Choose Your Own Adventure Spatchcock Roasted Chicken

The zombie apocalypse is upon us.

Ok, no it’s not, but I know it feels that way. As I write this I’m sheltered in place due to the coronavirus in Oakland, California. It’s a weird mix of mundane and surreal here. On the one hand, people are still trying to get exercise outside, mostly doing their best to stay spread apart. Try to a grocery store, though, and you realize that things are getting real, really fast.

Take a second and breathe. (Talking to myself here, just as much as to you.) Now is the time to nourish and take care of ourselves. Take time and share a good meal with those you’re with. If you can give the people you love a good meal, that’s a huge first step. Gathering up all your Home Ec skillz is also a good thing at a time like this. I can’t think of any dinner option that checks all the boxes the way a roasted chicken does.

I love a roast chicken in the best of times. It makes and beautiful centerpiece when you have guests over . . . not that we’re doing that anytime soon of course. It’s also super comforting when you need soothing. I find it’s one of the first dishes I go to when times are hard. It’s delicious, easily customized to whatever you have, and if you know how to stretch it, it will yield many meals and just keep on giving. There are also a million and one ways to vary it up.

Spatchcock roast chicken with mushrooms and baby spinach paired with Domaine Antonin Guyon Pernand-Vergeles. I made this the other day when I needed a pick-me-up and opened this baller bottle of white Burgundy as a treat. I added the mushrooms halfway through the cooking process, then added and the wilted the spinach while the chicken rested. The wine was crisp, citrusy, and minerally with a little texture from lees contact.
Everyone should know how to roast a chicken. (Ok, Vegetarians get a pass.)

Now that times are tough, I thought I’d update you on my favorite way to roast a chicken – it’s essentially a tweaked version of this recipe I shared a while ago on WineSpectator.com. (You can find my previous favorite method here.) These days, spatchcocking is my go-to method for preparing a chicken, which means that you remove the backbone before cooking. This technique might seem intimidating at first, but it quickly gets really easy after you’ve done it once or twice. And once you’re comfortable with spatchcocking, it will save you a lot of time since spatchcocked poultry cooks faster and more evenly.

My goal in this post is to give you a general blueprint for how to spathcock and roast a beautiful bird, give you ideas for how to switch it up, and share ideas for how to make the most of every last bit of that chicken. I'll also share wine pairing suggestions so you can make yourself a beautiful, comforting dinner in with whatever you have on hand.

Za’atar Spatchcocked Chicken with Roasted Vegetables as shared on WineSpectator.com.

Here’s a video from BBC's Good Food. (There are lots of good videos out there, but this one is short and I enjoy a British accent.)

The next technique that has really upped my chicken game is dry brining. When you get down to it, all this involves is throwing a bunch of salt or brine mixture (I've been using this one from Oaktown Spice Shop) on your chicken and then leaving alone to do its thing for at least an hour, but ideally overnight. This article from Bon Apppétit gives you the full rundown on why this works wonders, but essentially it makes the skin crispier, the meat juicier, and I personally think it makes it harder to overcook the bird.

Spatchcock roast chicken with herbs tucked under the skin.

The final secret is butter, because it’s butter and it’s magic. I just slip some underneath the skin with some herbs and its works it’s delicious better magic. If you have a bit of extra time, chop the herbs up in advance and mix it with softened butter to create a compound butter evenly distributes the herb flavors. However, more often than not I just tuck sprigs of herbs under the skin. Thyme, rosemary, and sage all hold up nicely to the long cooking time. Or, if you’re in the mood for a particular flavor profile though, pick a few spices and mix them in with the butter or sprinkle them on top of the chicken. Customization is that simple.

Roasted chicken with Panzanella With Winter Squash and Sagewe paired this with a beautiful sparkling rosé from Schramsberg.

All of the yummy, buttery, herby juices drip down off of the chicken and into the pan. Tuck a few slices of lemon under the chicken in the pan for a hint of citrus flavor. These juices are gold and should not be wasted. Option one is to use the juices to create a pan sauce or add veggies into the pan to roast with the chicken. Here’s another area where you can choose your own adventure. Use whatever is in season or what you have on hand. Throw in hardier veggies like root vegetables at the start of cooking, and toss halfway through. Softer veggies like mushrooms require less time, so throw them in at around the twenty to thirty-minute mark and stir them after about fifteen minutes. Adding a splash of wine adds flavor and helps keep veggies from sticking.

