Spatchcocking Chicken

Autumn is a wonderful time to keep your grill in rotation in Door County because grilled chicken – paired with all the fall bounty that you can find at the farmers markets – equals happy bellies and satisfied guests.

I was raised in a home with a mom who baked lots of chicken and smashed lots of potatoes. I close my eyes and can still smell the baked-chicken aroma to this day. This time of year gets me all nostalgic and teary eyed when it comes to food. During these fall months – ramping up to the snowy cold – my body craves old-fashioned, stick-to-my-ribs cooking.

But before we get to the recipe, close your eyes, take a deep breath and picture Sean Connery. Channel his voice in your mind. When you can see and hear him, open your eyes and say out loud – in the best Sean Connery accent you can muster – “Spatchcock!”

To spatchcock is to butterfly a bird – in this instance, a chicken. You remove the backbone, open the bird and flatten it by applying pressure until you feel its bones crunch. I know that sounds a bit gruesome, but the goal is to flatten the bird as evenly as you can.

When grilling or baking a chicken, this preparation will cut down significantly on the cooking time. The grilling time for an average-sized chicken is less than an hour, so you can pull this off even on a weeknight! 

Spatchcocking a bird also allows it to cook evenly and provides a flat surface for a thorough dry rub or for brushing on sauce throughout the cooking process. I keep it simple, though: a drizzle of olive oil, plus generous salt and pepper. The finished product is moist, juicy and really delicious, and grilled chicken is the perfect accompaniment to the local fall treasures of roasted root vegetables and mashed potatoes. 

The cooking time will work out great if, while the chicken is on the grill, you start preparing the carrots and potatoes. 

And before I dive into this special plate of food, I’m deliberate about checking in with my dinner mates because once I start eating, I don’t really look up until it’s gone. This meal brings me joy and happiness!


I use a traditional Weber grill. I prepare the briskets/coals and then spread them to the sides of the grill so the heat is indirect for the meat and other items. If you have a gas grill, heat it to 375˚ F.

When processing raw chicken, I line all my sheet pans with parchment paper to alleviate germ spread and ensure easier clean-up later.

Photo by Brett Kosmider
Grilled Spatchcock Chicken 
4 servings

1 whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel
Olive oil for coating the bird
Kosher salt
Coarsely ground black pepper 

Using kitchen shears or scissors, cut the chicken down the side of the backbone. Spread the bird open and lay the breast on the parchment-covered sheet pan. Using both hands, press down hard on the chicken to flatten it. (Yes, you will feel the crunch.) 

Drizzle with olive oil, and using your hands or a basting brush, spread the oil around to coat the whole bird. Cover it with a generous sprinkle of Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper.

When the coals are ready, place the bird on the grill, breast up. Throw out the parchment paper, sanitize the sheet pan and cover it with fresh parchment paper in time to remove the bird from the grill.

Cook the chicken for approximately 45 minutes or until the meat thermometer reads 165˚ F. I keep a close eye on the chicken and turn it every 10-15 minutes. 

To serve, you can easily remove the breast meat and quarter off the dark meat, making four servings. 
Garlic Mashed Potatoes 
4 servings

2-3 lbs small golden potatoes, with skins on and rinsed
1 stick of butter
2 cloves of roasted garlic, with the peel removed (See the recipe below)

Fill a large saucepan with water and ½ tsp (large pinch) of salt. Add the potatoes, and bring the water to a boil. Boil the potatoes in a gentle roll for 15-20 minutes or until fork tender. Drain the potatoes, reserving a cup of the starch water, and place the potatoes back in the saucepan. 

Add 4 Tbsp of butter and the roasted garlic to the potatoes, and mash them until smooth. There’s no such thing as too much butter, so add more butter 1 Tbsp at a time, alternating with 1 Tbsp of the starch water, until you reach your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Cover the potato pan and set it aside until it’s time to plate the food. Add a nice, big scoop to each plate when serving.

Roasted Garlic
Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.

3-4 individual cloves of garlic, with the peel on
Olive oil

Place the garlic in a small Pyrex dish and cover with olive oil. Place the dish in the oven on a sheet pan to catch any spills. Roast for 15-30 minutes. The longer you roast, the more depth of flavor you’ll achieve.
Photo by Brett Kosmider
Roasted Carrots and Capellini Onions with Fried Sage and Toasted Pecans
4 servings 

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 lbs rainbow carrots (the freshest you can find), cut lengthwise into ½-inch or ¼-inch strips
1 bunch or pint of Capellini onions, with the greens on, cut in half and then in half again
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
Splash of white wine
1 tsp turbinado sugar
1 cup raw pecans, chopped
Bunch of fresh sage leaves, stems removed
¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled
Balsamic glaze

Bring a medium/large cast-iron pan – or other oven-proof sauté pan – to medium-high heat, and add 1 Tbsp olive oil. 

When the oil is hot, add the carrots. The goal is to brown the edges without burning the carrots. Toss them around with a wooden spoon so they don’t burn or stick to the pan. Cook the carrots on high heat for about 5 minutes. 

Add the onions, 2 Tbsp unsalted butter and a sprinkle of salt. Once the butter is melted, add the splash of white wine. Place the pan in the oven, and roast the carrots and onions for about 15 minutes. About half way through the roasting process, pull the carrots and onions from the oven, stir them up and sprinkle them with the turbinado sugar. Finish roasting.

While the carrots are roasting, heat a smaller sauté pan to medium-high heat. Toast the pecans in the dry pan, stirring often. This process takes fewer than five minutes, and you will smell them when they’re toasted through. Put the pecans in a bowl and set aside.

Using the same sauté pan, add 1 Tbsp of butter, and heat until melted. Add the sage leaves. This is a very aromatic process. The sage sizzles as it’s frying, and it takes only a minute, so don’t walk away. Remove the sage from the butter and set it on a small plate. Repeat until all the sage is fried.

In a big bowl, add the carrot-and-onion mixture, and toss in the toasted pecans and feta cheese. Add salt and pepper.

Place the carrots and onions on the plates with the chicken and mashed potatoes, and finish the carrots by adding three or four fried sage leaves per plate and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.