How to cook a whole chicken

For any of you out there that are trying to find ways to make better food choices, I have a pretty good option for you.

Learn how to cook a whole chicken.

If you have 4 people (2 adults, 2 kids) to feed, it will probably get the job done for around $10-$15 if you go the organic route, and for much less if you go non-organic. If there are only 2 of you, it’s probably dinner for a couple of days, and if you’re going it alone you can get up to 4 meals or 2 dinners and a really killer batch of chicken salad, if that’s your thing….

A couple weeks ago, I was looking for the best (easiest) way to cook a whole chicken in the oven. I know there is a way that involves tucking wings and trussing and some other things, but I figured there had to be something a bit easier, or at least a bit more straight-forward. So, I headed to the interwebs, and there I found my answer. Spatchcock. If you are friends with me on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, you might have seen the picture that I posted this past Sunday night, referring to Spatchcock.

To spatchcock is simply to butterfly the chicken. Something that I had never thought of, but once I did a little bit of research and reading, made perfect sense. And so, I set out to cook my first whole chicken in the oven. The ultimate goal of the exercise is to get a chicken that is perfectly cooked in all parts. Wings, Breast, Thighs and Legs. Other methods will yield one or the other, but not success all around. And if you’re going to cook the whole bird, you should be able to enjoy the whole thing.

The first one that I cooked 2 weeks ago was a 3.5lb organic from Meijer. It cost around $13. The one that I cooked this weekend, on Sunday was a non-organic. $7 for 3.5lb.

Spatchcocking is most easily accomplished with a decent pair of kitchen shears, but a good kitchen knife will do as well. Before you get started on the chicken, you might want to rinse and pat dry. Once dry, simply flip the chicken over so the breast side is down, locate the backbone and cut along both sides of said backbone to remove. If you are using a knife, just apply a bit of pressure with the knife on either side of the backbone and the bones should crack. Also, feel free to stand the chicken up and allow gravity and other laws of physics to help you out. Once the backbone is removed, flip the chicken over (breast side up) and apply some gentle pressure to the breastbone so that the chicken will flatten out. You might hear the cartilage crack. This is perfectly normal. Also, save the backbone, because we’re going to make homemade chicken stock later this week. And if you’re willing, we’ll get it done in 30-40 minutes, not the 8+ hours that you’re expecting.

If you would like a visual of this butterflying process, head over to Deliciously Organic and have a look. The photos are great.

Once butterflied, the rest is simple. Season and cook. You really can use whatever you like to season. On Sunday the recipe was as follows.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees with a rack one above the middle. Start with a couple tablespoons of Olive Oil and rub onto all sides of the chicken. Then season all sides and parts with Kosher Salt. At this point, you are only limited by your own creativity and spice rack. Rachel and I seasoned the breast-side only with a mixture of Garlic Powder, Black Pepper, Paprika, Cayenne, and Dried Sage. We didn’t really measure, but there were approximately equal parts of Pepper and Paprika, half as much Cayenne and 3 times as much Sage and Garlic. You really can season with whatever you prefer and there is no right answer. Just Salt and Pepper. Homemade herb butter. Your own spice mix. A commercially prepared spice mix, though this might be less desirable due to added ingredients that are not spices. The chicken is on a baking sheet that is lined with foil. It is in the middle of the baking sheet. The baking sheet is facing the “short way”, that is, long from left to right and short from top to bottom.

Pop the chicken in the oven and set the timer for 45 minutes. At the end of the 45 minutes it should be done. If you have a thermometer, feel free to check for doneness. The goal is 170°-180°F in the leg and thigh and 150°-155°F in the thickest part of the breast. If you prefer the government recommended 165°F in the breast, do your thing, but it really is overkill. The above chicken was cooked just shy of 180°F in the leg and thigh, which yielded just under 160°F in the breast. Perfect. We probably could have cooked a few minutes less and had results that were just as good, but any longer would have resulted in overcooked chicken breasts. At this point, remove your baking tray from the oven and cover the chicken in foil. Let it rest for 10 minutes or so and then carve.

Enjoy with some sauteed vegetables, mashed cauliflower, and some Russian Nog. 🙂

Two bites in, Rachel declared it to be the “best chicken she’s ever had“. That endorsement should be all the reason you need to give it a try.

Also,  if you remember and are in the mood, save any leftover bones for the homemade stock you’re going to make. In the freezer, in a freezer bag is a good place.

If you give it a try, let us know how it works out for you in the comments.

Thoughts? Comments?

-Nick