Spatchcocked Chicken “Under a Brick” Recipe

Sometimes you come across a disruptive recipe and your life changes forever. This is one such recipe.

It was recommended to me by a reader named Saudia, from Oregon, who answered my call for recipe suggestions to use my brand-new Lodge pan, a US-made cast-iron skillet that goes elegantly from stove to oven. I’d been coveting one for a long time without ever having room in my luggage to bring it back from my travels, but early this summer, I finally found out it was available in Europe.

Saudia pointed me to the recipe Mark Bittman had published in the New York Times in 1997 (so, yeah, nothing new), and when I went on a search for images of the finished results, I stumbled upon this more recent post by my friend Adam, who had merged Bittman’s recipe with Amanda Hesser’s. I mostly followed the instructions outlined by Adam, with a few minor modifications.

First, you spatchcock* your chicken, which sounds a lot more intimidating than it really is: all you need to do is cut the chicken on either side of the backbone — I use kitchen shears — then flip the chicken and press it down firmly so it lies flat. This allows the chicken to cook faster and more evenly. Here’s how you do it:

I’d done spatchcocking once before, inspired by an old Gwyneth Paltrow video, of all things, but the chicken had turned out pretty dry so I’d gone back to my standard recipes for whole chicken: Muriel’s chicken or, with a bit more time on my hands, salt-crusted chicken or chicken in a bread crust.

But this recipe introduces a clever trick: you start by placing the chicken, skin side down, in a hot and oiled skillet, and you use a weight of some kind — the traditional recipe uses a brick, hence the name of the recipe — to press it down into the pan so the skin will brown nicely. The whole thing is then transfered to a very hot oven, where the chicken will roast for 15 minutes with the weight still on, and 15 more minutes skin side up and weight off.

This creates a marvellously colored chicken with a crisp, crackly skin; perfectly cooked everything (including the breasts, which don’t dry out); and lots of delicious, garlic-infused cooking juices that drip into the skillet under the chicken and stay there without burning or evaporating. And all this in a mere 35 minutes! We’ve been so finger-licking impressed that the rôtisseries in our neighborhood might not see us quite so often.

For optimal flavor, the recipe also has you rub the chicken with olive oil, salt, dried herbs, and cumin (my own addition), and you should do this a little bit in advance, to allow the seasoning to be absorbed fully. For convenience, I like to spatchcock and rub the chicken the day before, and then keep it in the fridge until I’m ready to cook it the next day.

In terms of equipment, you do need a cast iron skillet — or any heavy skillet — that’s ovenproof, and large enough to fit your spatchcocked chicken. I use this 26-cm (10-inch) Lodge pan and a standard French chicken fits in nice and snug. You also need something to use as the weight: if you’re the kind of person who has ready access to loose bricks you’ll wrap one in foil, but failing that you can use a second cast-iron skillet or the lid of a Dutch oven. I use the lid from this adorable cocotte.

Join the conversation!

Have you ever spatchcocked a chicken? How did you cook it and how did you like the results?

* In French, a spatchcocked chicken is called by the cute term poulet en crapaudine, because the chicken is made to look a little bit like a toad, or crapaud. Croak, croak!

Spatchcocked Chicken

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Spatchcocked Chicken “Under a Brick”

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Serves 4.

Spatchcocked Chicken “Under a Brick”

Ingredients

  • 1 ready-to-cook organic chicken (or at least farm-raised), about 1.3 kg (3 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoons mixed dried herbs, such as Herbes de Provence (thyme, rosemary, oregano, savory, basil...)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed with the flat of the knife
  • Olive oil

