Ya’ll like chicken? Of course you do, it's like the official bird of America (Editor’s Note: No, it isn’t)! Chicken is so good that we will tell people that whatever exotic food is on their plate tastes just like it so they will try it. It’s the default for picky toddlers and the choice of lean meat diets… so why are so many people afraid of buying the whole bird?
My girlfriend and I were shopping for groceries last week, and I saw there was a great deal on whole chickens. I got a fowl idea and found a nice five-pound beauty almost fifty cents cheaper a pound than pre-cut chicken. It was going to be the first roasted chicken of our relationship (at least I’ll remember one anniversary), and she was immediately opposed to the idea.
“Whole chickens take so much time and work, and they are always so dry!” she protested, “Let’s just get a package of breasts.” Don’t get me wrong, I love breasts, but the idea that you can’t make a whole chicken into a fast and juicy meal is clucking crazy. So I decided it was time to take her home and show her my favorite position.
Spatchcock! Still topping the Billboard Charts for most fun culinary term to say after all these years (you just said it out loud, didn’t you?). It’s a super simple technique to evenly cook a whole bird and keep it juicy in one episode of Law & Order (DUN DUN!).
The process is simple and the possibilities are endless. Basically, all you’re doing is removing the spine and flattening everything out so that you have an even density for cooking.
First, you locate the spine and find edges. Using kitchen shears or a chef’s knife cut along either side of the spine and remove completely.
Throw any scraps into a plastic bag in the freezer for your next stock pot and press your chicken flat. You may have to do a little cutting through cartilage or to remove some small rib bones so that everything opens up, but that’s about it. Hard work, right?
Next, you just need to decide how to add a little flavor. I used a jar of my mom’s homemade peach jalapeño jelly to add a little sweet spice.
I love to just poke around the kitchen to see what I have on hand because chicken goes with almost anything. Make a compound butter or use that jar of secret recipe curry powder you can’t figure out what to do with.
I added a little salt and pepper to season, some roasted garlic, and chopped a few dried ancho chilies I had on hand to add a little smokiness.
Take whatever spices or marinade you want to use and coat your chicken like dog hair on your nicest shirt. Make sure to get under the skin for some direct meat to flavor goodness.
Position your chicken on a wire rack on top of a sheet tray breast side up so that air can flow under the body as it cooks. I like to put a little liquid underneath so that everything stays moist. Water is fine but apple cider vinegar is even better.
Roast your chicken at 450 degrees for 35-45 mins. As per usual, you are looking for clear juices and an internal temperature of 165 degrees at the thickest part of the chicken. The finished bird is juicy and evenly cooked, no dry spots, and the increased surface area means more crispy cracky skin… ya know, if you're into that kind of thing.
For a hands on lesson on spatchcocking as well as several other great methods for cooking chicken be sure to check out The Chopping Block's upcomimg Chicken 101 cooking class or Chicken on the Grill grilling class.
Keep this compound butter on hand for the next time you see a whole chicken on sale. It also goes great on steak, potatoes, bread, a spoon, corn, and even makes annoying relatives smell delicious.
Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Compound Butter
1 head of garlic
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, rough chop
2 lemons, zested
1 lb unsalted butter, room temp
Cut the top off the head of garlic, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap in aluminum foil. Roast it for an hour at 400 degrees until soft.
Blend butter with garlic, lemon zest, and rosemary. Use parchment paper to roll butter into logs. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one month or in the freezer for up to six months.