I’ve Got A Spatchcock In My Pocket

It’s been alternately sunny and rainy lately, with a few straight days of each before it changes again. Spring has been pretty perfect so far, though I’m behind on the garden, but that’s pretty much a given. On nice days, we eat lighter food outside on the porch, and on cooler rainy days I try to make heartier things and we eat them inside. At least in theory; this meal was on the substantial side but the day was as nice as they come. Go figure. In any case, it highlights a technique that I don’t see talked about so much, but which makes for a superlative chicken in very little time.

To begin, one must spatchcock the bird,which is easily done with sturdy kitchen shears. Besides the shorter cooking time and more surface area for seasoning and browning, an added benefit to this technique is the resulting spine, which does not get cooked. The raw spine, along with the organs from inside the cavity (and the bones left after the bird is eaten, of course) makes for a stock that benefits from cooked and uncooked flavors alike. If you’re not in the habit of saving gnawed bones from your table, get into said habit. They’re going to be boiled for an hour, so what’s the problem? You’re throwing flavor equity away unless you make stock from all your bones. Keep a week’s worth in the freezer and make a big pot of it on the weekend to last you through the week. It makes everything better.

This bird got a sprinkle and rub with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and chili powder, and then I put it in the hot iron pan (skin side down) and weighed it with another pan to get a good brown on it. Once it was well colored, I flipped it over to caramelize the other side, then slid it into a hot (425˚) oven with the convection fan on. After about half an hour, I dropped the heat to 350˚to let it finish, throwing a couple of smashed garlic cloves and herb branches in there to add flavor to the fabulous fond forming on the bottom of the pan. Once it was done, I pulled it out and let it rest for a few minutes, then transferred the bird to a cutting board and made a quick gravy in the pan, adding truffle salt and chives once the toasted roux was thoroughly dissolved into and thickening a mixture of water, white wine, and cider vinegar. (I would have used stock but it was all frozen).

And there were collards braised with homemade bacon and vinegar, and mashed sweet potatoes, and another of the perfect salads that this weather is making as sublime as bowls of leaves can be. The chicken had a wonderful surface, with a flavor and patina combining the best qualities of pan and oven cooking, and the interior positively oozed juice. Plus, it was all done in well under an hour, meaning there is no earthly reason you couldn’t have this for your dinner tonight if you wanted to.

6 comments to I’ve Got A Spatchcock In My Pocket

  • John

    Yum – I roast a chicken in a cast iron pan at least every other week, but have never thought to spatchcock it before. Will try it next time. Also save the bones for stock, not just for the flavor but the extra healthy stuff. — If you can stand the wait, try pre-salting the chicken w/ 3/4 tsp sea salt per pound of bird for at least 2 days (a la Judy Rodgers’ Zuni roast chicken.) Makes a huge improvement in flavor and texture even with the best chicken you can get your hands on.

    • Peter

      Opening it up makes it cook faster and allows for more browned area. This was bought on the same day I cooked it, so there was no time to salt it.

  • Mem

    So it’s spatchcock? I didn’t know there was a name for doing that. I usually open the chickens up in order to barbecue them faster on the grill, also it’s easier to marinate them like that.

  • That technique of browning on the stovetop and finishing in the oven is one of the very best. Works for all kinds of meats, just adjusting the oven temp downward for certain ones. Once I discovered that (thanks to Jacques Pépin), my meat cookery improved about 100%.

  • Peter

    I almost never use it; lots of books call for doing steaks, etc. that way but since I like them pretty red the stove is usually enough.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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