If you’ve never spatchcocked a chicken before, you may be missing out! This simple technique cuts the cooking time by a lot, and ensures juicy results and a crispy skin every single time.
It’s quite easy. Follow my step-by-step tutorial below and find lots of tips and tricks to make the best spatchcock chicken ever!
Once you try this method, you’ll never want to do it any other way.
What is spatchcocking? It’s a technique that involves removing the backbone from the chicken and flattening it. Because the chicken lays flat, it cooks much faster and more evenly, which means it comes out juicy and tender. You also get a crispier skin than if you roast the traditional way.
It may seem intimidating at first, but it’s actually quite easy and simple. With traditional roasting, it would take around 90 minutes, but with spatchcocking, you can have a delicious chicken in just 50 minutes or under.
This recipe is a simple starting point that you can customize with different spices, rubs, and sauces you love. My favorite recipe is this Spatchcock Chicken with BBQ Sauce!
If you’re looking for more ways to cook poultry, you can roast chicken in the Dutch oven or try this slow cooker turkey or chicken, works the same way. If you’d prefer to do it the old school way, check out my lemon and herb roast chicken!
Why we love this spatchcock chicken recipe:
- Cooks much faster and more evenly than the traditional way. More on this below!
- You always get juicy results, with perfectly crispy skin!
- Make it your own! This is a basic recipe that you can customize with your favorite spices, rubs, or sauces.
- There are so many ways to cook a spatchcock chicken! I love oven-roasting or grilling, but you can always smoke it.
Why Spatchcock a Chicken?
- It cooks much faster because the chicken lays flat.
- Even cooking: Because it lays flat, heat circulates more evenly.
- Stays juicy and moist: By the same token, because it cooks more evenly and faster, the breasts don’t dry out before the thighs are cooked through.
- Crispy skin: With the entire skin completely exposed to heat, you’ll get even crispy skin throughout.
- Spatchcocking takes just 5 to 10 minutes! It may look intimidating, but it’s actually not. All you need are sturdy kitchen shears or a sharp knife.
You only need a few basic ingredients. Below are some helpful ingredient notes from recipe testing. As always, the quantities can be found in the recipe card down below.
- Whole chicken: About 4 to 5 pounds.
- Oil: Since it needs to roast in the oven at 425 degrees F for a good 45 to 55 minutes, I’d recommend using vegetable oil, which has a high smoke point. Olive oil is fine too, but make sure you use “light olive oil” (not “extra virgin”) because this one is able to withstand higher temperatures.
- Seasonings of your choice: Use your favorite spices. I usually go with just smoked paprika and garlic powder.
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper: Kosher salt is best for seasoning meat.
Tools and Equipment
Before we go into the step-by-step specifics, let’s talk about the tools you need to spatchcock chicken with very little effort. It makes it so much easier to prep!
- Good kitchen shears: Cutting out the backbone off the chicken is how you get it to lay flat. The easiest way to do so is using sturdy kitchen shears.
- Sharp knife: If you’re not using kitchen shears, a sharp knife is fine too, but I find kitchen shears much easier to work with.
- Large baking sheet: If oven-roasting, you’ll need a baking sheet large enough to fit a butterflied chicken. You may also use a large 14 inch cast iron skillet.
- Meat thermometer: To check when the chicken is ready.
How to Spatchcock a Chicken, Step-by-Step
It’s super simple and straightforward. Just make sure you have the right tools listed above.
Step 1 | Prep the chicken
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Remove the chicken from the packaging, and remove the neck and giblets if needed.
Step 2 | Remove the backbone
Using strong kitchen shears, cut alongside the backbone and remove it. Also remove any small bones sticking out. Discard the backbone or use it to make stock later.
Step 3 | Press to flatten
Flip over the chicken so that it’s breast side up. Using the lower palm of your hands, press it down so that it lays flat, if needed.
Step 4 | Season
Pat it dry thoroughly one more time (this will ensure crispy skin). Rub it all over with oil, salt, pepper, and seasonings of your choice. You need about 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt.
Step 5 | Roast in oven
Roast in the oven for about 45 to 50 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast and thighs register 165 degrees F (or 160 degrees F, as it will rise by about 5 degrees as it rests). That’s how long it takes to cook a 4.5 pound chicken. If larger, roast for another 5 minutes or so until cooked through.
You may also grill the spatchcock chicken! Prep as directed in the recipe, season, and cook on the grill over medium-high heat for about 45 to 50 minutes, flipping every few minutes (cover with the lid for faster cooking). Start with the skin side down to get that initial sear.
