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“Thoughts on Spatchcocking?”

Should You Do It? Can You Still Use Brine or Rub? We’ve Got the Answers.

I love spatchcocking turkeys or chickens (or “spatch cocking” as some folks spell it). It allows about twice the opportunity for flavor enhancement and saves about 20% on the cook time.

If you haven’t tried out this technique for grilling whole chicken or turkey, we’ve got answers to the questions people often ask.

What Is Spatchcocking?

Spatchcocking is a different way to prepare a whole bird. You cut out the backbone before cooking, typically using kitchen shears. To give you a picture of how it looks, instead of having your poultry sit like a rock in a baking pan or on a grill rack, the meat lays flat like an open book or a pair of butterfly wings.

Very poetic, but why go through all that trouble?

What’s the Purpose of Spatchcocking?

It takes a few minutes to get through your raw bird and remove the backbone, but the payoff is huge. By spatchcocking a whole chicken or turkey, you get:

  • Faster, more even cooking: With the inside of the bird flat against your cooking surface or rack, everything heats up at the same time. It’ll shorten the time to cook through completely, and you can use a lower temperature. The skin will crisp up nicely with seasoning while all the meat underneath stays tender and juicy.
  • Easier carving: You’ll have more access to the meat of the bird, which simplifies slicing off portions. Try it on the Thanksgiving turkey!
  • Unique presentation: You’ll wow your family and friends by switching up the typical roasting method. When your poultry moves from laying on the grill to the dinner platter, experiment by surrounding it with your choice of side dishes or the holiday fixings.

How do I Spatchcock a Chicken or Turkey?

1. Start with the chicken breast-side down making sure that the legs are pointing toward you on your cutting board

2. Next, you’ll want to cut out the backbone using poultry shears. Cut along the side of the backbone, also known as the parson’s nose, to remove it, cutting through the rib bones as you go.

3. Once you’ve removed the backbone, flip the bird over. You’ll want to flatten the breastbone with the heel of your hand so that the meat is even across the entire bird. This will take more effort with a turkey, and you’ll want to press down on each side of the breastbone until you hear a crack.

Here’s a tip: If you really want to keep the bird secured in its flat state, you can run skewers diagonally through the breast and thigh meat.

What’s the Recommended Temperature for Spatchcocking?

The temperature to cook a bird this way is at about 275 degrees. This, of course, depends on the size of the animal. However, any lower than about 275 and you will find the skin gets very rubbery. I’ve cooked a spatchcocked chicken at higher temperatures up to 325 degrees, which goes much faster, but you get more of a roasted flavor versus smoked. So, 275 is a pretty happy medium for poultry, and that will take about 2 1/2 hours.

Can I Still Use Brines and Rubs?

Yup! All the brining rules still apply, and it works even better for dry brining. Typically, I’ll make a dry brine of herbs and spices and load the bird up with that. Then I’ll layer out some citrus fruits on the grill, creating a nice, moist place for the bird. I’ll place the turkey or chicken on top and let it smoke. It gets full of flavor without drying out.

Below is a picture of a whole versus a spatchcocked bird on the Silverbac.

spatchcock birds

Check out this video on how to spatchcock for your Thanksgiving turkey.

Ready to try spatchcocking for yourself? See our recipes for preparing chicken or turkey with this method. You may find you’ve got a new favorite way to grill up some poultry.

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Last Reviewed By Mark Graham on October 14th, 2020

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