How do you roast a whole chicken in less than an hour? Easy — you spatchcock it.
Spatchcocking is a chef’s term for cutting the backbone out of a chicken and flattening it so that it cooks faster and more evenly. When I buy a whole chicken, and nowadays I buy free-range chickens grown at a local farm, I ask the butcher to cut out the backbone for me.
Most supermarket butchers are happy to do the job for you, but to spatchcock your own chicken: turn the chicken breast side down with the drumsticks facing you and cut down each side of the backbone and remove it. You’ll hear some crunching when you cut through the rib bones–that’s normal. Flip it over and press down on the breast bone to flatten the chicken. Voila — spatchcocked chicken, ready for the oven or grill.
Well, almost ready. How about some seasoning? Epicurious.com provides a recipe that’s awesome and goes way beyond the usual S & P. Chef Kemp Minifie calls it his “curry salt jazzed up with a little smoked paprika.” The curry powder is subtle but exotic and the smoked paprika heats it up a notch. If 2 teaspoons seems like a lot of salt, don’t worry — it has to season a whole chicken.
Kemp Minifie’s Curry Salt
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Combine the salt, curry powder and smoked paprika in a small bowl. Add the olive oil and stir to make a paste. Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet and smear half the paste all over the flesh side of the chicken. Turn over the bird, skin side up with the legs turned inwards, (Chef Minifie says it’ll look knock-kneed) and smear the remaining paste over the skin.
If roasting, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roast the chicken until it registers 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the thigh meat. This will take about 40 minutes. (If you’re grilling and your grill is hot the chicken will take approximately the same amount of time.) Let the chicken rest for about 15 minutes before serving.
For inveterate grillers, here’s a dry rib rub from BBQ chef Chris Schlesinger that I have used with boneless skinless chicken breasts that’s delicious.
Chris Schlesinger’s Dry Rub (designed for ribs but great with lean chicken breasts!)
2 Tablespoons paprika
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon chili powder
Stir all ingredients together in a bowl and place in a covered container. Keeps for several months.