How To Spatchcock a Chicken

updated Oct 1, 2022

Spatchcocking will help whole chickens cook faster and get crispier skin. Here's how to do it, plus a basic recipe for roasting a spatchcocked chicken.

Serves4 to 6

Prep15 minutes

Cook45 minutes to 1 hour

Jump to Recipe
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chicken sits cooked over lemons on a metal grate
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Of all the techniques for preparing chicken I learned in culinary school, spatchcocking is the one I return to the most. Sure, it’s great to know how to break down a whole chicken, but nothing compares to the satisfaction that spatchcocking provides.

The process is simple — remove the chicken’s backbone and then flatten the bird — and immensely rewarding. Spatchcocked chickens roast faster, are easier to coat with flavorful dry rub, and yield lots of crispy skin (arguably the best part of a roast chicken).

Luckily, you don’t need a culinary school degree to spatchcock. In fact, you hardly need a knife! Here’s a step-by-step guide to to spatchcocking a chicken, plus a super-simple recipe for roasting it, too.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

What Is Spatchcocking?

Spatchcocking is the process of removing the backbone of a chicken or turkey (or any other bird you’re cooking) so it lies flat. It’s also called butterflying, since the bird is split down the middle and opened up like the wings of a butterfly. This technique is used a lot in grilling and when roasting large poultry like turkeys, because spatchcocking helps large birds cook faster.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Do I Need Special Tools for Spatchcocking?

For spatchcocking, you need a large plastic cutting board, a chef’s knife, and a pair of sturdy kitchen shears that are easy to clean. Kitchn’s Tools Editor Riddley recommends J.A. Henckels shears. “I love the price point and the quality,” she says. “They’re very sharp and can also be taken apart, plus they’re dishwasher-safe.”

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

For your everyday broiler-fryer chicken, spatchcocking requires little more than a raw chicken and a sturdy pair of scissors. After patting the chicken dry with a paper towel, position the chicken breast-side down and remove the backbone by cutting down either side of it. With a good pair of shears, you should have no problem cutting through, but you might need to use a little extra muscle when you get to the thigh-to-backbone connection.

Once the backbone is removed, you can flip over the bird and flatten it: You can use two hands to press directly down on the breast of the chicken (skin-side up), but I also learned from my friend and chicken cookbook author Stacie Billis that if you cut two small slits on either side of the breast bones (see the photos below) the chicken will get even flatter. And a flatter chicken will cook faster!

After butterflying, you can cook the chicken however you like, or follow the roasting directions below. As for that backbone, stash it in the freezer to use in a future batch of stock.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

How to Cook a Spatchcocked Chicken

You can use your favorite recipe for roasted, grilled, or baked whole chicken, but just remember that the chicken will cook faster. Here, we’ve provided instructions for an easy roast chicken, which cooks in about 40 to 45 minutes in a 425°F oven. Roasting the butterflied chicken on a metal rack helps the oven’s hot air cook the chicken from all sides and makes the skin extra crispy.

Other Spatchcocked Chicken Recipes to Try

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell
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Spatchcocking will help whole chickens cook faster and get crispier skin. Here's how to do it, plus a basic recipe for roasting a spatchcocked chicken.

How To Spatchcock a Chicken

Spatchcocking will help whole chickens cook faster and get crispier skin. Here's how to do it, plus a basic recipe for roasting a spatchcocked chicken.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes to 1 hour

Serves4 to 6

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    (4 to 5-pound) whole chicken

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2

    large lemons (optional)

  • 2 heads

    garlic (optional)



  1. Heat the oven. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 425ºF. Thickly slice 2 large lemons into rounds and cut 2 heads of garlic horizontally to expose the cloves. Arrange the lemons and garlic in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Fit an oven-safe wire rack onto the baking sheet, over the lemons and garlic.

  2. Prepare the chicken for spatchcocking. Position the chicken breast-side up on a cutting board. Check for and remove the giblets and neck bone from the cavity of the chicken. Tuck the wing tips behind the chicken’s shoulder by gently folding them towards the neck cavity and then behind the chicken. Pat dry with paper towels to make it easier to move and spatchcock.

  3. Cut the back bone from the chicken. Flip the chicken over so it is breast-side down. Use kitchen shears to cut out the back bone: Starting from the tail end of the chicken, cut along one side of the back bone, then repeat on the other side to remove the backbone. Keep the cuts as close to the spine as possible — this may require a little more pressure above the thigh bone.

  4. Cut into the breast plate to make flattening easier. Position the chicken so the legs are away from you. Cut a notch into the breast bone: Use a knife to make a V with two cuts along the neck opening, between the ribs.

  5. Flatten the breast plate. Flip the chicken so it is now breast-side up. Use the heel of your hands to press down on the breast bone to flatten the chicken. You may hear a crack as you press.

  6. Season the chicken. Coat the chicken all over with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season all over with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Place the chicken skin-side up on the rack.

  7. Roast the chicken. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and registers 165ºF in the thickest part of the thigh, 40 to 45 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: You can spatchock the chicken up to 3 days in advance. Refrigerate tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.