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Spatchcock — a funny word for a fast dinner

I've been spending a lot of time spatchcocking lately.
/ Source: The Associated Press

I've been spending a lot of time spatchcocking lately.

Because while it sounds like something that should be X-rated, it's really just a ridiculously simple and speedy way of roasting a whole chicken. I've done it on the grill and in the oven, and every time the results have been moist and delicious.

Here's how it works. To spatchcock a chicken — or any bird — you simply cut along the center backbone, starting at the neck and right through to the rump. This cut allows you to then overturn the bird, spread it open and lay it nearly flat in the roasting pan. As a result, it cooks much faster, making it perfect for a weeknight dinner.

While this cut can be done with a good knife, the easiest and safest way to do it is with kitchen shears.

Once cut, the bird can be seasoned as you like. For this recipe, I used a simple but wonderfully aromatic combination of fresh rosemary and a quartered orange.

The recipe is written for the oven, but I've also cooked it on the grill. To do this, simply cut and season the chicken as directed. Lay it cut-side down on several layers of foil. Wedge orange quarters around it, then top with fresh rosemary. Wrap the foil tightly around it.

Set one side of your grill to high, the other to low. Set the chicken over the low side, cover the grill and cook for 30 minutes. Open the foil a bit at the top, then continue cooking, covered, for another 15 to 25 minutes, or until the meat reaches 165 F at the thickest part.



Start to finish: 1 hour 20 minutes (5 minutes active)

Servings: 4

3- to 5-pound chicken (larger chickens may need additional cooking time)

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 to 2 medium oranges, quartered

2 to 4 large sprigs fresh rosemary

Heat the oven to 400 F.

Place the chicken on the cutting board with the breast down. Use kitchen shears to carefully cut from the neck hole down the length of the backbone and out the rump. This will require a little effort, but the shears should cut through the bones without difficulty.

Spread open the chicken, exposing the cavity. Sprinkle the inside with salt and pepper. Overturn the chicken and place it cavity side down in a roasting pan just a bit larger than the chicken. Gently press the chicken to flatten. Season over and under the skin with salt and pepper.

Tuck orange quarters into the neck and rump of the chicken, as well as around the legs. Cover tightly with foil and roast for 30 minutes. Uncover and roast for another 30 minutes, or until the thickest part of the meat reads 165 F.

Serve the meat accompanied by the roasted orange wedges, which can be eaten as is or squeezed over the meat.

Nutrition information per serving. Assumes a 4-pound chicken, with skin removed (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 550 calories; 190 calories from fat; 21 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 250 mg cholesterol; 48 g carbohydrate; 82 g protein; 4 g fiber; 830 mg sodium.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Food Editor J.M. Hirsch is author of the cookbook "High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking." Follow him to great eats on Twitter at or email him at jhirsch(at)