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Nov 24, 2009 06:35 AM

Spatchcocking 101

For anyone interested, it was demonstrated on Martha today, and can be viewed on her website.

I was rather appalled that when she mentioned spatchcocking to a subsequent guest, famous chef Thomas Keller, he asked "What's that?"

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  1. I'm surprised to hear that re him, too, greygarious. I think my mother (just a mom, not a chef) taught me the real term versus the slang, "butterflying", first, because that's what the cookbooks of her time said.

    It's a great thing to learn how to do, anyway. Not difficult, as long as one's knives are in good order, and a great way not only to lessen cooking times or to be able to do delicious dishes such as chicken cooked with a brick, but also to be able to stock with freezer with more poultry pieces at a more reasonable cost.

    1. It is one of those terms you run into in very few cookbooks, and hardly something that gets tossed around in casual conversation, probably not even in chef circles. I think I got it from exactly one book, and that was an English one, so it's probably colloquial to some part of the UK. It's a very cool word, though, and since I do it all the time I get to say it a lot. I usually get Keller's response... For the record, the second place I've seen it was on the weekly Serious Food blogs digest, where doing this to a turkey was recommended. So I said, What the hell, and did that to the one I'm dry-brining, a 12-pounder. I would NOT want to do it to a bigger one - this'n exceeded the capabilities of my poultry shears, and I wound up cutting right through the pelvis on one side, so he lies a little bit funny. But I am looking forward to a 3-hour (or less) turkey. I think I'll roast him on top of the pan of stuffing - how's that for clever? I've done that with split chickens before.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Will Owen

        Okay, I’m responding to you, Will, but ONLY because the website malfunctioned just as I was about to hit the post button and flashed a big red “This page is unavailable” sign or whatever jumped up in front of me and lost the entire response to the OP! I am very close to giving up altogether on Chow. It’s about the fourth time in the last few days my response to something has disappeared before my eyes or not shown up after I posted it…


        “Spatchcock” I’m not surprised Keller isn’t that familiar with it since I can’t recall ever seeing an American chef “properly” spatchcock a chicken, but I have seen them “French split” a chicken, and that is what I’ve also been served in restaurants. For proper spatchcock, please watch the link that legourmettv offers.

        And here’s how to French split a chicken: Take a whole, cleaned raw chicken, neck and excess abdominal fat removed, and lay it breast side down. Remove the spine by cutting up (or down) each side of the spine with a sharp knife or with boning shears. Use the spine and giblets for stock or broth. Now open the chicken as wide as you can and turn it breast side up. Deliver a sharp blow to the keel “bone” (that long piece of cartilage in the center of the breasts that the ribs connect to). It will cause the ribs to break at or near the keel bone on one or both sides, and the chicken will now lay flat. Next, using your fingers and starting at the spinal cut, ease the thigh skin lose and slide it down toward the drumstick until it clears the “knee” joint. Use a sharp knife to make a cut across the front of that joint severing the tendons (and being careful not to cut the skin), then break the knee by twisting thigh and drumstick with your hands. Return the skin to its normal position over the thigh meat. Pierce a hole in the skin “skirt” at each side of the lower keel bone and put the “ankle” of each drumstick through it so that the legs lay flat across the bottom of the bird knees facing each other. Finally twist the wings “akimbo” so the “hand” is behind the back, much like a swimmer would cradle his arms when floating face up. The chicken is now French split and ready for oiling, buttering or basting while roasting, broiling or grilling. It makes a lovely presentation. Much more attractive than spatchcocking.

        Oh yes, Julia also French split her chickens for roasting or broiling, so…

        Bon appetite!

        1. re: Caroline1

          Okay, an addendum to my post above on French split, and some photos. I cooked my Thanksgiving dinner today, and just for you guys I French split my turkey. The more I thought about what I wrote, the more unsure I was. And that's a good thing.

          CORRECTION! To seperate the skin from the thigh, ease the skin loose from the cavity side, NOT the spine side! Then do all the rest as above.

          I've included two photos. One is Martha Stewarts from her website of a roasted spatchcocked turkey. The other is of my roasted (an hour ago) French split turkey. The thing I like about French split birds is thay roast beautifully. They still look like a roast bird. They cook lickety split. They require no skewers. They fit in a much smaller pan than a spatchcocked bird. And you can serve them to be carved at table, if that's your thing. I think spatchcocked birds are ugly, but hey, to each his/her own, right?

          And for the record, this guys is delicious. I'm looking forward to a turkey, cranberry mayonnaise sandwich on gummy white bread somewhere close to midnight tonight. Or maybe tomorrow night to make tomorrow a true Thanksgiving.

          Oh! And one more picture as a final Thanksgiving bird in honor of Sesame Street's 40th Anniversary! '-)

          Have a great Thanksgiving, all of you! Even if it isn't Thanksgiving where you are.

          For the record, the bird in the ancient turqoise Le Creuset is mine, the one on the jelly roll pan is Martha Stewart's.

          1. re: Caroline1

            Mine will look a lot like Martha's - not that it matters anyway, since the "presentation" at the table will be a platter of parts, ready for consumption and I hope delicious. I don't frankly give a hoot how it looks, just how it tastes, and the only one to see it before it gets cut up will be me and Mrs. O, the cutter.

            1. re: Will Owen

              Following up, I must say that this is how we'll do it from now on. I had just two days for the dry brining, and it was a cheap frozen pre-basted bird, but it came out better than perfect. I laid it over a bed of chunked carrots, celery and onion in a roughly 12x16 Dansk enamelled roaster, and it went about 90 minutes @ 350º. Thighs tested 160º, but breast was just 120º+, so back it went for another 15. Perfectly moist and tender breast (best yet!) and perfect dark meat. The vegetables and liquid underneath got puréed with the stick blender and added to some broth, and that was the gravy. Big grins all around.

              No, I did not do the breast-stuffing thing, because I didn't think it would be needed, and I was right. That would just have complicated things to no good purpose.

      2. "Spatchcocked" Turkey on the BBQ pit with a little Cherry wood for flavoring and color....It's a beautiful thing....Taste good too!

        1. Thomas Keller didn't know what spatchcocking was? Wow--I am shocked, seriously.

          1. Did they "Spatchcock' or 'Butterfly'? Because a properly spatchcocked bird is a thing of beauty, while a butterfly'd chicken is rather pedestrian...


            4 Replies
            1. re: legourmettv

              Spatchcocked - it is my understanding that the difference between the two is that the former removes the backbone and flattens the meat while the latter is
              for boneless meat, to create a thinner slab. As far as I am concerned, this is a word that a culinary professional should know. I am strictly a home cook, but learned it via cookbooks and cooking shows on PBS.

              1. re: greygarious

                Here is Butcher Dave Meli doing a traditional English Spatchcock:

                1. re: legourmettv

                  I was confused about this too- have never heard about "spatchcocking" before, always called it butterflying, for bone-in or boneless.

                  1. re: legourmettv

                    Why did he split the bird in two? If you just remove the backbone, then do the tucking thing, and then skewer it (like Dave did), you end up with a flatter profile than he did, perfect for indirect grilling. Maybe the bigger profile is better for roasting?