Of all the animals that you can stuff inside an oven, the chicken is perhaps the most well loved. While some don’t eat pork and others despise beef, you’ll be hard pressed to find a carnivore who doesn’t appreciate a well roasted piece of poultry. However, as with anything large and dead, the time required to cook it properly can be off putting for busy home chefs. Hours of seasoning and basting do not go well with hectic schedules. Fortunately, there’s a nifty way to avoid spending hours slaving over a stove.
Spatchcocking is a technique popular across the world. Communities everywhere from India to Africa have practised this method in order to prepare speedy and delicious meals at the drop of a hat. Though ideally suited to any sort of poultry, the technique is most commonly associated with chicken as it is a great way to guarantee a great cook on the world’s most popular bird with consummate ease.
The method involves spreading the chicken flat over a larger area so the more of the flesh is exposed to the heat and the entire animal cooks quicker. Not only does this technique reduce cooking time, but the meat retains its moistness, thanks to limited time spent in the oven. As an added bonus, the end result yields a crisper skin than conventional roasting. It really is a win win.
Unlike other, more conventional techniques, spatchcocking requires some hands on attention and a few specific tools. In order to prepare the bird properly, chefs will need a sturdy surface on which to work and a pair of strong kitchen scissors. Though the method lacks some of the complex knife skills associated with other techniques, it does need a touch more muscle power.
To begin, the bird should be placed breast down, with the legs facing towards you. Taking the kitchen scissors, you should cut along both sides of the backbone, removing it entirely and discarding once it’s out. Once the backbone has been removed, the chicken should be flipped breast-side up and pressed flat, leaving you with the butterflied but still in tact carcass.
As with any chicken dish, one of the beauties of spatchcocking is flexibility. There are a number of different seasonings that can be applied to the bird - it all really depends on personal preference. An African and Portuguese specialty is the addition of bird’s eye chillies to create a piri piri rub, while a French recipe calls for mustard, thyme and garlic.
Regardless of your choice of seasoning, the bird should be grilled on an open fire for 15-20 minutes each side, or placed in an oven at 200C for 35 minutes before a quick blast under the grill. The resulting tender, crispy bird will amaze you.
It may initially seem like more work to carefully extricate the bird’s backbone, before seasoning and grilling. However, given the speedy cooking time and the lack of carving faffery, the results clearly speak for themselves. So, next time you’re pushed for time but have a hankering for chicken, don’t just throw it in the oven and hope. Grab a pair of scissors and get spatchcocking.