Spatchcocked Chicken (Healthy Eating Made Simple)

Gluten-free Roasted Chicken Recipe

Before we get to Alta’s post – congrats to our iHerb.com Baking Gift Basket Give-Away winners: Tiffany V. and Tammy B.!

Healthy eating and simple can co-exist.

Really.

Healthy eating doesn’t have to mean hours of cooking. It doesn’t have to mean hours of planning, either. A great many of us can eat pretty well when everything goes right and we set our minds to it. But then life gets in the way. The kids have after-school functions. You have to work late. There are errands to run, the house needs cleaning, or it’s just plain stressful trying to fit in an hour or more in the gym, plus an hour to cook dinner every. single. night. And stressing about getting healthy isn’t healthy!

It CAN be easier. I promise.

It starts with stocking up.

Having a well-stocked pantry, fridge, and freezer can help even those who are very much against planning meals in advance. If you always have key ingredients, you can wander into your kitchen, and wonder “what’s for dinner?” and grab a few items and be cooking in no time.

Here is a small list of things I always have on hand in my kitchen:

  • Dairy-free milk (usually coconut milk)
  • Eggs
  • A variety of gluten-free flours
  • Sweeteners, such as honey, coconut palm sugar, turbinado sugar
  • Rice
  • Tomato paste and canned tomatoes
  • Salsa
  • Lemons and limes
  • Tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
  • Olive oil, coconut oil
  • Vinegars, such as balsamic and red wine vinegar
  • A myriad of spices (I probably own more spices than most reasonable people, but I love them – spices can make things interesting!)
  • Nuts (cashews, almonds, etc.)
  • Frozen vegetables (peas, spinach)
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Celery
  • Ginger
  • Frozen or canned pumpkin/squash puree
  • Frozen meats – often whole free-range chickens and grass-fed ground beef, but many times, frozen shrimp and salmon
  • Canned tuna and sardines
  • Potatoes and/or sweet potatoes
  • Greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard, etc. – frozen or fresh)
  • Frozen homemade chicken stock (of course, canned is fine too)

With these items, I can make a LOT of meals. I can make a chicken soup using a whole chicken, and simmer it with broth, onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. I can bake sweet potatoes and serve them with frozen veggies and salmon. I can make burger patties and serve them with sauteed spinach and a side of rice. When I have leftover cooked rice, I love to make fried rice – just toss in a scrambled egg or two, some garlic, ginger, onion, chopped carrots and peas, and season with tamari, and it’s done! One of my favorite meals during the week, however, is so easy to prepare that it appears on our “menu” almost weekly – roast chicken.

In order to roast a whole chicken in a reasonable amount of time during the week, I “spatchcock” it. To do this, I cut on either side of the backbone to remove it, and basically flatten out the chicken. Spatchcocking is a beautiful thing. If you’ve ever lamented that roasting a whole chicken causes the breasts to dry out before the dark meat is done, that it takes too long, or that it’s flavorless, try spatchcocking it. It will roast in a fraction of the time, and because the breasts are in the center, it will take longer for the heat of the oven to reach them, allowing ample time for the legs and thighs to complete their transition into tender, tasty morsels.

The result is a delicious chicken with no brining, marinating, trussing, or any annoying and fussy steps, many of which require advance planning. My version involves cutting out the backbone (which I freeze to make chicken stock), rubbing down the chicken with spices, and throwing it in the oven. Done.

I might throw some potatoes or sweet potatoes in the oven at the same time to bake, and then I have some time to focus on other tasks while dinner is cooking. When the chicken is done and resting, I can steam some veggies (either pulling from my frozen supply, or if I did make it to the store, I’ll steam broccoli or something easy). The meal is unprocessed, healthy, and stress-free. An added bonus? It’s one of my husband’s favorite meals. (Mine too.)

One more thing. Leftovers can make your next meal easier, too. Just chop leftover chicken for chicken salad, tacos, enchiladas, or even throw into scrambled eggs (yes, really – it’s delicious!). This makes roasting a chicken really worth it, in my opinion.

Season the chicken with whatever you like. My favorite spice blend is a Sambhar Masala spice blend that I purchase from a local vendor here in Dallas. Just for you, however, I opted to make a version of this spice blend from scratch. You can opt for an entirely different flavor each time you roast the chicken – talk about variety!

Spatchcocked Chicken

1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs)
1 tablespoon masala spice blend, recipe below (or any spice blend you like)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (omit if your spice blend contains salt)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the spice blend and salt. Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut on either side of the backbone, through the ribs, to remove the backbone completely. Pat the chicken dry, and rub the chicken all over with the spices (I like to even rub a little underneath the skin to increase flavor). You don’t have to use it all – just season the chicken well. Place it in a roasting pan or a cast iron skillet and press on the breastbone to flatten out the chicken.

Place the chicken in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and continue to roast for 45-55 minutes or until juices run clear when thigh is pricked (and meat near thigh bone is no longer pink – about 165 degrees.) Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes, then carve and serve.

Masala Spice Blend

2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
20 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoons ground cayenne pepper
8 curry leaves, minced

Heat a skillet to medium heat. Add coriander seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, caraway seeds, and peppercorns to skillet. Allow to toast until fragrant, stirring once or twice, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and place in a spice grinder (I use a coffee grinder – works great!) or mortar and pestle and grind until no large pieces remain. Stir together with remaining spices. Refrigerate unused portion in a jar for up to two weeks.

Alta Mantsch is the author of Tasty Eats At Home, a food blog dedicated to tasty gluten and dairy-free recipes, foods, and living, and is a Community Leader at the Udi’s Gluten Free Living Community Forum.

