I’m going to let you in on my secret weapon for making a whole chicken that’s juicy, flavorful, and quick-cooking: It’s a technique called butterflying, which means removing the backbone and flattening the chicken. This may sound scary or difficult, but believe me, it’s easy to master. In fact, once you butterfly a chicken a few times, you’ll be able to do it in just two or three minutes. I think kitchen shears work best for this technique, and they’re also the safer way to go if you don’t have master-chef knife skills.
A flattened chicken looks impressive, but looks aren’t the only benefit to butterflying. Since the flat shape allows for more even heat distribution during cooking, a butterflied chicken cooks faster and stays juicier than a whole chicken. A butterflied chicken can also take on a world of flavors, because the flat surface lets any sauce, topping, or crust coat the skin evenly and stay on during cooking. As you’ll see in the recipes here, I often marinate, sauce, or brine butterflied chicken before cooking, but it’s delicious when prepared simply, too; just brush it with a little olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper before roasting or grilling.
Click through this slide show for three simple steps to butterflied chicken, or check out our video to see it in action.
To butterfly a chicken, use poultry shears to cut along each side of the backbone to remove it.
Then flip the chicken over, press firmly on the center of the breast, and break the breastbone.
Tuck the wingtips under the breast. This makes for a more compact package and keeps the wings from moving around during cooking.