How to Butterfly a Chicken

by Contributor

Items you will need

  • Heavy scissors, or poultry shears
  • Boning knife

Whole chickens make a wonderful impression as the centerpiece of a meal, but roasting the bird in its natural state takes time. You can speed the process by butterflying the chicken, a technique known to chefs as "spatchcocking." The flattened bird roasts quickly and evenly, and can even be grilled on your backyard barbecue.

Step 1

Place the whole chicken breast side down on your cutting board. The backbone is now on top, forming a narrow strip running from the chicken's neck to its tail.

Step 2

Hold the chicken firmly by one side of its body cavity, and line up your scissors or poultry shears with the relatively thin area where the backbone meets its ribs. Cut along both sides from tail to neck, then pull out the backbone.

Step 3

Place the tip of a boning knife or other stiff, sharp knife in the middle of the breastbone, and cut partway through the bone. Only cut to about 1/4-inch depth, or you might accidentally cut right through to the skin.

Step 4

Grasp the chicken firmly be each side, with your fingers placed under the middle of the breast. Bend the sides outward, until the breastbone cracks and the bird's sides can be laid flat.

Step 5

Run a finger or the tip of your knife along either side of the breastbone, if you wish, and carefully pull it away from the chicken's flesh. This step is optional, but makes it easier to portion the bird after it's cooked. Cut away the wingtips, or fold them backward and tuck them underneath the chicken's "shoulders." The chicken is now butterflied, and ready to season and cook.


  • Your hands, knife and work surfaces should be scrupulously cleaned with hot, soapy water both before and after working with raw chicken.

Photo Credits

  • Pamela Follett/Demand Media

About the Author

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