Every year at the start of bbq season I get excited by the idea that simply splitting and flattening a chicken can be such a game-changer. Not only does spatchcocking halve the cooking time of a bird (whilst allowing the meat to remain on the bone and retain its flavour), it also exposes more skin for the marinade to hold on to (as well as crisping skin beautifully – no soggy skin here), and it helps the meat to cook more evenly. It means chicken on the bbq can be a delight rather than a chargrilled health hazard. And it spells summer for me.
Diana Henry, who is a spatchcock convert and an excellent source of culinary advice, says of spatchcocking, ‘Once you’ve done it a couple of times, you don’t have to think about it.’ And although we have free-range spatchcocked chickens of various sizes in the shop, I would encourage you to have a go at home. It’s a good technique to learn - and even when summer is over, it makes a roast chicken do-able for a quick weekday supper.
Spatchcocking in three easy steps:
- Put the bird on your worktop, breast side down, legs towards you. Using good, sharp scissors, cut through flesh and bone along both sides of backbone from tail to head.
- Remove backbone (freeze and keep for stock if you like.)
- Open bird, turn it over, then flatten by pressing hard on the breastbone with heel of hand. Remove any big pockets of fat and neaten up raggedy skin edges.
Although this is a wonderful technique for marinading and bbq-ing chicken, it also lends itself excellently to frying. Recently I was inspired by a recipe from Olia Hercules for shredded chicken, which would work very well with a spatchcock chicken (it was, in fact, originally taken from a Georgian recipe for baby spatchcocked chicken.) Here it is, slightly adapted:
Spatchcock Chicken with herb and garlic butter
- Heat some oil in a large, heavy frying pan. Season your spatchcocked chicken and cook skin-side down for 2-3 minutes on a medium heat. Flip and cook for a further five minutes.
- Reduce heat to lowest setting and add 40g butter, 2 large grated garlic cloves and a pinch of cayenne pepper to the pan. Place a piece of baking parchment over the chicken, followed by a smaller pan, then weigh it down with something heavy like a couple of cans of beans (this speeds up cooking time and releases all the juices into the butter.)
- Cook for around 30 mins. Remove chicken to a plate. Stir chopped herbs of your choice – perhaps basil, tarragon, coriander and dill – into the butter in the pan.
- Shred chicken and then pour over buttery herb sauce. Olia Hercules serves this in baps, which I think is a great idea.