HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


roasting chickens--split method? HELP please

A few days ago I was noodling around and saw a method for roasting chickens--they were split down the back with the backbones removed, and roasted. There were photos.

Now I can't find the method/recipe.

Can anyone help? I'd like to try it. I usually roast my chix whole.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. If the photos showed them laying flat, that is technically known at Spatchcocked chicken. You can do them in the oven or on the grill. I've seen Alton Brown do a show on this, Steve Raichlin also has recipes for this method, along with many others.

    I don't know what type of recipe you're looking for, but it's easiest to prep the chicken with shears. It's easy to cut away the backbones and wing tips with very sharp scissors. Your recipe could either be a liquid marinade or a dry rub, depending on what you are looking for.

    1. The recipe I use calls for using poultry shears to remove the backbone by cutting along either side of it then flipping the chicken over and pressing down on it to break the breastbone. I then pound a paste of EVOO, balsamic vinegar, basil leaves, garlic, salt and pepper, add some minced pancetta and stuff under the skin. Salt and pepper alone would suffice though.
      Oil a roasting pan, put in chopped potatoes (Finn or Russett), that have been tossed in EVOO, salt and pepper, in the pan and lay the splayed chicken (skin side up) on top with plenty of salt and pepper. Roast in an oven at 400 for about an hour or until the internal temp of a thigh is at 175. Baste with juices and some white wine while cooking. If the chicken is done before the potatoes, remove the chicken to sit and allow the potatoes to continue until done.
      Once you remove the potatoes you could sit the pan on a stovetop and heat to reduce the juices adding some wine (and some herbs if you like) to soften the bits along the bottom by scraping them with a spatula. Then pour over the resulting sauce over the chicken when serving.

      2 Replies
      1. re: kevine


        This is it-they were roasted over potatoes. Do I have to use a high heat? I hate the burning fat from spattering chicken.

        I have a pork shoulder starting a slow roast overnight and was going to put the chicken in for about 3 more hours at 225, before I turn the oven down for the night.

        Do you think that'd work? I'm not worried about crispy skin (don't eat it--rather "spend" my fat calories on ice cream), but a good flavor is my concern.

        1. re: toodie jane

          I haven't used a variation on this with a lower heat so can't really answer. Seems like the high heat is what makes it work though. The fact that the chicken is split makes for less volume to heat up so the meat cooks quick enough.
          I've never had a problem with burning fat. Maybe the paste under the skin helps to absorb it, I don't know. As far as the flavor, it's always been nothing less than fantastic especially as a leftover. But then I never spare myself the skin. I think the skin from this recipe makes a very good substitute for ice cream. :-)
          I will point out that I am VERY particular about the chicken I buy. Always fresh free range. Makes a huge difference IMO.

      2. I posted about trying America's Test kitchen's instructions for roasting a chicken by brining, butterflying and roasting. Here's the link:


        You have to register to access the website but it's free. Once you're in, there are good diagrams illustrating the techniques they use. The thread has a fair amount of detail if you have difficulty getting into the site.

        2 Replies
        1. re: cheryl_h

          This is the recipe to use as a guideline. The results are so delicious, and once you learn the technique, you will not need a recipe.

          Brining works very well here, but I would not use it for the top-of-the-line free range birds. These have enough flavor and character as is. And, when pressed for time, a kosher bird, as the recipe suggests, works great with no brining.

          My favorite variation in recent months is the addition of sliced onions to the potatoes and a stuffing of preserved lemon and rosemary.

          1. re: btnfood

            Did you get the potatoes to crisp up as the TV episode showed? Mine didn't, nor did another poster's. I think having a smaller amount might help.

            I was also thinking of adding to the potatoes, parsnips perhaps. Adding lemon zest to the compound butter added a nice zing to the chicken and potatoes, I'm sure preserved lemon would be wonderful. I agree once you understand the principle, the technique should work every time.

        2. Here's a great site that has pictures, instructions and a video on how to butterfly a chicken.

          1 Reply
          1. re: adamclyde

            Yes, the bottom layer of potatoes always comes out crisp and a deep golden brown. Since I often sneak in more potatoes, I will return the paler slices to the oven to further crisp and brown.

            If your oven is not getting hot enough, you might try elimimating the aluminum foil that lines the pan. This is a bit messier when clean-up time comes, but guarantees very crisp, golden potatoes. On the other hand, if you are getting crisp potatoes, Reuynolds Release nonstick foil makes serving this dish a lot easier, as the potatoes do not stick.

            I would not recommend basting or saucing this chicken. It is very juicy and the crisp skin is perfect as is.

          2. I LOVE making chicken this way. The pototoes absorb a lot of the fat that would otherwise splatter-give the high heat method a try at least once. It is really is terrific and I butterflying the chicken is tailored to high heat cooking (it is meant to cook quickly and evenly), so I don't know that slow roasting would be a good method for this. Be sure to brine.