Roasted chicken with roasted radishes and braised radish green with a side of orzo and topped with a pan sauce. This pan sauce is described in this previous roast chicken recipe.
As I mentioned before, beyond making a delicious, comforting dinner on the first night, the added bonus of a roast chicken is that you can use the leftovers a million different ways. We’re dark-meat people, so we typically enjoy the leg quarters the first night. Afterward, I shred the remaining meat to use in all different kinds of ways – salads, pasta, risotto, quesadillas, enchiladas, sandwiches, the list goes on and on. Here are posts with lots of ideas:

Za'atar Roast Chicken 8&20, Leftover Makeovers, and a Bonus Wine 
8 & $20: Crispy Polenta with Chicken and Vegetable Sauté

8 & $20: Saffron-Tomato Chicken Croquetas

I’ll be adding more soon as well!

Butternut squash faro risotto topped with shredded roasted chicken, mushrooms, and Parmesan paired with a lovely Prosecco Superiore DOCG from Perlage. I picked up this bottle at the winery in Italy.

Don’t toss the skin or the bones either. I think everyone knows how delicious skin when it’s all crispy and brown when the chicken has just come out of the oven. It doesn’t seem as exciting when you return to the leftovers a day or two later. At that point, I just peel off the skin and lay it out on a baking sheet and crisp it up in the toaster oven or oven at 350°F. Once it’s all crispy, we crumble it up to add texture to different dishes. It makes a really fun alternative to croutons on salads.

Spatchock roasted chicken with potatoes and leeks and simple spinach side salad. I served this for a dinner party with a friends shortly before our shutdown began. Holding onto these happy memories.

And there are the bones! Bone broth has been all the rage for the last few years, and it’s quite easy to make for yourself. At some point, I’ll do a separate post on this, but basically it’s as easy as boiling the bones.

Wine Pairings

I served these wines at the dinner party described in the photo above. The Paula Kornell Sparkling (sample) was our apéritif. The Louis Latous Chardonnay from the Ardèche region of France was a lovely classic choice, while the Tenuta di Fessina Erse Etna Bianco (a Carricante-based blend, sample) was fun off-the-beaten-path choice with hints of herbs and flint.

When it comes to wine pairings with roasted chicken, the selection is about almost everything except the chicken itself. The only thing to consider with the chicken itself is that poultry,  as well as other light meats like pork tenderloin, don’t really do well with wines with intense tannins, so generally speaking, this isn’t the time to bust out your biggest, boldest reds. Beyond that one rule of thumb, it’s actually better to base your choice around the seasoning, sauce (if there is one), and the sides.

This Castillo Monjardin El Cerezo Chardonnay 2016 from Navarra, Spain, is unoaked but had round, ripe flavors that worked beautifully with a spatchcocked root chicken with roast vegetables.

Personally, I see few stronger cases in favor of an oaked Chardonnay than a roast chicken with root veggies. (Lobster or crab with butter sauce is the other scenario where these wines shine strongest in my view. ) Buttery notes often found in these wines, mirror the buttery, toasty skin. The also often usually have notes of sweet baking spices, and they work beautifully with sweeter root veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots, and parsnips, as well as sweet squashes like butternut and acorn. If you can’t stand oaked Chard, many unoaked versions still have the body to complement the chicken nicely. Pinot Bianco makes a great alternative as it has a similar texture and isn’t usually oaky.

Castelfeder Vom Stein Pinot Bianco from Alto Adige in Italy made a lovely match with another roast chicken and root veggies and simple salad and cheese. I wrote about this wine in this post on the SommsTable.com.

If your chicken is herby and lemony and served with lots of green veggies, grab a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, or any number of white wines that reflect that flavor profile beautifully. I think many Italian white, in particular, tend to do well here – Soave Classico, Verdicchio, Vermentino, and Sicilian whites in general are just a few to look for. Albariño is another personal favorite.

A zestier roast chicken with more spices and salsa verde with roasted radishes and cherry tomatoes, along with a salad of arugula and parsley, plus a twice-baked potato.
I love Albariño! This one from Pazo Pondal in Rías Baixas, Spain made a refreshing pairing with spiced chicken. (I believe this bottle was a sample.)

If mushrooms are in the mix, you can pretty easily take your pick between white or red wines. Pinot Noir makes a very happy partner here. If red wines are more your thing, other options to consider in general might include Gamay, Cab Francs from France’s Loire Valley, Grenache, and lighter styles of Merlot.  Like I said, just aim to keep the tannin levels down.

Herbed roast chicken with charred lemon slices and winter squash with sage.
This Rickshaw Pinot Noir 2016 from Sonoma County was fruity enough to work with the sweeter notes in the winter squash and also worked easily with the chicken.

Sangiovese can sometimes be too tanninc for chicken, IMHO, but this Mocine Santa Marta 2017 Sangio blend wasn't too aggressive and worked solidly well with our roast chicken with broccolini.
Corse Calvi Rouge Clos Reginu is a fun, red blend from Corsica with lots of red fruits and herbs notes.

