Has this ever happened to you? You’ve been cooking up a storm, roasting a chicken, which fills up the house with all kinds of delicious fragrances while it's cooking, and then you bite into the chicken and...
AAAAAACK!!!! Dry! Dry! Dry!
There are some things that taste as good as they smell. But chicken is often not one of them. Dry chicken is like the eleventh plague of Pesach. (Just tying this in here to keep it seasonal!)
And whole roast chicken is the WORST, hands-down. The breast (my grandmother used to call it the "keel" to be polite, but I don't know if this ever caught on) is up there, proud and tall (we've bred our chickens to be built like this), while the lesser thighs (lots of kosher stores call them “backs” to be polite) bask in all the juices and generally turn out okay. (This is the bit I usually eat.)
Another problem with roasting a whole chicken? By the time the thighs (way down at the bottom) are done, the breast (way up at the top) is overdone. We do all sorts of desperate things to prevent dryness in our chicken. Cooking it upside-down. Cooking it in bags. With fruit. Sticking a beer can up inside.
Any cook worth her salt will tell you that if you want things to cook evenly, you should make them all about the same size and ensure that they are in even contact with the heat source (in this case, the heat source is the hot air of the oven). Flat things cook better than misshapen lumpy things like a whole chicken. If only we could change the basic shape of a chicken!
Oh, wait, there is. There’s one quick and easy fix to the dry whole “wrong-shaped for cooking chicken” dilemma: spatchcocking.
Spatchcocking (I think it’s also known as “butterflying”? – or maybe it should be) will…
- Give you a flat, evenly-shaped bird
- Cook your whole chicken faster
- Ensure even cooking, so no parts are over- or undercooked
There is one caveat, however: it's not for the squeamish. If you like to upend your chicken into a pan and pretend it was never part of an animal (let alone a whole animal unto itself), then this is not the prep style for you.