Instructions

  1. Using sturdy kitchen shears, cut the chicken along both sides of the backbone. Flip the chicken to breast side up and press firmly to open fully. This is called spatchcocking a chicken and this video shows you the process.
  2. Set the backbone aside in the freezer for your next chicken stock.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the salt, herbs, cumin and 2 tablespoons olive oil, and apply on the entire skin surface of the chicken. (It's easiest to do this with your hands; wash them meticulously before and after.) If there is time, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or, better yet, overnight.
  4. Spatchcocked Chicken
  5. Preheat the oven to 260°C (450°F).
  6. Place a cast iron skillet (see details in the post above) over medium heat. When it is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles, pour in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the garlic and let it steep in the oil for 30 seconds.
  7. Push the garlic to the sides and place the chicken in the pan skin side down.
  8. Spatchcocked Chicken
  9. Place the weight of your choice (a brick, another pan, or a cast iron lid; see details in the post above) on the chicken and press firmly so the chicken skin is as much in contact with the pan as possible. Cook undisturbed for 5 minutes.
  10. Spatchcocked Chicken
  11. Protecting your hands with oven mitts (I love my Ove' Gloves), transfer the whole thing with great care (pan + weight + chicken = hot + heavy!) into the oven and roast for 15 minutes.
  12. Take the whole thing out (again, with great care), remove the weight and flip the chicken in the pan so it is now skin side up.
  13. Spatchcocked Chicken
  14. Return to the oven for 15 minutes (without the weight this time), until the chicken skin is nicely colored and the chicken is fully cooked. (If you have a food thermometer with a probe, insert it into the fleshy part of the thigh and check that it has reached 74°C/165°F.)
  15. Carve the chicken and serve with the juice and garlic cloves, and perhaps perfect mashed potatoes and green beans on the side.
https://cnz.to/recipes/meat-charcuterie/spatchcocked-chicken-under-a-brick-recipe/
  • The chicken looks amazing!!!!!! I actually have lots of bricks behind the house, the only problem would be the pan, I don’t have anything simillar to yours…. I have to get one!!

    • Ha! Do you also have an unfinished wall somewhere? :) The Lodge pan is a really good product, not too expensive and sturdy enough to last several lifetimes, I’m told.

      • :) We built an oven in the kitchen 2 years ago and there are still lots of bricks left…

  • NotJoking

    This has made me so hungry. I have the cast iron skillets, now just need to get a chicken. A shop near us has excellent chickens and I may do the shop before strictly needed!

  • Dylanthomasp

    We used to do this–flatten the chicken (didn’t know the correct term then)–and then put it on a hot grill on a sheet of foil, skin side down with a weight and cook usually used barbecue sauce instead of the garlic + olive oil. Works great if you have a grill that gets really hot and I love the smoky flavor. When the skin side is done, remove the foil, put the chicken right on the grill and finish cooking–you probably could still use the weight although I did not.

    • We’ve had spatchcocked chicken from a Portuguese barbecue restaurant here, and I agree — the grilled flavor is fabulous!

  • I’m honored you used my post for this! Looks like you did a smashing job. XO, Adam

  • have heard and seen so much about spatchcocked chicken, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. it will have to happen because the color on this chicken is very convincing.

  • thedinnerspecial

    Such a great idea to change up the usual roast chicken. Two new things learned today: spatchcocking and cooking chicken under a weight. Can’t wait to try!

  • kaye16

    I’ve done this very similar recipe twice now, and it’s currently tops on our list of ways to cook chicken:
    http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/grilled_spatchcocked_chicken_under_brick.html

    The flavorings are rubbed onto the flesh under the skin, rather than onto the skin itself.
    I’m not a big skin eater, but the bricked chicken has wonderfully crispy skin. There’s some kind of magic going on here!

    • I have done both on and under the skin, and for a dry seasoning (dried herbs and spices) I can’t say it makes much if a difference so I apply it on the skin as that’s quicker and less messy. However, with fresh herbs, such as the parsley in this recipe, spreading underneath the skin is necessary.

  • Kathy

    I love Mark Bittman’s approach to cooking. And….if you love this recipe…..you should try Jacques Pépin’s “Quick Roasted Chicken with Mustard & Garlic” http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/quick-roasted-chicken-with-mustard-and-garlic So quick and delicious !!!!

    • Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll try that cutting technique and mustard seasoning next time!

  • I spatchcocked a chicken last week and it was very good, but I think your method is better, so I’ll definitely try that. That pan looks wonderful. I have cooked quails en crapaudine, which is a really good way of preparing such a small bird, I stuffed them with fresh figs, sprinkled with herbs and wrapped in pancetta. Crapaudine is one of my favourite French words.

  • Meghan Mathieson

    I had been planning to roast a chicken for dinner tonight, and when I opened up your site and saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it. The only ingredient I was missing was a brick, until I remembered the pile of bricks in the stairwell of my building. I rubbed my chicken in sage, rosemary, thyme, and tumeric, and it turned out really well. It took a bit longer to cook because it was a biggish chicken, but it was moist and the skin was delicious!

    • I’m so pleased you enjoyed it, Meghan! Who knew those stairwell bricks would come in so handy? ;)

  • Stephanie_The_Recipe_Renovator

    I have been spatchcocking as my method of choice but have not yet tried the brick… you have inspired me!

