Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spatchcocked Chicken


     I have successfully cooked small chickens and game hens in my deep oven, however, in spite of those lovely, juicy birds I have yet to produce a browned, crispy skin, until today.  After a little research I decided to spatchcock a small chicken and try a new approach to cooking it in my dutch oven.  This is less of a recipe than a technique that might lead you to roasting rather than braising the poultry in your camp oven. 
     The easiest way to spatchcock your chicken is to remove the backbone by cutting down each side of the sternum with a pair of kitchen shears.  If you have any doubts, it's the bone that is attached to the chicken's tail.  It really couldn't be easier.  Once you've done that, press down hard on the inside of the bird and flatten the breast against your cutting board or large platter. 
     The next step is to rinse and dry your chicken well then season it with whatever you like, I used garlic powder, lemon pepper and a sprinkling of dried rosemary.
     Pour a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into the bottom of your dutch oven, a 12 inch oven is about the smallest you can use to hold a flattened chicken.  Place it over a generous amount of glowing coals, your goal is to get your oven as hot as you possibly can in order to sear the skin of the bird.
     Place your chicken, breast side down into the hot oil (you should hear it sizzle) and leave it there, without turning, for a good 15 minutes.  You want to really brown the skin.  The hotter the oil the better.
     If you have one, flip the chicken over and place it on a rack in your oven.  You need to elevate it as close to the lid as you possibly can without touching the cover.  I am fortunate to have a nice Camp Chef trivet which works like a charm.  If you don't have one, just place the chicken on top of some potatoes and carrots or whatever vegetables you choose to scatter in the bottom of your oven.
     Once the chicken is on the rack, place the lid on and completely cover it with coals.  Try to get your oven to 450 degrees. Leave it there for at least 45 minutes.  You can take a peek just to make sure your chicken is not burning.  I cooked my chicken for a good hour but I was erring on the side of caution and wanted to make sure the thigh meat was completely done.  I also added 6 or 7 freshly lit coals during the last 15 minutes of cooking time to give it one more shot of heat.
     These photos may not show the prettiest chicken you'll ever see but it will give you an idea of how you can actually enjoy a crispy, crunchy skin on your next dutch oven roasted chicken. 


Sear your chicken in hot oil, breast side down, for 15 minutes

Roasting chicken on a rack under a hot lid will crisp the skin and brown the bird

The end result

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