Whether its for a family dinner or a small holiday gathering, this Butterflied Roast Chicken is marinated with lemon and rosemary flavours and roasted to juicy perfection.
For some reason I used to be intimidated by the prospect of roasting chicken. But it really is quite simple and with the right marinade and and method the chicken always turns out flavourful and juicy.
This is our current favorite way to roast chicken: butterflied and oven roasted in a cast iron pan. This recipe is perfect weeknight or Sunday dinner and also for a small Thanksgiving crowd.
How to Make Butterflied Chicken Roast
This butterfly chicken recipe has only a few simple steps: spatchcock chicken, marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes, roast in preheated cast iron pan first breast down, then flip and finish roasting.
Cover the roasted chicken and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving into manageable servings.
How to spatchcock a chicken
To spatchcock or butterfly a chicken you need to remove the backbone or spine of the bird. This allows it to lay flatter and cook faster with less risk of drying out the white meat.
Use a pair of kitchen shears or poultry shears (if you have them). Lay the chicken breast side down and find the backbone going down the center.
Move about 2 inches to the right of the spine and cut all along from bottom to top. Turn the chicken 180 degrees and repeat cutting all along the other side of the backbone.
Now that the backbone of the chicken is removed, the underside of the breastbone has become exposed. With a sharp knife make a small cut right at the top of the breast bone.
Flip the bird over and press down at the top of the breast. It will give in right where you make the small cut and lay flatter.
What to do with chicken backs
Save the chicken back for making homemade chicken stock or bone broth. After carving the cooked chicken, also save the carcass.
I like to store them in a freezer-safe container and collect bones from 2 chickens (+ vegetable scraps) before making broth.
Spatchcock Chicken Marinade
I LOVE this lemon rosemary marinade and I am certain you will too! I believe it is the flavourful herb that makes this roasted chicken so suitable for a holiday dinner.
To make the marinade stir together olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, and minced fresh rosemary in a small bowl.
Find a rimmed pan or container that can hold the chicken. I use my large casserole dish.
Place the chicken in there with the breast side up. Season generously all over with sea salt and black pepper.
Then spoon half of the marinade on top. Use your hand to rub the seasoning and marinade all over the top side of the spatchcock chicken.
Flip the bird over and repeat the process on the underside. Let the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.
Or marinate it overnight in the fridge. Cover the bird in that case.
Cast Iron Chicken Roast
When you are ready to roast the chicken, preheat your oven and cast iron pan to 500°F. Once preheated remove the pan and place it on a cutting board or similar to protect your counter. If you are using another glass or metal roasting pan there is no need to preheat it.
Transfer the marinated chicken into the pan breast side down. Cover the top with lemon slices and rosemary sprigs.
Turn the oven temperature down to 450°F and roast the butterfly chicken for 30 minutes. Then remove the lemon slices and flip the bird over.
Return the lemons and finish roasting the spatchcock chicken for about 15 more minutes.
Food Safe Internal Temperature for Chicken
The safest way to tell if a roasted chicken is done is with a meat thermometer. Take the temperature in both the breast and the thigh.
The internal temperature at the thickest part of the breast should be 160°F right out of the oven. Since the roasted chicken will rest covered for 15 minutes, the internal temperature will keep increasing and and reach 165°F (food safe temperature for poultry) without risk of overcooking.
By the time the breast reached 160°F the thickest part of the thigh usually reads around 175°F and will go to about 180°F during resting. The higher temperature in the thigh doesn’t mean it’s overcooked. While food safe at lower temperatures, most enjoy dark meat when cooked to a higher temperature.
Now cover the roasted chicken with foil or a baking pan and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving. This will ensure that safe internal temperatures are reached and it will also give the chicken juices time to redistribute.
Cutting right into the chicken without resting period will cause all the juices to just flow out and make a drier chicken.
You can use the resting period to turn the pan drippings into a delicious gravy to serve along side the chicken meat.
How to Carve Butterflied Chicken
Use the cut lines in this image as a guide for where to cut. I start with removing the wings from the breast. Find the joint and separate them right where the two bones meet.
You can also use your hands instead of a knife. In that case just hold on to the wing and twist it up and backward. It should pop right out of the joint.