  • Stephanie_The_Recipe_Renovator

    Just came out of the oven! 40 minutes for a 5 pound chicken and it looks AMAZING! Thanks!

  • Nadia Rohrs

    I love your newsletters! I look forward to them each month. I have spatchcocked many chickens (and other birds, try duck, or even a turkey!), either in my trusted cast iron pans (inherited from my grandmothers), or even on the grill. It is super easy and amazingly delicious. I also add lots of lemon juice to the marinade, as there’s nothing more delicious than lemon, garlic, and pan juices….ok, I know what I’m making for my GF tomorrow night! Thanks again!

    • I’m trying to picture the spatchcocked turkey and don’t see how it would ever fit into my oven, but I love the idea!

  • YesGrrrl

    Aaah, my mouth is watering, looking at this! I actually used a similar recipe and spatchcocked a chicken for the very first time last year, using David Liebowitz’s recipe for “Chicken Lady Chicken” in his book, My Paris Kitchen. It is based on the recipe of his favorite rotisserie market chicken.

    You split and marinate the chicken overnight, then it is cooked this same way shown above. It is ABSOLUTELY JUICY and delicious and the only drawback is that you cannot stop eating the crispy and flavorful skin. A bit of work (especially if like me, you have been used to buying already-roasted chickens at the supermarket), but the flavor does not compare. I have made it at least once a month since.

  • Nicholas Scull

    I have been spatchcocking and roasting chickens in a Lodge pan for years. My technique is similar to yours except I prep the chicken early afternoon and put it uncovered in the fridge to dry until I am ready. Then at dinner time I put the cold chicken, breast down, in a cold pan with a weight on it. I then turn the heat on and brown the the bird for about 8 minutes until it’s a beautiful golden brown. Then into a 425 degree oven for about another 18 minutes. THEN I flip it over and cook for another 5-8 minutes.

    Comes out perfectly cooked and very juicy. It is my most requested recipe! Yes, I use lots of rubbed spices on the cavity side. Adjust your cooking times according to size and type of chicken. Poulet Rouge takes less time.

    Tip: Don’t use too much salt or your pan sauce will be too salty.

  • NotJoking

    We’re having our turkey on Sunday as we don’t live in the US, and my husband’s birthday is the 30th. He loves turkey, pumpkin pie etc. even though he’s British. If I never saw a turkey again I would be happy. However, it’s his birthday so I’m doing a turkey. I’ve spatchcocked a chicken but never a turkey so will report back how it worked. The chicken was great, I put another cast iron skillet on top. This will be a small turkey, about 7 lbs., so shouldn’t be difficult.

    • How did it go?

      • NotJoking

        It was undoubtedly one of the best turkeys I’ve ever cooked. He was in heaven and even I, the non-turkey lover, found it very nice indeed. I had done a spatchcocked chicken before with the cast iron skillet on top but this time I cooked it in the oven without anything on top. I brined it for 24 hours, and it was perfectly cooked, no raw thighs and overcooked breast, and was moist and lovely. Cooked the dressing in a loaf pan, and put the veg under the turkey after first boiling the potatoes, onions and parsnips, then browned them in the oven while the turkey rested. Cabbage with bacon, pumpkin pie cooked with whiskey and walnuts, and roquefort. Smoked salmon with cava for an appetizer, and a French red (I can’t remember but it was from de Nimes) with the main course, and more cava with the pie. What more could a turkey loving boy desire? On a score of 9 our of 10, he gave it a 9.8. He said for it to get into the 9.9 or 10 percentile, it would have to have been served by dancing girls.

        • Thanks for the great report! And now you know what to do next year to improve. :D

  • Craig Carragan

    I have been making the “chicken under a brick” for years, we call it “Roadkill Chicken”. However, I do it on a gas grill. I set the temp to 400 degrees. Oil the chicken. Put it on the grill with legs toward the back (very important because the back of the grill is much hotter, and it allows the dark meat to cook to a higher temperature keeping the breast meat juicy). I usually cook a three and a half pound bird about 20 minutes with the breast side down, then remove the brick, flip it over and cook it for another ten to fifteen minutes until it reaches 175 in the thigh. If using the grill, be very careful that the flames do not flare up and burn the skin. In essence, watch your chicken like a hawk. 😉 It is absolutely delicious, and creates the most “chicken-y tasting chicken” you’ve ever had. It’s even better than doing it in the cast iron pan. Good luck

    • Thanks so much for walking us through your process, Craig. I’m sure the chicken is really good that way.

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