Being able to cut a whole chicken in half properly is a skill that every cook must master. Though it looks and sounds simple, there is a technique that enables you to halve it smoothly, leading to a flat bird. This makes cooking a lot faster and gives you an easier time plating.
Since there isn't much difference between chicken and other poultry like turkey and ducks, you can follow this guide to halve any of them.
One of the best techniques to start halving a whole chicken in half, whether you're going to roast, boil, grill, or cook it differently, is to spatchcock it. You can take a whole chicken and flatten it by following this method. Doing this helps with cooking time and gives you crisp skin on both sides.
Here is everything you need to know about cutting a chicken in half following the spatchcock technique.
Tools you'll need:
- A sharp chef's knife
- A standard sharp chef's knife to make cuts and slits.
- Kitchen scissors (optional)
- You can only use a chef's knife for this, but kitchen scissors will get the job done easier and faster.
Prepare the chicken
Before you begin cutting the chicken in half, pat it dry using a damp paper towel. This ensures the chicken is clean and helps with the cooking process, creating more tender pieces and reducing the moisture on the outer skin. It also ensures your safety as it becomes easier to grip.
Cutting the whole chicken in half
You can cut a whole chicken simply by slicing through the backbone and the breast bone. However, this isn't the best way to go about it, as the spine isn't a favorite to munch.
Instead, removing the backbone altogether opens up the chicken even better and exposes more of the meat you will eat. That's why spatchcocking the chicken is the best way to start when cutting it in half.
How to spatchcock a chicken?
Spatchcocking a chicken is good for several reasons. When you have a whole chicken in hand and want to cook it on a pan or grill, cooking it evenly throughout the bird is the biggest challenge. That's why entire chickens are usually roasted or smoked, not cooked on a pan.
By spatchcocking a whole chicken, you flatten it and cook the entire chicken as if it was butchered into pieces. It also helps spread seasoning evenly and gives you crispy skin on both sides. Here is how to spatchcock an entire chicken.
- With the breast side down on the cutting board, cut along the backbone of the chicken. Whether you're using a knife or kitchen scissors for this, you shouldn't struggle to cut. If there are bones in the way, it's an indication that you're doing it wrong. Try to cut as near to the backbone as possible.
- Do the same with the other side and remove the backbone entirely. It should come out as one long strip. You can freeze or refrigerate it to make stock later.
- Now, turn the chicken upside down with the breast side up. Press right down in the middle to break the breast bone. If it doesn't crack or the breast softens more than it should've, make a slit about half an inch through the breast bone and do it again. This will ensure that the entire chicken flattens effortlessly.
Spatchcocking a chicken to remove the backbone is also known as butterflying, as an opened-up chicken resembles a butterfly. Whether you call it spatchcock or butterfly, it means the same thing - removing the backbone to lay the whole chicken.
Furthermore, butterflying chicken also means opening up the boneless chicken parts like the breast to cook it faster as it becomes thinner. However, it's not to be mistaken with cutting the breast in half. To butterfly a chicken breast, cut 3/4 through it and open it. Then, flip, and press it on the cutting board with your hands or utilize a meat pounder to flatten it completely.
Cutting the spatchcock chicken in half
Now, you have a bird that's completely lying flat on the cutting board. You can cook it whole like this and halve it once cooked or do it beforehand. It's entirely up to you, but cutting it in half will cook it faster than as a whole. Here is how to cut a whole spatchcocked chicken in half.
- Flip the chicken breast-side down on the cutting board.
- Locate the center of the breastbone. Use your finger to gently press on the breastbone to see where you're supposed to cut to separate each half.
- Using your chef's knife, cut the center of the breastbone. You can press on the spine of the blade for assistance, but a sharp chef's knife shouldn't have a problem cutting right through it.
Cooking tips on halved chicken
Cook the halved spatchcocked chicken the same way you would cook the pieces or as a whole. There isn't really a different cooking method that you need to follow, but there are still a few things that you should keep in mind.
Firstly, you'll be able to put more seasoning as the bird is opened up, and you can season the insides of the bird that you can't with a whole chicken. This perk of halved chicken allows you to spread seasoning evenly throughout the entire chicken.
Secondly, due to the larger surface area, more of the chicken contact the cooking surface, whether the pan, grill, or oven tray. This cooks the chicken faster and gives you crispier skin. However, make sure that you're cooking it in relatively high temperatures. For example, when cooking a halved spatchcock chicken in the oven, preheat to around 425 degrees on convection so that the air circulation cooks the skin faster and helps it to become crispier.
How to serve/plate a chicken cut in half?
You can serve a cooked spatchcock chicken as it is for a family feast and carve to hand out pieces, or you can cut it into pieces beforehand and plate it as desired. Because it's already flat, carving a spatchcock chicken into pieces is pretty straightforward and takes minimal effort.
If you know how to carve a whole chicken, you won't have any problems cutting a spatchcock chicken into pieces. For family gatherings, serve each part as they are except for the breasts. Slice the chicken breasts and line them up on the plate with the other dishes but create enough space between them. Just as you wouldn't want to overwhelm your guests, you don't want to do the same with the plate.
Why spatchcock chicken?
There are many reasons to spatchcock a chicken. Most choose to cook chicken in a pan or grill it while the oven is busy. When you need to cook a whole chicken in a very short time and ensure that it cooks evenly, spatchcocking is the most efficient way to do so. Spatchcock a chicken and toss it in the grill or pan to save time rather than cutting it into pieces.
How long do I cook a spatchcock chicken?
There isn't a set time to cook a spatchcocked chicken as cooking time depends on how you cook it and the temperature. Generally, it takes between 30 minutes and 40 minutes for a spatchcocked chicken to cook in the oven, 12 to 18 minutes when pan-frying, and 10 to 15 minutes when boiling. The size of the bird also matters a lot. The smaller it is, the faster it will cook and vice versa. Regardless of how you cook a spatchcock chicken, make sure to give it enough rest before cutting into it.
Can I butterfly chicken thighs?
You can butterfly chicken thighs, but only when it's boneless. Once you debone the chicken bones, the process is the same as a chicken breast. The only difference is that you'll be working with a smaller piece of chicken as it's not as big as the breast.
How to cut a chicken in half with scissors?
Stick one hand on the insides of the chicken to hold it in place and insert the scissors.
When cutting a whole chicken with scissors, you'll want to make sure that you cut as close to the breastbone as possible. As it's very difficult to cut right at the center using scissors, try cutting along one side but as close to it as possible.
Once halve one side, flip the chicken and remove the spine by cutting along both sides.
Whether you spatchcock a whole chicken to halve it or cut right through the breastbone, it helps with one very crucial thing - reduce cooking time. Do this when you need to cook fast and evenly. For more kitchen tips and guides, read more on our blog.