Butterflied Chicken (Technique)

Whole chickens are sold at a fraction of the price of individual chicken parts, so knowing some basics on how to break down a whole bird is an excellent skill to learn. The technique, and step-by-step photographs, shown below will teach you how to “butterfly” (also called “spatchcocking”) a chicken. Simply put, a butterflied chicken is a chicken in which you’ve removed the backbone and flattened the remaining bird into one “sheet” of poultry with relatively even thickness. This even thickness allows a 4-5 pound bird to cook completely in as little as 45 minutes (as opposed to 2 hours if you’d kept it whole). The technique shown below can be applied to Turkey, Duck, Quail, or any bird. Dazzle your friends with how Cheffy you are and Bon Appetit!

The Technique:

  1. Follow picture #1 below. This can be done with any sized chicken but a 4-5 lb. bird is the perfect size to practice with. Take your chicken, and place him on your largest cutting board.
  2. Get to know him! Don’t be squeamish or nervous….dive in by using your hands and feeling where the bones and joint articulations are. Turn the bird in his side, his stomach, his back, etc. Feel where the spine of the bird is and press down gently to feel the bones, and how they change in different areas of the bird.
  3. Following picture #3 below, sit him up on his rear end, and make your first incision on one side of his neck. A heavy/large knife is the best tool here.
  4. Your knife will break through small rib bones, but will otherwise glide down the length of the spine easily. When you get down to the bottom, towards his thigh bone, you’ll notice that you have to wiggle your knife through a joint articulation to separate the leg from the spine (it should go through easily but, if your knife gets stuck, wiggle it until your find the articulation).
  5. Repeat the process on the other side of the spine.
  6. Find the same joint articulations on the other side of the spine, and you’re nearly done! Follow picture #6-11 to finish the process.

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