Spatchcock Roast Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Herb Butter
Spatchcocking is a great way to reduce cooking time, and it lets you roast chicken on a cast-iron pan in an Ooni pizza oven. It’s a simple technique, but it’s also practical because it helps reduce cooking time by at least 25 percent while also resulting in an impressive presentation.
The method involves removing the bird’s backbone so that the chicken lays flat when cooked. Because the legs sit lower than the breast, they’re generally exposed to more heat from the sides of the pan and cook more quickly. The breasts — prone to drying out — cook more evenly and retain moisture.
My go-to flavouring for roasted chicken is garlic with fresh herbs and lemon. Something about cooking this dish outside with fire heightens the senses, elevates the flavours. And while you can cook with gas, I enjoy the fiery ambiance you get when you add lump wood charcoal to wood. The former helps maintain a constant temperature, while the wood adds a burst of flame and smoke for a little extra char and a smoky aroma.
Notes: In the summer, I enjoy serving this dish with a salad and Greek-style flatbreads. In the winter, spatchcock chicken goes beautifully with Make-Ahead Skillet-Baked Cheesy Potato Gratin and roasted veg.
Active time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
75 grams (⅓ cup) butter (room temperature)
24 grams (4 cloves) garlic, minced
large sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
large sprig of thyme, finely chopped
2 lemons, zested
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 whole free-range chicken (about 1.4 kilograms)
60 millilitres (5 tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil
Fire up your oven, aiming for a temperature between 200°C and 230°C (390°F to 450°F). I prefer using lump wood charcoal to help achieve a consistent temperature.
For the garlic butter:
Put the butter, garlic, herbs and lemon zest into a small mixing bowl. Use a plastic spatula to mix the flavoured butter until thoroughly combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To spatchcock the chicken:
Turn the chicken upside down with the legs facing you. Using a strong pair of kitchen shears, cut either side of the backbone. Stay as close to the spine as possible — you don’t want to lose any meat.
Discard the backbone (or reserve it to make a stock), flip the bird over and press down hard with your hands to flatten it.
To cook the chicken:
Thoroughly coat the surface of the bird with the flavoured butter. If you like, lift the skin away from the breast and work some butter underneath. You can also score the legs and thighs and make little pockets for the butter to help flavour the meat if you like!
Drizzle some olive oil onto a paper towel and lightly but evenly coat the cast-iron pan or Grizzler. Place the chicken in the centre, then surround it with halved lemons. Evenly drizzle the bird’s surface with the remaining olive oil, then season liberally with salt and pepper.
Once the oven reaches the desired temperature, place the bird inside.
Cook the chicken for 45 minutes, keeping an eye on it (and your fire and the oven temperature) regularly and turning it once every 10 minutes. At each turn, briefly remove the bird from the oven and use a spoon to baste it with any juices that have cooked off (this will help keep the chicken moist and distribute flavour from the garlic and herbs).
Use a digital probe thermometer to check that the chicken is thoroughly cooked. The thickest part of the breast should read at least 74°C (165°F), and the juices from the chicken should also run clear.
Once cooked, remove the chicken from the oven, squeeze the lemons (they should be charred and soft to touch) all over the bird, divide with a carving knife and dig in!