What is a Spatchcock?

Diane Goettel

A spatchcock is a kind of poultry that has been dressed and butchered in a particular way that allows for even cooking throughout the bird. It is common for cooks to spatchcock a chicken, but the same may be done to game birds. A spatchcocked bird is much like a butterflied bird, meaning that the backbone and breastbone have been removed so that the bird can be open in a symmetrical manner. As such, when the bird is roasted or grilled, it will cook in a more even manner and will also cook faster than a stuffed bird.

Cooks can spatchcock Cornish game hens.
Cooks can spatchcock Cornish game hens.

The spatchcock method requires skill, but is certainly not impossible for those who have some butchering experience. Generally, instructions are be given for spatchcocking a chicken, but the same technique can be followed for other birds such as quail. The first step is to place the chicken with the breast facing down on an even surface that can easily be disinfected. Very sturdy kitchen shears are required for this step. Next, cut along the backbone on both sides with shears and remove it from the carcass.

A spatchcocked bird will cook more evenly on a grill than one that has not had the backbone and breastbone removed.
A spatchcocked bird will cook more evenly on a grill than one that has not had the backbone and breastbone removed.

Once this is done, open the chicken and remove the breast bone from the cavity using a paring knife. The shears may be required again to help remove the breastbone from the meat. Once this has been done, the chicken is ready to be cooked. In addition to roasting or grilling the chicken, it may also be cooked on a spit. For smaller birds, such as Cornish game hens, the bird can even be grilled on a panini press.

The spatchcock process is not especially popular. This is probably because of the level of difficulty that comes with the butchering process. Also, while the cooking process does not take as long as roasting the the bird whole, it does take much longer than simply cooking fillets of the meat. Still, some people love the spatchcock method and think that it is a great way to prepare birds that are going to be grilled.

Some people like to spatchcock their poultry because they find that this process leads to a more flavorful, more moist result. The spatchcock method is not connected with any particular kinds of seasoning. In fact, a bird that has been dressed in the spatchcock method can be seasoned any number of ways as per the desire of the cook.

Sturdy kitchen shears are required to spatchcock poultry.
Sturdy kitchen shears are required to spatchcock poultry.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I need to find the origin of the word "spatchcock." It almost sounds obscene.

I've used the method, and it does work very well, especially on the grill. But the article is correct. You almost have to have a good pair of poultry/kitchen shears to get rid of that darn backbone. It's just not going to come off with a regular knife, unless you've got one that is super sharp, and you have a lot of muscle in your arms.

Rubbing the herb butter works well, and I also usually add a garlic paste, too. But I really love garlic, so that's not an option for everyone. I didn't use a brick press, though. I just used my cast iron skillet with foil on the bottom. That was heavy enough.


I've seen Martha Stewart do this on her show. It doesn't take that long, and if you have a good pair of poultry shears, that can speed the process.

I saw where she grills the spatchcock chicken, and puts two foil wrapped bricks on them to keep the chickens nice and flat during the cooking process. She also rubbed a lot of herbed butter and fresh herbs under the skin, next to the meat. The birds came out looking great, and it made me interested in trying it the next time I'm in the mood to buy a whole chicken. That's a good alternative to roasting the chicken whole in the oven.

Post your comments
Forgot password?