            My potatoes always come out brown on the bottom, too, and sometimes I leave them under the broiler for a minute to crisp the top.

            1. My potatoes were beautifully crisp on the bottom and around the sides, partially browned on top. But in the middle they were cooked but not crisped. In the TV episode, the pan they showed was deeply brown on top, bottom and seemingly in between. I don't know how you could achieve this without turning the layers over and broiling them after taking the chicken out.

              1. Hi toodie jane! This is the best way to roast chix other than the little rotisserie I've been guilty of bragging about. Use a heavy duty kitchen shears to split the chix along one side of the backbone. rinse & pat dry. Place bruised rosemary under the skin of the breasts and thighs & rub the chix with plenty of salt and refrigerate overnight loosely covered. Wipe off the next day. Place foil on the bottom pan of a broiler set. Place sliced potatoes on that. Place the vented part of the broiler pan on top. then the chix - skin side up. Preheat oven to 450. Place oven rack in highest position. (hopefully you've got oven stones to help hold the heat when you open the door - if not it's not the end of the world or anything). Bake for about 40 min. to an hour - smaller bird is best.

                1. thanks to you all!

                  Spatchcocked! now there's a word mystery waiting to be solved!

                  I did end up splitting the chix down the backbone--just used my chef's knife and easily took out the backbone, splayed it out. I put potatoes under it, but becasue I was using low heat, they didn't get crunchy and golden. The chicken skin was actually very crunchy--I did sneak a taste, just a small one--and the juiciness was good, as well as the flavor. I took the chicken out of the oven at about 3 1/2 hrs, as my pork roast was to go all night. It came out at 5:30 a.m, just in time to cool and go into the fridge before I headed out to work. Now I won't have to "cook" all weekend!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: toodie jane

                    Hi toody jane! How're things in SLO? It sounds like all went well with your new method.

                    Just a couple o' hints: you can save a lot of energy and gore (and in my own case, creeped out feelings) by just cutting up one side of the backbone. There is no earthly reason to turn into Jack the Ripper and remove the whole darned thing completely - the point is just to be able to butterfly the bird, which just means to open it up so you can lay it out flat.
                    So, just cut along one side of the backbone.

                    The other thing I wanted to mention is the importance of the cook hogging as much of the crisp skin as they want. I'm sorry, but after doing all the work to make dinner, I AM going to eat BOTH crispy, divine, delicious chicken wings (try and stop me). It's really the only part I want to eat, even if the rest of the bird IS nice and juicy - which, I assure you, it is. (not a big eater volumewise, I'm afraid). Crispy, golden, lightly salted chicken skin is one of the greatest pleasures of being alive, no? WHY in God's name should you deprive yourself of it to save a few measly calories? Toody, this IS what chowhounding is about. DELICIOUSNESS. I say, pass up the boring vegetables and starch and eat those wings, or whatever crispy chicken skin you want. Here's the scientific factoid you need to know to overcome your fear of chicken skin: the calories come from the fat, no? In a well roasted bird, all the fat is cooked off the skin of the wings and breasts (and back if you use a rotisserie). There is some fat around the thighs, and where the wing attaches to the shoulder, but it's easily pulled off before serving. So, enjoy your chicken skin without fear, my dear.

                    1. re: niki rothman

                      hi niki--
                      actually I've eaten well-roasted chicken skin all my life. One of Mom's best dishes. So I'm really not depriving myself all that much. But you do know what's better than chicken skin--the breast skin that's been pulled over the stuffing in a turkey. Now that's heaven! The pieces of bread stuck to the skin on the inside all caramelized and lucious--oh man, oh man. Mom always cooked peeled russets cut into 1/4's alongside a roasted bird, basting them with the fat till crusty and creamy and ooh la la.

                      My favorite piece of either bird is the little 'oyster' as I think MFKF called it, from the hollow along the backbone.

                      That said, it's time for a rootbeer float ....with dbl rnbw vanilla!

                  2. Cheryl-I don't remember the potatoes looking that way from the tv episode, but maybe I am just not remembering right. In any case, maybe it had to do with lighting or something? Like you, I don't see how it would be possible to have the potatoes in the middle be brown and crispy.

                    Jane-give the recipe another try when you can use high heat. The potatoes are SO GOOD.

                    1. Hi TJ,
                      Oh God, yes! That crusty stuffing with the crispy turkey skin attached - cut it up and dip in the grave with my bare hands! And my mom totally agrees with you about the oyster muscle being the most tender delicious part of the bird - I think it's in the hollow of the hip. My mom told me that European royalty would be served dishes prepared with only that little part of many birds. My devotion to the crispy wing has an element of the cave-woman predator about it. I could easily break into a growl when that bird comes out of the rotisserie and I go for the wing and practically inhale it!