I cannot tell you how much I love roast chicken, which is funny, because I have never liked chicken breast. Yes, chicken breast is fine IN things. Chop it up, brown it, put it in something or on a pizza dressed in a sauce… fine. Great. But a plain ol chicken breast, cooked whole – it’s nearly impossible to not overcook it and I just cannot stand the texture of dry overcooked chicken breast. It’s so… squeaky.
The exception to this rule is chicken breast from a roast chicken. The bones and skin keep the meat moist and tender, so I can actually ENJOY chicken breast. I love it. Plus, when you roast a whole chicken, you might have leftovers that you can use later in the week. There are only two of us here in this house, so we usually eat mostly dark meat on night #1, and then save the rest of the breast for another meal or two throughout the week. Shredded chicken for enchiladas! Throw it in soup! Ramen! Put it on a salad! Pack it for lunch!
It’s more economical to roast a whole bird. In fact – at my local supermarket, today’s price for chicken breast is $5.49/lb. Meanwhile, a whole chicken is $1.99 per lb. Say you buy a 4 lb bird – you’ve spent $7.96. Yes, that’s $2.47 more than a lb of chicken breast, but you also have two drumsticks, two thighs and two wings – PLUS all the bones and skin, which you can save for stock and schmaltz. SCHMALTZ. It’s rendered chicken fat and you can use it in a million ways but my favorite is to start a roux with it for chicken gravy – which you can use to make chicken pot pie. And hey. Maybe those chicken breasts you saved from your roast chicken go into that pie. You see?
I get far too excited about this but I really love using the whole bird. It’s better on my pocketbook and it’s better for the earth. Less waste! More food! More flavor!
Listen. I didn’t mean for this to become my impassioned plea for using the whole bird…. but that’s where we are. Even if you don’t make the stock. Roast. The whole. Bird. (Or buy the whole bird, break it down and freeze the parts! I’m not kidding it’s the only way I buy chicken anymore.)
I roast chicken in a lot of different ways (my Roto-Broil 400 from 1954 makes an excellent rotisserie chicken.. have I mentioned I’m not normal?) but spatchcock chicken is likely my favorite. It cooks faster, it’s easier to carve when it’s done, and for whatever reason I find it easier to get the perfect results than roasting the whole bird as-is. If you haven’t tried roasting a bird this way, give it a go! It might just become your go-to, too.
Spatchcock Chicken and Roasted Veggies
- Whole chicken, about 4-5 lbs
- Two medium carrots, peeled and cut on a bias about 3” long
- 4-6 small/medium potatoes, washed and cut into 2” pieces (fingerling, red, purple, Yukon… whatever you fancy)
- 1/2 bunch radishes, washed and cut in half through the root
- One bunch scallions or spring onions, cut in 3” pieces
- Kitchen shears (optional, but helpful)
- Sharp chef’s knife
Prep the bird:
Remove chicken from packaging to a paper towel lined plastic cutting board. Discard the bag of giblets (or save for another use). Pat down the outside of the chicken with paper towels, removing any stray feathers you find- I don’t worry about the tail, which we will remove, the ends of the drumsticks or the extra skin at the bottom or neck- I don’t eat any of that anyway!
Spatchcock the bird:
Turn the bird breast side down, tail toward you. Grasp the tail of the bird with your non-dominant hand and begin cutting along the side of the spine, away from yourself, toward the neck. I find that shears make much easier work of cutting through the hip-area, so I usually use my shears up at least until I’m past that point, then I might switch to my knife for the top of the back, because my shears should be sharper and my knife handles the fatty skin better.
When you’ve sliced all the way through to the top, turn the bird around so the neck is closest to you (still breast down). Repeat this process, this time holding the neck with your non dominant hand. Save the backbone for stock, if you’d like! I do. (Stick it in a gallon size ziploc and freeze it, adding bones to the bag until you have enough to make a pot of stock- which for me is about one gallon sized bag.)
After removing the backbone, flip the bird over, breast side up, and apply pressure in the center of the chest until you get a small crack and the bird lays flat.
Season the bird with 1 tsp of salt per lb. It might sound like a lot, but chicken really needs the help. If you can, season up to 24 hours before you plan to cook, to give the salt time to work its magic. You can refrigerate it uncovered during that time, to let the skin dry out a bit, which encourages crispness when you roast it.
30 minutes prior to cooking, remove the chicken from the fridge, if you chose to salt ahead of time, and set on the counter to come to room temp. Preheat the oven to 500° with a rack in the center. Foil line a full-sized rimmed baking sheet. (You can also roast the chicken in a 12” cast iron skillet, but the veggies won’t fit in with it. A can of rinsed/drained chickpeas poured into the bottom of the pan halfway through the cook time is excellent, though.)
Season both sides of the chicken with freshly ground black pepper, and place breast side up on the sheet tray.
Put all of the prepped veggies in a large bowl, drizzle with 2 tbs olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Scatter the veggies around the chicken, attempting to arrange them in a single layer, not on top of (or under) the chicken.
Drizzle the top of the chicken with a little olive oil and squeeze half of a lemon over everything. Slide the sheet tray in the oven and begin checking the internal temperature at 30 minutes and every 5 minutes thereafter. When the chicken reaches 160° F, remove it from the oven – it will carry over cook to 165°. Allow the chicken to rest at least 10 minutes before carving so it comes up to temp and the juices have time to redistribute and don’t run all over the cutting board.