23 Responses to Spatchcocked Chicken (Healthy Eating Made Simple)

  • I LOVE spatchcocked chicken and turkey. They are so easy and fast to cook. I really love your spice mix and how you start with whole spices. The best!

    [Reply]

    Alta Mantsch Reply:

    @Diane Eblin-thewholegang, Thanks, Diane! I have actually never spatchcocked a turkey (for some reason, I’m stuck on my same brining technique) but I can imagine it’s amazing!

    [Reply]

  • I’m not familiar with this technique, but it looks fairly easy and results in a delicious, crisp looking chicken!

    [Reply]

    Alta Mantsch Reply:

    @Ellen (Gluten Free Diva), Try it sometime, Ellen, I bet you’ll love it!

    [Reply]

  • Ohhh, I love that word. “Spatchcock” cooking! That’s a new one for me. I couldn’t agree more that eating a healthy diet does not have to be difficult. In fact, it’s easy once you get the hang of it and have an adequately stocked refrigerator. Anything with garam masala type spices is a winner in my book. Just the smell is intoxicating. This looks wonderful and I’m thrilled to learn a new cooking technique. Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Alta Mantsch Reply:

    @Melissa @ Gluten Free For Good, I’m addicted to various masalas and warming spices like this. It’s like they soothe the soul. And if you find a lovely pastured chicken, a bit of those spices, spatchcocking the bird, and some time in the oven produce the most flavorful chicken. Thank you!

    [Reply]

  • This is such a good idea for roasting chicken! I’ll be trying it soon! Does the underside get a little more done this way than with a regular, unstuffed roast chicken? My husband would like that a lot.

    [Reply]

    Alta Mantsch Reply:

    @Pat @ Elegantly, Gluten-Free, Pat – I don’t think it gets MORE done, per se, but you don’t have that problem where the insides of the chicken (or namely, the thigh bones) are still pink when the rest is done, so I imagine they do get more done in that respect? If you use a cast iron skillet instead of a raised roasting pan with a rack, then the underside will also have the benefit of cooking in the juices, rendering it even more flavorful!

    [Reply]

  • Kim Maes says:

    Haha! I was just going to comment that Diane LOVES spatchcocked chicken (in fact, she is the one who even told me about it) and she ended up being the first to comment! I love this post and all of your ideas to keep a stocked kitchen to be able to whip anything up. I have a similar method and can always manage to come up with something!! :) I will be making this recipe for sure, now that you AND Diane swear by this method!

    [Reply]

    Alta Mantsch Reply:

    @Kim Maes, Kim, you should try it! Come on over to the dark side! LOL

    [Reply]

  • Elizabeth says:

    I have a frozen butterflied (sounds prettier) bird in my freezer right now.

    Don’t be afraid to spatchcock your thanksgiving turkey as well. I had a great juicy 16lb bird on the table in about 45 minutes.

    [Reply]

    Alta Mantsch Reply:

    @Elizabeth, Did you butterfly/spatchcock it yourself before it was frozen or did you purchase it that way?

    [Reply]

    Elizabeth Reply:

    @Alta Mantsch,

    I butterflied it myself. I like to buy two or three chickens at a time, butterfly the ones I’m not cooking and throw them in the freezer in a freezer bag. That way they are easy to marinate while you defrost them in the bag. Also they defrost faster.

    I really can’t cook chicken any other way.

    [Reply]

    Alta Mantsch Reply:

    @Elizabeth, That sounds like a great idea. My only issue is that most of the chickens I buy are frozen when I buy them (don’t know how it is in other states, but if you’re buying from local small farms here, they have to sell you the meat frozen.) I could totally see the convenience doing that little bit of prep when you get home from the store though! Great idea!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Oops didn’t read the comments. You can spatchcock and brine, you know. I plan to do that next year.

    [Reply]

  • That chicken looks incredible! I want it. Now. Roasted chicken is one of my very favorite things and I’ve been wanting to try the spatchcock method since Diane raved over it. Love that seasoning blend, too. Oh, and you know I’m a pantry meal gal. I could not live without my pantry, and I love just coming up with meals as my mood warrants. ;-) Thank you this post, Alta!

    Shirley

    [Reply]

    Alta Mantsch Reply:

    @Shirley @ gfe, You’ve got to try it, Shirley! I love roasted chicken – we rarely have the American standby “boneless, skinless” breasts in our house anymore. I am much more apt to just buy whole chickens (it’s cheaper, and when buying from local organic farms, that’s important – I can buy pastured whole chickens for the price of industrial chicken breasts). So much more flavor!

    [Reply]

  • Tiffany V says:

    I’m so excited for the gift basket!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Will I be receiving it in the mail??

    [Reply]

  • I love cooking chicken and turkey with this method! The spice blend sounds amazing and the chicken looks incredible!

    [Reply]

    Alta Mantsch Reply:

    @Sarena (The Non-Dairy Queen), Thanks!

    [Reply]

  • Tammy Bybee says:

    I won the gift basket?! How do I receive it? I am so excited, I’ve never won anything lime this before. Thank you so much!
    Tammy B

    [Reply]

  • The masala spice blend sounds so lovely. I have hear of spatchcocked but have never tried it. It sounds easy enough. Thanks for the how to!

    [Reply]

  • What a great post! I too believe that healthy eating can be easy, especially once you get into the routine of it. I teach a lot of educational/cooking classes and people are always surprised about is how easy healthy eating can actually be.

    I do the same thing you do and keep a well stocked kitchen, so I don’t really have to do alot of menu planning. It allows me to be more spontaneous!

    I’ve never tried to cook a chicken like that….will have to give it a try. Thanks!

    [Reply]

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