I’ve always maintained that the most useful thing for a carnivore to have in the fridge is a whole chicken.
Roasted, of course, it’s a generous provider, giving at least two meals plus bones for stock. You could skip a step and poach the whole thing, which brings you moist and delicately flavoured meat with a fragrant broth. And this is before I even talk about jointing the lovely thing for pot roasts and fricassees.But it’s never been the quickest of meals. A decent size chicken will take a good couple of hours to roast or simmer. Fine for the weekend, but what if you need something sharpish for a weekday supper, and your jointing skills are. like mine, underdeveloped? Readership, there is a solution. It takes five minutes and all you need is a sturdy pair of scissors. Let’s spatchcock that bad boy. Spatchcocking or butterflying a chicken basically removes the problem of the huge cavity at the centre of your chook, which slows down cooking time so much. You’re opening and flattening it out, giving a larger surface area which is much quicker to heat through. The best bit? It’s really simple to do. Here’s how. Take your chicken, and rest it breast-side down with the legs towards you. The idea is to remove the backbone, which is running down the centre of your beast. So, with your sturdy scissors, start cutting a couple of centimetres to each side of that centre line. There should be resistance (after all, you’re cutting through rib bones) but it shouldn’t be an impossible task. Cut all the way from front to back, then repeat on the other side, The backbone should then come away neatly in one strip. Throw it in a big pot for stock. Then flip the bird back over, and push down on the breast, as if you’re doing CPR. It will flatten out, taking on that butterfly shape. Congratulations. You’ve just spatchcocked a chicken. Here’s a vid from The Co-Op in case you need a little more guidance.
There are a ton of advantages to prepping a chicken like this. Apart from halving your cooking time, it means that it’s a lot easier to get flavour all the way through the chicken. You can evenly dry or wet-rub both sides with ease. Try a mix of lemon, garlic and oil, or a good barbecue sauce. Speaking of barbecue, spatchcocking means that you can slap the chicken on the grill and have it cook evenly without issue. It’s worth running a couple of skewers in an X shape through it to make sure it keeps its shape and to stop the legs from flopping around. One last tip. It’s a great idea with any lump of meat in the oven to blast it with high heat initially, then take the heat down to finish. I tend to go 250 degrees centigrade for the first ten minutes, then down to 170 for the remainder of the cooking time. Unless you’ve got a real monster, you’re looking at 45 mins cooking time. If you can, let the chicken rest out of the oven while you get the table laid. I think this method brings the roast chicken into the realm of the weekday dinner. Still something of a treat, but perfectly doable and, once you get the knack, trouble-free. Why not give it a go next time you have a chicken to hand?