The first time I heard the term spatchcocked, I had to laugh. It is, after all, a ridiculous name. But once I came to understand exactly what it was, I became very interested. I still laugh; I can't help myself. The point behind spatchcocking is to flatten the bird so that it cooks quickly and evenly. With that in mind, they should probably change the name to splat-cock. Tee-hee! I'm not entirely sure of spatchcock's origins as there is no mention of it in Larousse Gastronomique or any other of my reference books. It has a significant web presence, but its origins are a mystery.
The quickest way to flatten a chicken is to remove the back bone and crack the sternum in two. The first two steps of this article illustrate how this is done.
1. Cut out the backbone of the chicken using the poultry shears. A good pair of shears should make short work of the hollow bones. Notice how the cut gets a little wider at the hip as you must cut between the joints of the thigh and hip. Follow the backbone all the way up to the neck and back down the other side. This large chunk of chicken could be saved for making soup stock, if you're into that sort of thing. You should be.
2. Next, flatten, or spatchcock, the chicken. Do this by spreading the two sides of the chicken as if you were opening a book by pushing down real hard on either side. You should hear some cracking as the shoulder/breast bones snap. At this point you have two choices: roast it as is, or remove the rib bones and the breast cartilage. When roasting, it doesn't really matter—it's up to your personal preference.
3. Preheat the oven to 500°F and get the spatchcocked chicken ready to roast. Now that the chicken is opened up, you can easily apply seasoning directly to the meat. Rub in your preferred herbs and spices underneath the skin and around the newly exposed insides. Finish the whole thing off with a light coating of vegetable oil. The oil will help the skin to brown. Once the oven is up to heat, immediately lower the heat to 450° and roast the chicken for 30 minutes.
4. Check the spatchcocked chicken and roast for another 20 minutes. Rotate the pan and drop the heat to 375°. Make sure that your oven is performing properly by double-checking the oven temp with an oven thermometer. The skin of the chicken should be turning a nice golden brown, which is why we cooked the chicken at such a high temperature initially. Now we move to the primary roasting stage. This stage is not really measured in time, but by the internal temperature of the chicken.
5. When will the spatchcocked chicken be done? It may take an hour or more to finish cooking the chicken. The best way to know when it's done is to use a thermometer with a detachable probe that will monitor the chicken while it cooks. These thermometers come with temperature alarms that go off once the desired temperature has been reached. For chicken, that temperature is 161°. Once you remove the chicken, let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing into it.
Use a roasting pan with a rack so the underside gets cooked, too.
Don't open the oven while the spatchcocked chicken is roasting. It decreases the temperature and will significantly increase cooking time. Use your oven's window, if it has one.
If you want to make gravy from the drippings, start with a dry roasting pan and deglaze it on top of the stove. If there is a lot of grease, you can mix it with a roux to thicken the gravy.
Oven thermostats are one of the first things to fail on any oven. This can be checked by keeping an oven thermometer inside your oven.
Monitoring the internal temperature of the chicken while it roasts is the best way to know when your chicken is done. Stick the probe in the thickest part of the breast from the side.
If you look at the picture in step 3, you may notice that the legs have been flipped over. This was done because it was my belief that it looked better. However, it is possible that the chicken would have roasted better if I had left it like the picture in step 2. The way I did it here, the skin on the thighs didn't get very crispy. I believe that if they had been left the other way, the skin would have been much crispier.