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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.

                3. Just saw this method on a TV show over the weekend. I THINK it was Stephen Raichlen's Primal Grill, but maybe not. Anyway, here's a link to a YouTube video of him demonstrating the technique.


                  I would tend to leave the breast bone in myself, but taking it out may let both sides of the breasts cook more evenly. The little trick with the legs is a good idea.

                  1. A late question, with reference to the many Youtube links:

                    I have watched all, and am proficient at spatchcocking chicken by cutting out the backbone, etc. However, I remeber watching a video of a British butcher execute a remarkably expert and elegant spatchcocking technique that was very miles above anything else I have seen. I cannot find that video. I should be most grateful if any here have knowledge of professional spatchcocking techniques in Europe/UK? Yes, I have watched Raichlen and all Youtube clips available and NO, those are not it. And, yes, I have cooked professionally, albeit Chinese,Thai and Indian, so knife/cleaver skills are not an area where I come up short. I am also experienced with cooking spatchcocked chicken in my preferred styles. This particular British butcher was remarkable for the negligible knife work he needed, and that is what I should wish to watch once more and learn. Thank you in advance.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: GTM

                      I don't know if this is the one, but this English gentleman does it leaving the backbone in and with a single slice. Bonus: quickly jointing a chicken, of which there are a ton of videos, and butterflying a leg of lamb, which was pretty cool.

                      1. re: nokitchen

                        Hi nokitchen,

                        Deeply appreciate your reply. Would you please provide a link or reference? Thanks much.

                        What I remeber was that it was a white-coated butcher in his shop, demostrating a series of operations. It could even have been tucked into a Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver or a similar chef program but my memory fails me completely. There is a gentleman on Youtube, lesterfontayne, with a great channel, but don't think it is there. Thanks for any leads, though.

                        1. re: GTM

                          I can't believe I forgot the link. How embarrassing. I suspect it's not the same one because this guy has a blue coat but here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsR1-p...

                          Another video that comes to mind is Jacques Pepin deboning a chicken with minimal cutting. That ran on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, but of course he's French (also, blue coat again). But definitely another video worth looking up if you haven't seen it. http://www.travelchannel.com/video/th...

                          1. re: nokitchen

                            Thank you very much, indeed. You might enjoy this one as well. VERY rich, but an easy entertainment dish!


                            1. re: nokitchen

                              Hi nokitchen,

                              Thank you ever so much. I believe it is indeed the one I was searching for. I knew the experts here would come through. Thank you so very much again.

                              Did you see how expertly he made just a single cut down the backbone? No hacking, sawing, shears, wrestling, nothing! And his chicken does not look too shabby either! What do you think? Which technique would you choose, having seen so many?

                              There is one more technique I was taught that is a bit difficult to explain but easy to do once seen. If you turn the chicken on its back, you will see where the wishbones are, and a flat bone from the breast join near to there. I do not know the anatomical name for that bone. There is one on each side, and you will see them clearly standing out against the skin, right above the rib cage.

                              If you slide the knife blade under those scimitar-sped bones on each side, and pull, the neck and rib cage and back will pull away intact. You need to be careful about how much of the breast bone you are going to pull out or leave behind, but you will have a spatchcocked chicken in a minute.

                              Let me know if this is complete nonsense to you. Do you see that roast chicken picture to the right? If we were to turn it over on its back, right about where you see the bend in the wing joint in the photo, you will see those flat bones. Scapula? Or whatever they are called. Slide the knife under pulling towards the neck, on both sides. This will free up the backbone from the breast bone, and the rest of the backbone area can be removed easily.

                              1. re: GTM

                                The guy just cut down on one side of the back of the chiken instead of both sides. I would rather cut the backbone out entirely. That way, you can save the backbone for stock.

                                1. re: GTM

                                  I just watched the video again. The guy did not make a single cut down the backbone. He made a cut down the backbone, and then he turned the bird around and made another cut down the same side of the backbone before flattening out the bird. I repeat my opinion that this butcher wasted a perfectly good backbone that would have been better used for stock. I suppose it is becayse he is a meat cutter and not a cook.

                        2. Their are synonyms for many words like; for example shut is a synonym for close. I prefer Spatchcock because it is a word not often used and it sounds like something you might do to a naughty boy or girl for having a smart mouth. "If you say that again, I will Spatchcock you about the head and shoulders." The cookbook author probably likes the sound of the word as well. Another word for Spatchcock is "spattlecock",
                          It sounds like it might be an English (England) word. Spatchcock is also another word for juvenile chicken.

                          1. You don't have to take out any bones to spatchcock a turkey. You can, but it's not required.

                            The entire process of flattening the bird for roasting should take less than 10 minutes.

                            Make sure the bird is steady on the cutting board, and cut along the side of the backbone. You can cut along one side, or on both sides to remove the backbone.

                            Open up the turkey so the inside faces up. Using a knife, make a cut down the middle of the breastbone. Flip the bird over, and press down on that bone with the heel of your hand till the bone gives way and the entire bird flattens. That's spatchcocking.

                            If you want, you can remove the backbone, and dislocate the thigh joints to flatten the bird even more. Bear in mind, if you do, you will further reduce the cooking time. You can remove the wishbone, also.

                            Season the bird however you wish, place on a large broiler pan or in a roasting pan and roast. Create a rack of vegetables using carrots and celery, and halved apples, if you like, and place the turkey on top of that.

                            The roasting goes extremely fast, My 10-lb turkey was roasted at 425 F and done (I took temperature readings) in 1.25 hours. Resting time was 15 minutes. About 1/3 the normal amount of time, I'd say. But check at 1/4 the normal time.

                            The turkey was roasted perfectly -- juicy and with crisp skin, perfectly browned. It was so easy -- and I'm guessing I will not roast a turkey the traditional way again. Easier to baste this way also.

                            Here are two resources for instructions:

                            Martha Stewart's step-by-step photos

                            Mark Bittman's article on roasting a spatchcocked turkey in the NY Times here