It’s super easy to spatchcock (butterfly) a chicken, and it makes for easier, more even cooking, too. (Gretchen McKay / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

It’s super easy to spatchcock (butterfly) a chicken, and it makes for easier, more even cooking, too. (Gretchen McKay / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Spatchcocking is the simplest way to grill a whole chicken

Grab your kitchen shears and cut out the backbone, then whip up a tangy Alabama white barbecue sauce for dipping.

  • Thursday, July 23, 2020 1:14pm
  • Life

By Gretchen McKay / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Chicken is a family favorite during summer, especially when it’s cooked on the grill. But it can be kind of a pain to prepare because the white and dark parts cook at different temperatures.

There’s an easy solution to this — remove the bird’s backbone so that it lays flat on a roasting sheet or grill grate.

The technique is called spatchcocking, or butterflying, and it’s so simple that you can master the process in just one try. All that’s required is a strong pair of kitchen scissors and the confidence to crunch through the chicken’s rib cage on either side of the backbone without being grossed out.

You’ll want to make sure the chicken is very, very dry (I use paper towels) and be sure to tuck the wing tips behind the breasts. This will keep them from burning while the bird cooks.

But why spatchcock a chicken? Well, it allows for even and faster cooking — around 45 minutes — and it makes for a really crunchy skin.

Rain prevented me from firing up the grill, but even with the oven at 450 degrees, my kitchen was completely tolerable while I made a tangy Alabama white barbecue sauce to serve alongside the chicken for dipping and drizzling.

Spatchcocked spice-rubbed chicken

For the chicken:

1 (4-pound) whole roasting chicken

1 tablespoon olive oil

For the rub:

1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon smoked or sweet paprika

1 tablespoon coarse salt

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste

For the white sauce:

1 cup mayonnaise

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard

1 tablespoon horseradish

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon hot sauce, or to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Using poultry shears, cut along each side of the chicken backbone and remove it. (Save the backbone for a stock.) Turn the chicken breast side up and press on the breastbone to flatten the bird. You may also want to cut the cartilage at the top of breastbone with a sharp knife to open it up more easily.

Rub the chicken all over with the olive oil.

Make rub by combining all ingredients in a small bowl. Then rub a generous amount of rub into the skin.

Transfer the chicken to a large rimmed baking sheet, skin side up.

Roast for 40 minutes or until the skin is browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in an inner thigh registers 160 degrees.

While chicken is roasting, make the barbecue sauce by stirring together all the ingredients in a small bowl.

When chicken is done, transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes before cutting into pieces and serving with the barbecue sauce.

Serves 4.

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