Yes, you can make a roast chicken on a weeknight. In under an hour. Introducing the spatchcocked chicken (terrible name, incredibly delicious results). A spatchcocked chicken is simply a chicken that’s had its backbone cut out. This is really easy to do yourself—you can see step-by-step how to do it here (from my Chicken Under a Rock post a couple of years ago—similar results, but the chicken is cooked on the grill). Or, you can expedite things and ask your butcher to cut the backbone out for you. The flattened chicken gets seasoned any which way you want, then browned on the stovetop and finished in the oven. The increased surface area means more crispy skin, and a much faster cooking time—we’re talking 5 minutes on the stove and 20-30 minutes in the oven. The result, my friends, is the chicken of your dreams—juicy, tender and beautifully browned.
I’m a big proponent of eating dinner as a family, but, while we adore our three-month-old, we’ve decided that her “witching hour” screams don’t count as suitable dinnertime conversation. We’ve therefore adjusted our schedule so that we now eat with Ella after Juniper goes to bed. A few evenings ago, however, Ella was exhausted, and, with her consent (and the lure of fried eggs for dinner), we put her to bed early with Juniper. I had slathered a simple spice rub of ground cumin, ground fennel seed, minced rosemary, minced garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil under the skin of a spatchcocked chicken, which I quickly browned on the stovetop then threw in the oven before heading upstairs to read Ella her bedtime book. By the time her teeth were brushed and Fancy Nancy was finished, the chicken was perfectly roasted. James poured me a glass of wine, lit some candles, and we sat alone at the dining room table. No babies, no five-year-olds, just us. It was the best damn chicken I’ve ever had. Ok, that’s most likely because it was the first time in months that I didn’t have to scarf my food to appease a crying newborn or shuffle a preschooler to bed. A new tradition has officially been born—date night dinner. Sorry kids, this one’s a keeper.
Roast Chicken in Under an Hour
- 1 3 ¼ - 3 ½ pound chicken
- Spice rub or spices/herbs of your choice (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 450˚F.
If it hasn’t been done for you, first cut out the backbone of the chicken. Place the bird breast side down on a cutting board. Using a sharp pair of kitchen shears, cut along one side of the backbone, then along the other side to remove it completely (you can discard the backbone or freeze it for stock down the line). Turn the chicken breast side up and press down on the breast to flatten it. Next, tuck the wings under the breast. If you’re using a spice rub, now’s the time to rub it under the skin. Season the chicken with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Let the chicken sit at room temperature for a few minutes to come to room temperature. Do Ahead: The chicken can be spatchcocked and seasoned up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before proceeding. By the way, a whole chicken can safely sit out at room temperature for up to 2 hours.
Heat 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable in a heat-proof heavy-bottomed skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. There should be just enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan (if you’re using a stainless steel pan, opt for closer to 2 tablespoons of oil to prevent the skin from sticking). Once the oil is shimmering, place the chicken in the pan, breast side down. Let the chicken cook, undisturbed, for 4-6 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown and releases easily from the bottom of the pan. Flip the chicken over so that it’s breast side up, then slide the whole pan into the oven. Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear (the internal temperature of the thigh should read 165-170˚F). If the skin starts getting too dark before the chicken is cooked through, tent it with foil. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, and let it cool for 10 minutes before carving. Serve the chicken with a drizzle of the pan juices, if you’d like.