE’s Grill Extender to get the chicken up a little higher from the heat source. If you don’t have one of these, you can simply take 3 foil lined bricks and place them on top of your fire ring (or I’ve even heard of people using empty beer/soda cans), then place your grate on top of that. However you chose to do it, you want to raise that grate up high or your chicken will burn. I also used apple wood chips for a smoke flavor.
In the above picture, you can just see how my grill extender is sitting on top of the original grate, thereby raising it up. This cook took only 1 hour and that was for a chicken around 4 lbs. From what I have heard, if you raise the chicken high enough above your heat source, you won’t need to flip it at all during the cook. Unfortunately, the BGE Grill Extender did not raise it as high as an Adjustable Rig would have. So after 30 minutes I had to flip my bird as the bottom was threatening to burn. After 30 more minutes, I checked the temperature and the breast was reading 164 and the thighs were at 177. I pulled the chicken off and let it rest under a loosely tented aluminum foil as we prepared the rest of the dinner.
Here is the chicken with the leg quarters removed. You can see how juicy it was and how it came out with a nice crisp skin. It was served up with a salad and some creamed corn. The Swamp Venom gave it a nice heat and the apple wood lent a nice, but not over powering smoke.
Spatchcock might not have that “Wow!” factor and eye-catching appeal as a Beer Can Chicken (but common’…who hasn’t seen a beer can chicken by now?), but I believe it produces vastly better results and in a shorter period of time. From now on, I believe this is how I’m going to do my chicken. Hmm….I do have a turkey in the freezer….