How To Spatchcock – And A Quick Chicken Spatchcock Recipe With Sundried Tomato Paste

Chicken or smaller birds (quail for instance) are ‘spatchcocked’ in order to enable them to be cooked more quickly. Effectively the bird is cut in half and then opened out and flattened. All good butchers can do this in a trice, otherwise if you are either desperate or masochistic you can have a go yourself.

If you buy a ready-spatchcocked one, then the easiest, almost instant, thing to do with it is to smear it with sun-dried tomato paste – see the recipe at the bottom of this page.

How to spatchock a chicken if you really have to

  1. Turn the chicken upside down (breasts underneath), legs toward you, on a wooden chopping board, and, with a strong pair of kitchen scissors make a cut (on the diagonal to make a v shape under the backbone) starting from one side of the parson’s nose (at the back of the chicken), and along the backbone.
  2. Make a second diagonal cut (the opposite direction this time) starting from the other side of the parson’s nose, again along the backbone to meet the end of the first cut.
  3. Then pull the backbone out, turn over, and flatten.
  4. Use the backbone for stock.

Some people then run two metal or soaked wooden skewers diagonally through breast and thigh to make an X shape and keep the bird flat, but I have never bothered with that.

Go here for a really good demonstration of how to spatchcock.

The parson’s nose?

Why is the parson’s nose called the parson’s nose? Quite simply because lots of parsons were known for having their noses in the air…upturned like a chicken’s rear…

what is the parson's nose?
Nose in the air…upturned like a chicken’s bottom!

What is the equivalent of spatchcocking for meat?

The equivalent process for larger cuts of meat is butterflying – see butterflied lamb.

Recipe for almost instant tomato-pasted spatchcocked chicken

A very quick, and good thing to do with a spatchcocked chicken is to:

  1. cover it all over in sundried tomato paste (for one chicken you could use the whole of a 180g jar) and leave for a day or overnight
  2. put it in an oven preheated to 210°C (put it in the bottom of the top right aga oven) for about an hour and a half, basting every now and again – the juices should run clear when you put in a skewer at the end of the process.
  3. add some cider (and/or the stock you made with the backbone) to the pan juices to make gravy.

Dead simple.

how to spatchcock
the spatchcocked poultry looks like a butterfly

Below, Maria Callas sings Madama Butterfly

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