My Recipe Box

A Shortcut to Juicy Chicken

A few snips with kitchen shears and you have a chicken that cooks quickly and evenly


by Elizabeth Karmel

fromFine Cooking
Issue 79

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.

The Technique

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.
A butterflied chicken is a breeze to carve

A butterflied chicken is a lot easier to carve than a whole one. Just use your kitchen shears (or a sharp chef’s knife) to cut the chicken into halves or quarters.

Photos: Scott Phillips


Cookbooks, DVDs & More