Why spatchcock a chicken?
- It’s a great way to spread flavour over the whole surface of the chicken;
- The chicken cooks more evenly and quicker than a whole chicken;
- It’s easier to cut into portions when the chicken is ready to serve.
2 easy steps to spatchcocking a chicken:
1. Using a good pair of kitchen scissors, cut out the backbone: Place the chicken on a cutting board, breast side down, with the legs facing you. Cut through the rib bones on either side of the backbone, using the parson’s nose as your guide. This should be fairly easy to do and shouldn’t require too much pressure.
2. Flip the chicken over onto the board, pull out either side to open it up and gently apply pressure onto the breast bone, until it’s flattened out completely.
Tips to the perfect peri-peri chicken
1. The essential ingredient: lemon juice or red wine vinegar.
It adds acidity to the dish, resulting in that wonderful tart flavour that balances the heat of chilli and the smokiness of paprika.
2. The vital step: the marinating time and process.
For the ultimate peri-peri chicken, place all the ingredients – plus the chicken – into a Ziploc bag and marinate for a minimum of 4 hours, but preferably overnight. The longer you leave the chicken, the more the flavours will develop and seep into the chicken.
3. The optional ingredient: chilli.
If you don’t want a spicy hot peri-peri sauce, leave out the chilli altogether. A good-quality sweet smoked paprika ensures that taste unique to peri-peri chicken.
4. The cooking method: Oven or braai
Either slow cook the chicken whole in the oven for about an hour-and-a-half, or spatchcock the chicken and braai for 10–15 minutes on either side until cooked.
5. The final step: basting
Baste the chicken regularly while cooking to keep the sauce from catching over the flames. This will also keep in all the flavours. Tell if your chicken is ready by piercing the flesh. If the juices run clear (not pink), you’re ready to tuck in!
The recipe: The ultimate peri-peri sauce
1 x 240 g packet sundried tomatoes
1 T chilli flakes
2 t smoked paprika
6–8 cloves garlic
2 store-bought roasted/marinated red peppers
1 t chopped oregano
3 T olive oil
juice of 1 lemon or 3 T red wine vinegar
1 free-range spatchcock chicken
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
butter, for roasting
6–8 potatoes, sliced
1 Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the ingredients for the sauce in a pan and season, simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat. Blend until smooth and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice or red wine vinegar to taste.
2 Carefully lift the skin of the chicken and spread a couple of tablespoons of the sauce underneath the skin, without tearing it.
3 Spread another few tablespoons on top, dot with butter and drizzle with olive oil.
4 Season and roast on a tray of sliced potatoes for 35–40 minutes. Baste the chicken every 10 minutes.
Cook’s note: For extra flavour, marinate the chicken the night before. Add a can of cherry tomatoes to this recipe if you want a milder sauce.
Serve with: Apple-and-mint tzatiki
Grate 1 Granny Smith apple and toss with the juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 cup thick Greek yoghurt, 1 t chopped mint leaves, 1 clove chopped garlic, ½ t nutmeg, and a grated and drained medium cucumber.