How to spatchcock a chicken, and a recipe for honey-roasted Cornish game hen

Spatchcocking a chicken allows the bird to be flattened allowing the meat to cook more quickly and thoroughly. Don't be intimidated by the name, with this step-by-step guide you can easily master this kitchen skill and have your honey-glazed Cornish game hen roasting in no time.

A Palatable Pastime
A spatchcocked game hen baked with honey and rotisserie seasonings.

Spatchcocking a chicken really isn’t a difficult thing to do, and I think this recipe is advanced only because many people aren’t familiar with the technique. All it really takes is a pair of kitchen shears and a few minutes. 

Start with a whole chicken on a cutting board. You don’t need to rinse it yet unless it is really nasty- because you will rinse it later.

Flip it over and get out your kitchen shears.

Using the shears, cut along the backbone, beginning at one side of the tail.

Cut all the way through to the neck

Cut along the backbone again, just on the other side.

Remove the backbone, and save it in your freezer until you have enough bones to make chicken stock.

Flip the chicken back over and spread it open like a cookbook.

Use the palm of your hand to press down on the breastbone until it flattens.

When finished, your chicken should be able to lie perfectly flat.

All above photos: A Palatable Pastime

You can do this with any type of bird, even a full size turkey, although like the difference between cutting paper with scissors, and cutting cardboard, the backbone of a turkey is a bit bigger and takes slightly more effort to cut through. But it is something that can be done in a few minutes while the bird is in your sink or basin being rinsed off.

Be sure to save the backbone (I collect bones in a freezer bag) to make chicken or turkey stock later with the addition of water, and a few aromatics, such as carrot, celery, onion, and bay or thyme. Simmer for a few hours to extract all the goodness, then strain out the solids for excellent homemade stock. You can use bones from roasted poultry, or use raw ones and bake them to get a deeper flavor when you make your stock, but it is not totally necessary. You will get good stock either way. It all depends how much time you want to invest.

This recipe is quite flexible. I've written it for one bird, increase spice mixture to accommodate extra birds. 

Honey roasted Cornish game hen
Serves 1-2 

1 22-ounce Rock Cornish game hen, spatchcocked (reserve back piece for making chicken broth)
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/8 teaspoon dried sage
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon olive oil 

Honey glaze

3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Spatchcock the hen.

3. Place hen in a baking pan and rub liberally with spice mixture.

4. Drizzle with olive oil and bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.

5. Mix honey glaze.

6. Take bird out of oven and brush with glaze, then return to oven for 30 minutes more or until cooked to 165 degrees F., on an instant read thermometer, basting once or twice.

Related post on A Palatable Pastime: Jerk Chicken

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