Spatchcock my chicken, please

A new technique and a new vocabulary

By
July 17, 2007

“Spatchcock” is the kind of word that garners immediate attention, not to mention a raised eyebrow and a smirk. When I asked the butcher if he wouldn’t mind spatchcocking a couple chickens for me, his “Pardon me?” sounded more like “Most definitely not!”

Once we agreed on the term “butterflying,” those chickens flew my way faster than, well, chickens can fly.

Spatchcocking a chicken.

We had grown comfortable with the word in the office, bandying it about as we discussed its origin, all prompted by Matthew Card’s story, “Too hot to cook.”

Spatchcock, it turns out, is an old word (18th century), but not as old as a related word, “spitchcock” (15th century), which means “to split and grill eels.”

(In case you haven’t read Matt’s story, to spatchcock a chicken is simply to remove its backbone to prepare it for grilling flat.)

As for those chickens, I followed Matt’s instructions to a T, though I confess at times I wondered if the effort was worth the trouble. As I moved the chickens from one bowl to the next, trying to find a container big enough to fit two chickens and three quarts of brine but small enough to fit in my fridge, worrying all the while how many surfaces I’d potentially contaminated with raw chicken, I contemplated skipping the brine entirely the next time around.

I’m glad I didn’t. When all was said and done — spatchcocked, brined, grilled — I supped on the best grilled chicken I’ve ever cooked. It was moist, smoky, and flavorful. In addition, I then had what Matthew had promised: enough leftover chicken for several meals.

Not to mention a new word in my vocabulary.

Subscribe
Comments
There are no comments on this item
Add a comment

Think before you type

Culinate welcomes comments that are on-topic, clean, and courteous. For the benefit of the community we reserve the right to delete comments that contain advertising, personal attacks, profanity, or which are thinly disguised attempts to promote another website.

Please enter your comment

Format: Bare URLs are automatically linked; use this style: [http://www.example.com "place text to be linked here"] for prettier links. You may specify *bold* or _italic_ text. No HTML please.

Please identify yourself

Not a member? Sign up!

Please prove that you’re not a computer


Our Table

Pull up a chair. Here’s the spot for dispatches from Editorial Director Kim Carlson and, occasionally, others on our staff.

Want more? Comb the archives.

Advertisement
Our Table

The Joy of Cooking app

A new tool for the kitchen

The latest in our collection of cooking apps.

Subscribe
Graze: Bites from the Site
First Person

The secret sharer

A father’s legacy

The Culinate Interview

Mollie Katzen

The vegetarian-cooking pioneer

Reviews

Down South

Barbecue, tamales, cocktails, and more

Local Flavors

A winter romesco sauce

Good on everything

Most Popular Articles

Editor’s Choice