Right after posting this originally, we enjoyed this bottle of Blue Ox Wine Co.“Kiss Me Deadly” Carignan-Grenache with chicken with Mediterranean veggies and it worked beautifull.


Yield: 4 to 6

Choose Your Own Adventure Spatchcock Roasted Chicken

Choose Your Own Adventure Spatchcock Roasted Chicken

This is a general blueprint recipe. I try to give you different options along the way so that you can customize it to your needs and wishes. It’s a version of this recipe I originally shared on WineSpectator.com, updated to include dry brining instructions and to increase your optionality and show you how to use whatever you have on hand or to switch things up according to your liking. If you prefer a more straightforward recipe, check out that original version.


  • One 4 1/2 to 5-pound chicken (Any size chicken will work, but cooking times will vary.)
  • Salt and/or brine mixture (Note: Most recipes recommend Kosher salt for dry brining, but I’ve done it with several different types of salt.)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature and cut into pieces
  • Pepper
  • ⅛ to ½ white wine, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice, or as needed
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, or as needed
  • Optional items to mix and match:
  • Herbs such as thyme, rosemary, or sage
  • Spices
  • Lemons slices
  • Veggies of your choosing
  • Garlic cloves


How to cook Choose Your Own Adventure Spatchcock Roasted Chicken

  1. Lay the cleaned chicken, with innards removed, down on a cutting board with the legs pointing toward you and the breast side down. Using kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbone to remove it. Flip the chicken over, breast-side up, and open it up so that it lies flat. Press hard on the center of the breast to crack the sternum and help flatten the chicken further. (If you plan to make chicken stock, save the neck and the backbone.)
  2. If brining, lay the chicken in a large bowl or a roasting pan. Sprinkle a generous amount of brining mixture over all sides of the chicken. (I just eyeball this, simply making sure the salt generously coats the skin.) If doing this the previous day or several hours before, place the chicken in the fridge. (Note: I typically loosely drape paper towels over the bowl or pan, just to protect other things in the fridge from coming in contact with the chicken. It’s actually beneficial to NOT wrap it up tightly since the fridge helps to dry out the skin, which will help make it crispier later. ) 
  3. Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes to an hour before you’re planning to put in the oven to allow it to come up to room temperature. Pat the chicken down with paper towels to remove excess salt and moisture from the skin.
  4. Preheat oven to 450° F.
  5. Tuck the pieces of butter under the skin of the chicken, distributing as evenly as possible. Sprinkle a generous pinch of pepper and any other herbs you’re using on the skin of the chicken, then rub to distribute well. If using herbs, tuck a few sprigs, leaves, or chopped herbs beneath the skin of the chicken as well.
  6. Lightly grease a roasting pan. If using hardy vegetables, arrange them in a single layer in the roasting pan. Drizzle the vegetables generously with olive oil and with white wine, lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar. Feel free to sprinkle the vegetables with whatever spice mixture you’ve sued on the chicken, plus a generous pinch of salt and pepper, and toss to coat well. If using hardy herbs like thyme or rosemary, feel free to place a few sprigs on top of the vegetables. Lemon slices can also add nice brightness and can be placed beneath the chicken.
  7. If you have a roasting rack, set it in the pan, then place the chicken on top, breast-side up. If not, simply lay the chicken on top of the vegetables, breast-side up. (You can add the backbone to roast with the rest of the chicken and vegetables, or discard as desired.) Place in the oven and roast for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165° F and the skin of the chicken and the vegetables are lightly browned. Halfway through cooking, toss the vegetables and add an additional splash of liquid (wine, lemon juice, or vinegar) if needed. If using softer vegetables like summer squash or mushrooms, you can add them in now as well. If parts of the chicken are beginning to brown faster than the rest, tent lightly with foil or parchment paper.
  8. Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving. If the vegetables need additional browning, continue cooking them in the oven while the chicken rests. Toss the vegetables in the chicken drippings before placing them on a platter, then arrange the chicken on top. Taste them and season as needed. Leafy greens can be delicious tossed in the drippings as well. Softer green like spinach might wilt nicely with residual heat. Hardier leafy green like kale can cook for a few minutes in the oven while the chicken rests. You can carve the chicken in advance, or serve whole for presentation and carve at the table. Serve any additional chicken jus on the side.


Prep time will vary depending on what veggies you’re using and how many, since will change chopping times. Additionally, brining the chicken adds up to 24 hours.

Cook time is 50 to 60 minutes.

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Some of the wines shared in this post were samples where indicated. All opinions are my own and no other compensation was received. 

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