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Apr 4, 2010 12:15 PM

Spatchcock vs. butterflied chicken

Does anyone know if there is a difference between spatchcock and butterflied?

I have a recipe that calls specifically for a spatchcock chicken. Every time I ask my butcher for this, he says its the same as butterflied, but if it was the same, why doesn't the recipe just say butterflied?

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  1. I believe "butterfly" is actually the slang term for "spatchcock" - they are indeed the same thing. Here's an interesting thread on the subject.

    1. Spatchcock is a specific kind of butterflying technique, for birds. It involves not only removing the backbone but also the keel/breast bone, and often some mechanism to secure the bird in a flat position.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Karl S

        How does it differ from butterflying, though? I always remove the breast bone when I butterfly chickens. Does it maybe involve skewering or something to keep the bird on one plane for turning or something?

        1. re: mcf

          A bird is spatchcocked when all but the legbones are removed and the bird is grilled flat. It is mostly done with smaller birds like quail, squab or poussin (young, small chicken) and the bird is skewered through the breasts and legs from side to side. I've never done it, I just let the chicken flop around when turning, but I've seen it on cooking shows, mostly with quail.

          1. re: John E.

            Okay, so I finally looked it up. Most web references say a bird is spatchcocked by removing the back bone, with breast bone removal optional. Many say to cut slits in the skin to put the drumstick ends through, something I've always done whether butterflying or not.

            I just cut out breast and back bones, too, when roasting or grilling chicken; as long as they grill flat, I don't care if they flop a bit when I'm handling them.


            Here's a pictorial one with description:


              1. re: todao

                The links worked fine over two years ago when I posted them. :-)

      2. We spatchcocked our Thanksgiving turkey this past holiday, and we are hooked on it- it worked so well and cooked a gloriously tasty birdy so super fast. Step by step directions were in this magazine (Martha Stewart I think) and I handed it to my husband and he went at it, breaking the poultry shears but he got it done!
        He cut the backbone out, flattened it out by breaking the breast bone (gave him the willies but he did it) and we crossed our fingers that it would fit into my huge roaster- it fit!!

        3 Replies
        1. re: Boccone Dolce

          This has become my default turkey method. I've always done chickens this way, but I got hooked on it for turkey a couple of years ago and never looked back. Leaves no question of whether a whole bird will be too tall to fit through the door of my wood-fired oven, it cooks faster and much more evenly.

          Aside, If there were ever any reason to own an inexpensive Chinese cleaver, this is IT! After 25+ years of cooking and breaking down poultry with a chefs' knife or shears, I finally got a cleaver and YOWZA. Less than a minute from whole to flat or parted out. Best $15 bucks spent on kitchen gear ever.

          1. re: splatgirl

            I have not cooked a whole turkey in years. We always take out the back bone and lay it flat. Usually on top of stuffing/dressing. It's amazing how much faster it cooks this way, isn't it?

            1. re: John E.

              And how wonderful is it to have an entire bird's worth of crispy skin?

        2. Some folks also call it "Roadkill" Chicken. I do it whenever I cook a chicken in the smoker. I dont skewer it, or weight it down with bricks etc. but it does lay flat which helps cook faster.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Rojellio

            4YI: I often spatchcock small chickens and roast atop veggies in the oven. However, yesterday I did one on the Weber charcoal grill. I placed a tin foil pan under the bird and the charcoal around the edge so there was indirect cooking taking place. Ten minutes skin side down then flipped and cooked until done, lid on. Wonderful!

            1. re: brooktroutchaser

              Please; how long 'until done', and what size bird?

              1. re: Joebob

                Late reply: size matters. I prefer small chickens, 2.5 to 3.25 lbs. Time and temp: a total of 45 minutes is about right, but use a meat thermometer to truly determine doneness.

                1. re: brooktroutchaser

                  Late but timely: I just took a chicken out of the freezer, and I have some zucchini I need to use. THANKS!

          2. To everyone replying, what is the benefit of removing the breastbone when Spatchcocking a bird (say chicken)?

            Is it that the breast meat will cook that much quicker or is it because you can get the bird that much flatter?

            6 Replies
            1. re: DougRisk

              I think it's a cleaner presentation. If it's a bigger bird, say a turkey, it's easier to carve into slices without the breast bone. The other reason is it's easier to save the bones for making stock. I don't actually spatchcock turkeys too often but I do remove most of the breast bones when doing chickens flat, although sometimes I only remove the ribs and leave the breast bone.

              1. re: John E.

                I leave the ribs and breast bone in because meat is just juicier and tastier cooked on the bone.
                If I'm grilling chicken under a brick, I take it out, otherwise not.

                1. re: mcf

                  "I leave the ribs and breast bone in because meat is just juicier and tastier cooked on the bone. "

                  Yeah, me too. And that is why I asked.

                2. re: DougRisk

                  If we're asking questions, is there any advantage to spatchcocking a bird over just cutting it in half? It will lay just as flat and not have the jiggly part in the middle where you took out the backbone and left the skin intact.

                  1. re: 512window

                    The backbone brings very little to the table except taking up space and serves a better purpose reused in stock or broth.

                    You can butterfly shrimp, chicken breasts, pork chops, etc, which essentially means to slice in half (but not all the way thru) at the equator of the protein.

                    Cutting it in half leaves a lot of bits that are not pretty preentation, or can be better used elsewhere.
                    it's a trio of of presentation, cooking method and frugality that drives the process among other things.
                    Unless cooked whole, I always cut teh backbone out of my birds. Does not effect anything else including meat and skin.
                    Spatchcock refers to removing various bits including teh backbone and other bones (as mentioned above) so teh bird will lay flat and cook faster and more evenly. For small birds and even chickens, its adds to a more formal or at least more visually pleasing presentation.