‘72-minute’ juicy spatchcock chicken
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FoodEasy to make and yields consistent results

‘72-minute’ juicy spatchcock chicken

"If you can make an excellent, juicy roast chicken then you can make anything."

Juicy spatchcock chicken (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Juicy spatchcock chicken (Photo by Jessica Grann)

It has taken me many years of experimenting to finally arrive at this amazing recipe for spatchcock chicken. Spatchcock simply means that the chicken is cut open and cooked flat, yet the pieces are still connected.

I have made whole roasted chicken, beer can chicken and Bundt pan chicken, etc., hundreds of times, but this recipe gets the most compliments and has been my go-to recipe for both ease and consistent results. It has a beautiful, golden crispy skin and it goes well with simple fare or the most flavorful ethnic food. And while I typically prefer dark meat, this recipe produces a chicken breast that is so tender that I truly enjoy eating it.

I usually struggle with separating and carving whole birds, but that issue is alleviated with this recipe because the chicken kind of falls apart in the best way. You hardly have to touch it with a carving knife and the joints will separate easily, leaving you with a platter of perfectly roasted chicken.

Many famous cooks have said that if you can make an excellent, juicy roast chicken then you can make anything, so this recipe has certainly given me extra confidence in the kitchen.

Ingredients:
1 3-4 pound whole roasting chicken
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon of oil

Set your oven to 425 F and place the wire rack one notch above the center. The placement of the rack will help you get a crispy golden skin.

Cooking the chicken in a large cast iron skillet yields the best results. If you don’t have a cast iron skillet, place the chicken in a rectangular Pyrex baking dish.

If the chicken was previously frozen, you might give it a quick rinse because a lot of water can get stuck in the cavity. The water typically looks bloody; although the butcher has assured me that it isn’t actually blood, I prefer to clean that up a bit before cooking. If using fresh chicken, there is no need to rinse it.

You will need strong kitchen shears for this job. They don’t need to be special poultry deboning shears, but you should use a tool that is kept for kitchen use only and that can be easily cleaned and sanitized after use.

Set the whole chicken breast side down on a cutting board and cut the back side that is facing you vertically, up along the spine. It’s easiest to cut right next to the spine on one side so that the actual spine stays intact and connected to one side of the chicken. If the chicken has a neck attached, cut the skin up next to the neck as well, so that the back of the chicken fully separates in half. This may sound complicated, but it isn’t. It takes less than one minute to accomplish.

Pat down both sides of the chicken with a paper towel. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil to the palm of your hand and rub both sides of the chicken with oil.

Sprinkle both sides liberally with kosher salt: 1 teaspoon should be more than enough, but you can salt it to taste.

Place the chicken into the skillet and arrange it so that the legs and wings are open and touching the sides of the pan. (I always laugh at this sight because the chicken looks like a chunky little body when placed in the pan.) Don’t expect the chicken to lay perfectly flat — it almost looks as though it’s reclining when placed correctly into the pan.

This is all of the prep that you have to do — it doesn’t even take 5 minutes to get it ready to roast.

I call this my “72-minute Shabbos chicken.” Bake at 425 F for 36 minutes, open the oven door just to turn the pan, then reduce the heat to 400 F and bake it for an additional 36 minutes. There is no need to touch, flip or baste the chicken, although you can baste it after the initial 36 minutes if you’d like. As long as you reduce the heat for the second part of the baking, you can forget about it until the timer goes off.

Remove the pan from the oven, and let it stand for 10 minutes.

Using two spatulas, or a spatula and a fork, move the chicken to a clean cutting board.

Separate the legs and wings from the breast first, then press down along the line between the breasts to separate them for plating; it falls apart at the joints and that makes life much easier. You can slice the chicken breast right off the bone and serve the breast whole, or cut each of them into smaller 1-inch-wide pieces to serve more people (and smaller tummies).

Every time I make this, I’m amazed at how easily the pieces separate and how juicy the meat is. And there are always enough pan drippings to make a decent amount of chicken gravy.

I love recipes like this because they are so simple yet so very good. Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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