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Whole chicken is superior to spatchcock


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I hear nothing but love for the spatchcock. I'm not here to hate on it at all but I've been roaming in the chicken wilderness for awhile trying lots of recipes and I come back to my original. I much prefer a whole chicken. The comparison and taste test cooks I've seen don't cook the whole chicken correctly and spatchcock wins. But a properly cooked whole chicken is superior.
 
For me, what is fundamentally wrong with spatchcock is twofold. The first is the notion that the parts of the chicken should all be done at the same rate. The spatchcock makes things all on the same level and similar thickness so that it's done at the same time. But it misses that thighs and legs tolerate much higher heat and are much cleaner to eat if you render down the connective tissues. The other issue is the removal of the cavity. Even without added herbs a chicken breast is bathed in the aromatics of the entire chicken itself from the juice that lies in that cavity. The best chicken breast is found on a whole chicken, not a spatchcocked one.
 
But this comparison depends on the correct BBQ of a whole chicken. It needs to be hot, fast, and steamy. Friends please try this recipe. Don't use your stone or any other kind of deflector, it just slows things down. Use just a foil lasagna pan on the bottom rack with water in it and get set up with little to no smoke at about 425°F, good and hot. Now place your chicken with nothing but salt or, at most, some butter rubbed under the skin over this pan on the upper rack (assuming 2 levels available ). Do not truss it. Trussing it brings those legs and thighs into the chicken and causes them to take on the same temp as the rest of it, and doesn't allow the skin to cook completely. You want the legs and thighs to get extra hot and more thoroughly cooked so let them fly free. When your breast is 160 the legs will be about 180. Pull and enjoy. Do not let it rest long, or at all. The skin in this case is super light and crisp but will fall if let sit. It's not like grilled skin that is harder and more crunchy.
 
Just a note on the water pan, it is not there to keep the chicken moist. The thing keeping it moist is not over cooking it and preserving that cavity that will be absolutely full of moisture. The pan is there to help crisp the skin. Super heat steam will crisp the skin on a chicken similar to how it helps a crust form on a loaf of bread. For that purpose it's not sufficient that a kamado is a relatively moist cooking environment, the water pan is needed to boost it.
 
Anyway, if you like a very pure simple BBQ chicken without a lot of rubs and spices to, in my view, fix something that isn't broken, please try this recipe. You might be pleasantly surprised.
 
As a side benefit, if your water pan also had some carrots, celery, and onion in it, and you drained the juices from the bird into that pan (tip the bird to empty the cavity when you first take it off and then also put juices in from the cutting board), you could do a bit more work make additional magic (smokey flavoured gravy or soup).
(I'm perfectly happy to go to someone else's house and have a nicely rubbed spatchcock chicken.)
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Come to think of it, I don’t know that I’ve ever cooked a whole chicken on the grates. I either spatchcock, halve, or rotisserie whole. All forms of cooking have produced excellent tasting birds! My greatest challenge is getting a crispy skin when cooking on the Kamado. I saw a thread about airflow, so that’s my next attempt. Plus, I only recently got the Joetisserie, and that might help, too. All other rotisserie cooks were on the gasser. Your note about resting might also have something to do with it.

 

Regardless of method, legs and thighs have always cooked hotter for me, as they’ll hit 180ish about the same time breasts are at 160, so I don’t think that’s unique to cooking the bird whole. I think it’s because the breasts are thicker and therefore take longer.

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This may be a Ford vrs Chevy battle. Both have their pluses and minuses, bottom line is you cook a yard bird what ever way you like I've done both for longer than I care to remember. The real question might be do you sauce or not? hahahahaha I'm not trying to change  this thread just making a joke

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I like both methods. A while back John  made a video about the way to properly truss a chicken and how he felt  that proper trussing turned out an excellent whole bird. I trussed several birds the way John instructed and they did come out pretty dar close to  perfect and very moist. However, my spatchcock chickens do the same. I honestly don't think there is much of a difference in flavor and texture with either method. When I spatchcock, I use my fingers to lift the skin on the breast, thighs, and legs. Then I make paste of Simon and Garfunkel herbs, kosher salt, cracked pepper,  olive oil, and lemon zest and spread it under the skin. I slather the outer skin with olive oil and a sprinkle of fine kosher salt, and then let it air dry in the fridge for a couple hours before my cook.  I cook indirect at 425 and pull at 165 in the breast,  it comes out great every time. I also like to do a whole bird with apples and sweet onions in the cavity. I use the  paste under the skin and oil and salt the exterior skin as with my spatchcock. 

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3 hours ago, len440 said:

This may be a Ford vrs Chevy battle. Both have their pluses and minuses, bottom line is you cook a yard bird what ever way you like I've done both for longer than I care to remember. The real question might be do you sauce or not? hahahahaha I'm not trying to change  this thread just making a joke

Dodge dangit, dont forget Dodge!!:lol:

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let me say that I don't necessarily agree with the original two premises or that a breast on a whole bird is any better than on a spatchcock. Also, any method is only as good as the cook. Like @keeperovdeflame, I like both methods and turn out excellent product either way. This one thing remains true: at whatever temp you choose to cook, the spatchcocked bird will be done in 1/2 to 3/4 the time. That's often the deciding factor in how I cook it– no rush vs need it done now...

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Another pretty cool chicken cook is to pan sear them at 450 to 500. In this cook l used spatchcocked Cornish hens. Whole splayed chicken is also a favorite. To splay a chicken you leave it whole but make a slices into  each thigh where it meets the body,  to allow the legs to lay flat in the pan. 

Here is a pic of the  technique using Cornish hens.

IMG_1264.thumb.jpeg.0ffc211833de5cce711100b1b87a86df.jpeg

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