How to Prepare Spatchcocked Chicken

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Learn how to make spatchcocked chicken. Not only is this process easy to perform, but it will also save you a lot of time on the pellet grill.

Steaks and burgers are pretty easy to smoke and grill. Since they have a simple and symmetrical shape, you can heat them evenly without any problems. All you have to do is to flip them over when one side is done. Hence, cooking steaks and burgers doesn’t require much skill and is easy to master.

Whole birds, on the other hand, are a completely different story. Their shape appears to be anything but uniform. Some parts are fleshy while others are lighter. For instance, the wings are very thin while the chest piece has plenty of meat. The bones are also very different. Some are very thin like the ribs while the leg bones are much thicker in comparison.

All of these differences can create problems while smoking chicken. Some parts take longer to cook while others are done quickly.

But there is one technique to alleviate your chicken smoking woes: preparing spatchcocked chicken.

Advantages of Spatchcocked Chicken

Smoking whole chickens and turkeys this way is much easier. The cooking time will is cut down almost by half and the doneness is more consistent across the whole bird. You can make the whole bird brown and crispy. Such a texture has a much better flavor and is more palatable than grilling the usual way. Whole birds that are not spatchcocked often have some charred parts. There is also the chance that other parts may be undercooked.

But when you spatchcock chicken, you can season all sides evenly. The bird will also cook rapidly with lower moisture loss.

Related read: Best Butterfly Chicken Recipes

Steps to Spatchcock Chicken 

It is fairly simple and straightforward to spatchcock a chicken. First, you must remove the spine. You can do this easily by making two big cuts on either side of the spine to separate the two halves of the chicken.

To accomplish this, you will need a good pair of chicken shears. OXO Good Grips Spring-Loaded Shears are great for the job. A cool feature of these shears is that you can separate the blades for easy cleaning. The handle is spring-loaded to reduce strain on your hands. The blades are curved and tapered. This unique design allows the shears to access parts of the chicken that may be difficult to reach. The handles are designed for a firm and secure grip. The blades are strong enough to cut through bone – although you will need high grip strength for this task.

1) First, keep the chicken chest side down on a cutting board. In this position, the drumsticks and wing tips will be pointing downwards.

You can easily notice the backbone along the back running through the center. Feel for the backbone and start cutting just next to it on either side. Begin cutting at the tail end. With a sharp pair of shears, you can cut along the spine without too many problems. Make sure that you cut as close to the spine as possible so that you don’t end up cutting some other joints.

Here is one handy tip. If you are right-handed, it will be less awkward for you if you begin cutting towards the right of the spine. Likewise, if you are left-dominant, you will have an easier time if you start cutting immediately towards the left of the spine.  

You will encounter the greatest resistance when you reach the ribs. If your grip strength is not enough to ply through the ribs, press the blade down with your hand to cut the bones.

2) Once you are done with one side, you can cut along the other side. It is better to rotate the chicken around so that the uncut side is placed near your dominant side. After cutting along the remaining side, remove the spine.

If you are thinking about throwing away the spine, then stop! It will be much wiser to freeze it in a plastic resealable bag. The spine will do very well for homemade chicken broth or stock.

3) It is now time to flatten the bird. To do this, you should place the bird on the cutting with its chest side facing upwards. For the next step, you will need to use both hands and a fair bit of strength. Press down at the center with all your might till you hear a bone crack. That is the wishbone cracking under pressure.

4) When you hear the crack sound, it is time to give yourself a big pat on the back. Congrats! The chicken is now almost spatchcocked.

A few last-minute adjustments remain. The wingtips will most likely be spread out wide at this point. Give both wings a firm twist and keep them tucked in under the body of the chicken. You might be thinking if this tip is even necessary.

It is certainly helpful since it reduces the likelihood of the wings burning up during cooking. Your bird will also lie flat.

Another option for you is to cut the wings away altogether. You can then add them to the chicken stock.

Read also: Best Spatchcocked Chicken Recipes

Dry Brine Spatchcocked Chicken

Although you can apply seasoning and rubs to get started with grilling the bird right away, a much better idea would be to dry brine it.

The dry brining technique has an almost magical effect on all sorts of meat. Although it works well on all meats, the technique has the most profound effects on chicken and turkey.  

The meat will become tender, juicy and flavorful. Dry brined meat is better at holding on to moisture. So it will be moister than plain meat after you smoke it.

All you have to do is to apply half a teaspoon of kosher salt for each pound of chicken. You should allow 2 to 4 hours for a noticeable change. The best thing to do is to let the spatchcocked chicken rest overnight.

You should be patient enough to dry brine your spatchcocked chicken. You will then be rewarded with tender, succulent and moist meat for your forbearance.

Having read about the advantages, you might be wondering if there are any downsides to spatchcocked chicken?

Potential Drawbacks to Spatchcocked Chicken

First, you will need a certain level of strength to get it right. Cutting the ribs and flattening the chicken requires a fair amount of might to materialize.

This may be problematic if you have joint problems or are just not strong enough. You can get around this by taking help from someone else.

Second, there is the risk that the thighs can tear off rather easily. The only thing holding the thighs to the body of the bird is the skin which is rather flimsy, to say the least. Therefore, you should be careful while handling the chicken both during and after the smoking process.        

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