Butterflied roast chicken is better than cooking it whole

A chicken that’s been butterflied roasts and browns more evenly for a crispier skin.
(Hanna Carter / For The Times )

With so many of you having to stay home and cook for the first time — ever or more than you have in a long time — we get that it can be overwhelming to have to cook all your meals from scratch. So we’re here to get you started.

Each day we’re going to post a new skill here and go in detail about how to do it — a resource for cooking basics so you can get food on the table and get through this.

A series of simple tutorials for making some basic recipes at home.

Lesson 37: Butterflied Chicken


While roasting a whole chicken has its obvious advantages — hardly any prep, you just toss a chicken on a baking sheet with oil, salt and pepper and shove it in the oven until it’s done — the skin all around the bird never gets quite as crispy as you want. And in my household, a chicken without crispy skin, no matter how juicy and delicious the meat may be, is one not worth eating.

Spatchcocking — or as I prefer to call it, butterflying — the chicken allows for all the skin to be exposed to the high heat of the oven to crisp up well while the meat cooks through below. When I make one, I start the chicken skin side down in a hot sheet pan in the oven to render out some of the fat so when I flip it and continue roasting it, the skin gets extra crisp. It’s simply a better way to roast a chicken.

Third, in the essence of simplicity, I like to use lots of dried herbs and spices to flavor my butterflied chicken. Similar to a Memphis-style dry barbecue rub, I combine an arsenal of pantry seasonings — I guarantee you have all of these, but if not, just leave out what you don’t— and rub it all over the chicken. When I have the foresight, I let them dry onto the chicken in the fridge for a day, but I mostly rub them on the second before the chicken goes in the oven and the world keeps spinning.

And lastly, it’s almost Memorial Day weekend, and while this year’s holiday won’t look like it has in years past, here’s how to get your barbecue fix (see Variations in the recipe), no matter if you have an outdoor grill or just a tiny apartment oven like me. Once the chicken is almost finished cooking, start basting it with your favorite barbecue sauce — go for homemade if you want, but I stick with good ol’ Sweet Baby Ray’s — and let it bake onto the crisp skin for a shiny, finger-lickin’ glaze. It’s an appeal that’s easy for everyone to understand.

Dry Spice Butterflied Chicken

Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Yields Serves 4