Then detach the chicken leg where the thigh meets the torso. Here you only have to through skin and maybe a little cartilage.
It should come off very easily. This can also be done by hand by twisting the leg backwards until it pops out off the joint.
To separate the leg into thigh and drumstick, find the joint again and cut right between the bones.
Now for the chicken breast. Separate the breasts by cutting right down the sternum. Set up the breast pieces sideways and cut away the ribs and cartilage from the back.
Slice each breast into strips. If you are serving the entire chicken, arrange all the carved parts neatly onto a serving tray.
Items I used in this Lemon Chicken Recipe
This Cast Iron Pan is my favorite everyday cooking pan that also works great for roasting in the oven.
Every since getting an instant read food thermometer I can finally be certain about when my roasts are done.
Other Recipes you will love:
- Coq au Vin
- Cilantro Lime Chicken
- Shredded Sriracha Chicken
- Slow Cooker Chicken Stock
- Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Butterflied Roast Chicken
- 1 whole chicken 3-4.5 pounds
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 lemons 1 juiced, 1 sliced
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 3-5 fresh rosemary sprigs 1 minced, 2-4 whole
- Pat the chicken dry with paper towel. Flip the bird breast side down. Using kitchen or poultry shears, cut alongside the backbone about 1 inch from the center. Then make the same cut along the other side and remove the backbone (save and freeze for homemade chicken stock in the slow cooker or Instant Pot).
- Make a small cut at the beginning of the breast bone. This will make the bird lay flat. Cut away any extra skin or fatty parts and pat dry the inside as well. Transfer butterflied chicken breast side up to a casserole or simmer dish.
- To make the marinade, in a small bowl whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, and minced rosemary.
- Season the entire top side of the the chicken with salt and pepper. Then spoon about half of the marinade over the bird. Rub the seasoning and marinade all over with your hands to make sure every part of the skin is covered.
- Flip the butterflied chicken over and repeat with more salt, pepper, and the rest of the marinade.
- Let the chicken marinate for at least half an hour (at room temperature) or overnight (in the fridge).
- When you are ready to roast the spatchcock chicken, preheat the oven and a large cast iron pan to 500°F. Put the preheated pan on a cutting board and place the chicken breast side down inside of it.
- Arrange the lemon slices and rosemary sprigs on top and around the chicken.
- Turn the oven heat down to 450°F and bake the chicken for 30 minutes.
- Then flip the chicken around and roast about 15 minutes more until the internal temperature at breast reaches 160°F and 175°F at the thigh.
- Let the chicken rest over with a pan or aluminum foil for 15 minutes before carving.
- To carve, make a cut where the wing attached to the breast. Then separate the leg, and divide the leg into thigh and drumstick pieces. Separate the 2 breast pieces and cut away the ribs from behind. Then slice the breast into even strips.
Pin Butterflied Roast Chicken tutorial for later?
Yes, butterflied chicken still has bones, including the drumsticks and wings, but the backbone is removed to help it lay flat for even cooking.
The best way to determine if a butterfly chicken is cooked is to use a meat thermometer. Check the internal temperature at the thickest part of the breast, which should reach 160°F right out of the oven. During the resting period, the temperature will continue to rise to a food-safe 165°F for poultry.
Butterflying a chicken has several benefits. It helps the chicken cook more evenly, reduces the risk of drying out the white meat, and allows for faster cooking. The flatter shape also makes it easier to achieve a crispy skin and ensures that all parts of the chicken are cooked to perfection.
A butterflied whole chicken is often referred to as a "spatchcocked" chicken. Spatchcocking is the process of removing the backbone to flatten the chicken for roasting.
Butterflied chicken is a whole chicken with the backbone removed, allowing it to lay flat for roasting. This method ensures even cooking and results in a juicy and flavorful chicken.
Spatchcocking and butterflying a chicken are essentially the same process. Both involve removing the backbone to flatten the chicken for roasting. The terms are often used interchangeably.
The recommended temperature for roasting a chicken is to start at a high heat of around 450°F (232°C) for the initial cooking period. This helps to crisp the skin. Then, reduce the heat to 350°F (177°C) and continue roasting until the chicken reaches the appropriate internal temperature, which is 160°F (71°C) in the breast. During the resting period, the temperature will continue to rise to a food-safe 165°F (74°C).