By Vanessa Greaves
April 27, 2015

A pair of kitchen scissors transforms this chicken from good to great. Here's the secret...

Roasted Butterflied Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary
Photo by Vanessa Greaves

Butterflied Chicken

What is it? A spatchcocked (aka butterflied) chicken is a whole chicken with its backbone removed. The carcass is then opened up and laid flat before roasting or grilling. And it's a whole lot easier than it might sound, so stay with me.

Why is it quicker? Flattening the chicken exposes more surface area to heat, so overall cooking time is reduced. That means you can slash about 15 minutes off the hour or more it usually takes to cook a whole chicken. 15 minutes of your life back!

How is it juicier? Chicken has two different kinds of meat that are cooked through at two different temperatures. And there's the problem. Breast meat starts drying out after it reaches 150° F, but dark leg meat isn't thoroughly cooked until 165° to 170° F. People try all kinds of tricks to keep the breast from drying out while the legs are still cooking. But simply opening up the chicken and cooking it flat brings both kinds of meat to doneness at the same time. Problem solved.

Why is it crispier? All of the skin is exposed evenly to the heat, with none of it hiding on the underside. That means it all crisps up evenly. And who doesn't love crispy skin?

  • Are there other advantages to this method?Yes! Yousave moneytwo ways:
  • 1. Whole chicken costs less per pound than cut-up chicken. Truth.
  • 2. You can make your ownchicken stockwith the backbones, and never have to buy it again.

How to Spatchcock(Butterfly) Chicken in 2 Easy Steps

You can use a chef's knife to cut out the backbone, but I think sturdy kitchen scissors make it a lot easier. Watch how Chef John does it. (Oh, don't be such a baby. The best cooks get their hands messy.)

1. Place the chicken breast-side down. Cut along one side of the backbone. Repeat along the other side. Trust me, do this once and the next time will be even easier.

How To Spatchcock And Roast Chicken
Video by Chef John

2. Open the chicken and slice through the white cartilage at the tip of the breastbone to pop it open.

How To Spatchcock And Roast Chicken
Video by Chef John

The chicken will lay nice and flat now. Like a beautiful butterfly.

How To Spatchcock and Roast Chicken
Video by Chef John

From Chicken Under A Brick video by Chef John | Allrecipes


  • Instead of using (and washing up) a cutting board, I butterfly chicken in the same pan that I cook it in. Of course, this method only works if you use good, sharp kitchen scissors.
  • For crispier chicken skin, salt the chicken and let it sit uncovered in the fridge overnight. Before cooking, pat the skin dry one more time and sprinkle on a little more salt.
  • To marinate, butterfly the chicken first and put it in a zip-top bag or non-reactive glass pan with the marinade for an hour to overnight. Pat the chicken dry before cooking. Discard the marinade, or boil it if you're using it as a sauce.

Try the butterfly trick on grilled chicken, too. It's a serious game-changer!

"This spatchcock method for grilling a whole chicken lets the interior heat up faster and more evenly than the traditional method for grilling a whole bird," says Bibi. "Use your favorite rub and sauce, if you like."

Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken
Photo by Bibi