How to Spatchcock (Flatten) a Chicken and why you should.

May 18, 2020 | Chicken and Poultry, Cooking Tips

Good morning everyone and happy Victoria Day. Today we are going to do something a little different on the blog. Generally, on Monday, we look at a recipe that can be made fairly quickly. However, today, in part because it is a long weekend and in part, because someone asked for this post, we are going to look at how to spatchcock a chicken, what that means, and why you should know how to do this.

What is Spatchcock?

Spatchcock is when you remove the backbone from a chicken and flatten it. This is done for a few different reasons, the main reason is that it helps to cook the chicken faster and more evenly. This is very helpful when barbecuing or even oven roasting the chicken. The other reason is when you marinate the chicken the marinade has more surface area to penetrate leading to more flavour in the finished product. One other reason for Spatchcocking the chicken is that once it is cooked it is much easier to cut into smaller pieces.

Okay, let’s take a look at how to Spatchcock a chicken.

How to Spatchcock (Flatten) a Chicken.

Step 1 – Hips and Legs

The first step is to take a whole chicken and put it breast side up on your cutting board with the back opening towards you. Looking into the back of the chicken you can see the backbone running straight down the middle with the legs on either side. The legs are connected to the backbone by a ball joint which is about two inches in as you can see circled in red in the fourth picture in the group below. What you can see in the third picture is that before the ball joint is the hips (for lack of a better term) which come up in kind of a wide “U” shape.

Take your knife and slide it down the outside of the hips guided by their shape until you reach the ball joint that connects the legs. In the second picture in the below group, you can see the angle that your knife should go into the chicken. You also want the knife to be tilted on a 45°f angle. The knife is going to need a little bit of force to go through the hips but once you get to the ball joint it should go through fairly easily. You may need to move the leg around a little to uncover the ballpoint. Use the tip of your knife to cut the leg free of the ball joint, then do the same on the other side.

Step 2 – Ribs

Once the legs are free you want to keep cutting down towards the front of the chicken on either side of the backbone. At this point, you will be directly cutting through the ribs which will take a little force but shouldn’t be too tough. Stay as close to the backbone as you can to avoid cutting into the breast.

Once the backbone has been loosened a little you may find it easier to flip the chicken over, lift up the backbone and cut down through the ribs. Either way will work.

Step 3 – Wings and Wish Bone

Once you get to the front of the chicken your knife is going to hit bone. This is the “V” shaped bone commonly referred to as the wishbone. Run your knife on the outside of this bone until you reach another ball joint, this one connects the wings to the breast bone. Just like with the leg ball joint use the tip of your knife to either cut through it or cut it out. Then pick the backbone up and cut away any skin or meat that is still holding on. At this point, you should have a fully intact chicken with the backbone removed.

Step 4 – Flatten the Chicken

The final step to Spatchcock a chicken is to flip it over so the breasts are facing up and push down. There should be a few crunches as the ribs expand. With that, you should now have a flattened chicken. (My chicken, unfortunately, had a broken leg as you can see. )

Step 5 – Optional

The fifth and final step is completely optional. In this step, you flip the chicken back over and run your knife between the rib bones and the breast meat. Once the ribs have been loosened you cut them free. I prefer not to do this unless I am deboning the whole chicken. This will compromise the structure of the chicken causing it to fall apart when flipped on the grill. Leaving the rib bones on the chicken will also help protect the breast meat from the direct heat of the flame.

I don’t have a picture of this because I didn’t do it. However, you can see the rib cage in the picture below. If you want to remove the ribs run your knife on the outside of the rib cage, then cut the bones away.


This is going to take some practice. It is going to take a few times for you to get a feel for where to place your knife for the first few cuts, and how to cut through the ball joints. Eventually though, after doing this five or six times, this should take you only a few minutes. It takes me longer to scrub my cutting board after doing this than it does to actually do it.

I really cannot stress how valuable a technique this is to master. This single technique will change how you grill and even roast chicken forever, I promise. Oh, and you can do the same thing to turkey, game hen, or any other poultry.

If you have any questions about this or if any part of this is unclear please don’t hesitate to ask me to clarify. Thank you, have a great Victoria Day and remember to follow the blog so you never miss a post. Of course, if you enjoyed this post, please share it on Facebook or Pinterest.


  1. Kim Armstrong

    I have tried Spatchcock Chicken. It was the most delicious chicken I have ever eaten! But, the down side was the utter destruction of my oven. The splattering made such a mess it took me days to completely clean it. I tried it once more with a pan of water below and a foil tent above and it destroyed the crispy skin that we loved the first time. Is there a solution to avoid the mess? Thanks so much. I just found your blog tonight while looking for some basic stir-fry tips and I LOVE it!

  2. Chef Ben Kelly

    Hello Kim. First of all, thank you very much! I’m glad you are enjoying the site. Can you please explain a little about how the chicken was prepared other than being spatchcocked. Was it seared in a pan first? Was there a sauce or marinade on it? What type of pan was the chicken on in your oven?

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