Episode 053 kicks off a series about smoking a whole chicken! Taryn will be going over how to smoke a whole chicken from start to finish, including what to do with the leftovers. This first episode in the series is about how to spatchcock a chicken, which means to remove the backbone and get it to lie flat. Listen in to hear why you’d want to do this in the first place, plus lots of helpful tips!
These are some of the recipes mentioned in the episode.
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- How to Spatchcock a Chicken (directions and photos)
- USDA Data on Chicken
- USDA Chicken Costs
- How to defrost chicken
- Poultry shears
- Kitchen shears
- Large cutting board
Taryn Solie: Hello grillers, and thank you for tuning in today! I am your host, Taryn Solie, and I am here to give you some grilling inspiration. Typically I go over one recipe in detail, but today’s episode is a little different – it’s the start of a series about smoking a whole chicken. I will still be going over directions and helpful tips, but it’s more of a how-to than previous episodes.
Over the next 4 or 5 episodes I’m going to walk you through all the steps to smoke a whole chicken, as well as what you can do with leftovers from it.
For this first episode, we’re going to go over how to spatchcock a chicken. When you spatchcock a chicken, it just means you remove the backbone and lay it as flat as you can when you cook it. It may sound intimidating, but it’s really very easy. This is my favorite, and pretty much the only, way I cook a whole chicken.
Before we get into specifics, I want to address why you’d want to cook a whole chicken when you can just buy whatever cut you need. Chicken is the most consumed meat in the US, according to the US Department of Agriculture or USDA, and cooking a whole chicken is one of the least expensive ways to eat it.
The USDA actually puts together a retail report which lists the cost of different pieces of chicken and a whole chicken is shown as one of the cheapest, with leg quarters being the least expensive. Of course, that’s not taking into account that you can also create stock from the bones of an entire bird, which is another great benefit of cooking a whole chicken at once. I’ll link to a couple USDA reports in the show notes page if you’re curious to read more information.
I also want to mention why you would want to spatchcock a chicken – or any bird. First, because it helps the chicken cook more evenly. Sometimes with a whole bird you can get one area dried out while another is still not quite done. By exposing more surface area of the bird all laid out at the same level, it helps everything cook more consistently.
Second, because cooking a spatchcock bird takes less time than cooking one that’s isn’t. Again it goes back to the surface area – more of the bird is exposed to heat so it all heats up faster. This doesn’t matter quite as much with smaller birds like chickens, but it really makes a difference when you’re doing a large bird like a turkey. Still, it is hands down my preferred method.
Okay, now that we’ve covered the why, let’s get into the how. To spatchcock the chicken you’ll need:
- the chicken itself – I usually buy around a 4 or 5 pound bird;
- a pair of poultry shears, or kitchen shears will also work; and
- a large cutting board.
You can also wear a pair of disposable gloves if you don’t want to touch raw meat, but it’s not necessary.
To start you’ll want to have a totally thawed whole raw chicken. A lot of whole chickens come frozen and you will not be able to cut into a completely frozen chicken. To thaw it you can either put it on a platter in the fridge for a day or two, or try thawing it in water. There are recommendations for doing both and I’ll link to those resources on the show notes page. For now, I’m going to assume you have a completely thawed chicken on your hands.
Go ahead and place the chicken on the cutting board. Whole chickens sometimes come with several organs inside them, which can be in a paper bag. There can also be a plastic handle near or around the legs. Remove the plastic (if there is any) and anything that’s inside the chicken and set it all aside.
Set the chicken breast-side down so that the backbone is facing up and grab your shears. You can cut the chicken from either end, but I typically like to start cutting at the head of the chicken, meaning the wings are closer to you than the legs.
You’ll be cutting through bone so make sure you have a good handle on the shears. There will be some resistance, but as long as your chicken is fully thawed then you definitely should be able to make the cuts.
Place the shears just to one side of the backbone and start cutting, making an incision all the way down until you finish cutting down that side of the backbone. Then you’ll do the same thing on the other side. You may need to grip the shears with both hands to make that initial cut, but once you get going it should get a little easier. Then once the backbone has been cut out you can remove it and set it aside.
Now take your hands and press out against the ribcage of the chicken on both sides to help the bird lie flatter. Then flip the chicken over so the insides are lying face down on the cutting board and push with your hands on the breasts to flatten it some more. It’s almost like you’re giving chicken CPR. There may be some cartilage or bones breaking, but that’s fine.
And that’s it! You’ve just spatchcocked a chicken. You can throw away any of the plastic parts that you previously removed, but I would place the organs and backbone in a sealable plastic bag and put them in the freezer to save for making chicken stock. If you want a recipe for that I will link to one on the show notes page. If that’s not something you want to do, then you can just throw them away.
I have a post on my website, Hot Pan Kitchen, with pictures and directions for how to spatchcock a chicken. I’ll put a link to that post in the show notes page for this episode. To get to it you can either go to my main website at Hot Pan Kitchen dot com and click on podcast in the main menu, or you can click on the link provided in whatever podcast app you’re listening on.
If you enjoyed this episode, I would love it if you would subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform. And don’t miss out on the next episode in this chicken series, where we’ll be going over how to smoke a chicken and keep it nice and juicy. So be sure and listen in for that.
That’s it for today, thank you so much for listening, and until next time, keep grilling like a mother.