Use this recipe as a base, and customize the seasoning and flavors to your liking. For example, you can try my Spatchcock BBQ Chicken!
Here are some more ideas:
- Lemon Herb: Oil, fresh rosemary and thyme, garlic, lemon zest.
- Smoked paprika: Oil, smoked paprika, garlic powder, Kosher salt, and pepper.
- Italian herbs: Oil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, Kosher salt, and pepper.
- Mix and match spices: garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, cajun seasoning, flavored salt, and so much more.
- Use butter instead: Use the lemon herb garlic butter included in my Lemon Roast Chicken recipe.
You can also make it a complete meal by adding veggies on the same sheet pan or cast iron skillet, and roast at the same time, just like I do in my Sheet Pan Salmon recipe.
Pairings and Serving Ideas
Sauces do a really great job elevating any dish, and it’s no different with this spatchcock chicken! Serve it with this homemade sweet BBQ sauce, or try it with my homemade chimichurri, romesco sauce, and easy tzatziki sauce. If you’re a gravy person, try this gravy recipe made without drippings – super convenient!
As for side dishes, the options are endless! Here are a few that I’d recommend:
- Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash Salad
- Summer Grilled Vegetables
- Stovetop Mac and Cheese
- Red Skin Mashed Potatoes or Fluffy Mashed Potatoes
- Coconut Milk Jasmine Rice
- Pesto Potato Salad or Dill Potato Salad
Yes, but use “light olive oil.” Don’t use extra virgin olive oil. Light olive oil has a higher smoke point. It often says “good for sauteing or grilling” in the bottle.
It’s always best to use a meat thermometer to make sure the thickest part registers 165 degrees F. But as a rule of thumb, a whole 4.25 or 4.5 pound chicken takes 45 to 50 minutes to roast at 425 degrees F. If using a 5-pound or larger, give it about 55 to 60 minutes.
I always use 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt.
It’s pretty much the same thing.
This recipe was published in 2020 and updated in May 2023 to include new photos and information, plus a few recipe modifications.
Tips for Success
- Pat dry the chicken thoroughly using paper towel before seasoning. A drier skin equals crispier skin!
- Use sturdy kitchen shears. A sharp knife is fine too, but it’s easier with kitchen shears.
- Use vegetable oil or “light olive oil” (not extra virgin), as it tends to have a higher smoke point.
- Cook until it reaches about 160 to 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the breast and thighs. The temperature will continue to rise by 5 degrees as it’s resting.
- To keep it EXTRA moist and juicy, make a flavored herbed butter such as the one I use in my lemon herb roast chicken, and rub it under the skin.
Roasted Spatchcock Chicken
- 1 (4.5-pound) whole chicken - neck and giblets removed
- Vegetable oil - or "light" olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Other spices of your choice - about 1 to 2 teaspoons
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Get the oven rack adjusted to the middle position.
Prep and spatchcock the chicken
- Remove the chicken from the packaging, and discard the neck and giblets if needed. There’s no need to rinse the chicken (in fact, doing so is not recommended as it can lead to cross-contamination).
- Place the chicken on a large cutting board. Using strong kitchen shears, cut alongside the backbone and remove it. Also remove any small bones sticking out.
- Flip the chicken over so it’s breast side up. Using the lower palm of your hands, press the chicken down so it lays flat.
Season and roast
- Transfer to a large sheet pan or cast iron skillet, skin side up. Pat it dry thoroughly with paper towel. This will ensure crispy skin.
- Season and rub all over with a few generous drizzles of oil, Kosher salt, pepper, garlic powder, and your favorite spices. I like to use smoked paprika. Tuck the wings under the breast.
- Roast for about 45 to 50 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through. If the skin is getting too brown too quickly, tent with aluminum foil, but it most likely won't. Roast until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thighs and breast reaches 165 degrees F (or 160 degrees F, as it will rise another 5 degrees while resting)
- When ready, remove from the oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving. Enjoy!
- How long to cook: Always use a meat thermometer to be sure, it should register 165 degrees F. A whole 4.25 or 4.5 pound chicken takes 45 to 55 minutes.
- Prep ahead: You can spatchcock the chicken 1 to 2 days in advance. Chicken shouldn’t be refrigerated for more than 2 days.
- Store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge.
- How to grill it: Prep the chicken as directed, season, and cook on the grill over medium-high heat for about 45 to 50 minutes, flipping every few minutes (lid covered for faster cooking). Start with the skin side down to get that initial sear.
- Oil: Use vegetable oil or “light olive oil,” as it tends to have a higher smoke point. Try not to use extra virgin olive oil.