The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 05.30.06


They spatchcock chickens, don't they?

Perhaps you have heard of grilled chicken under a brick. But have you tried this ancient method of splitting a chicken down the back and then weighting and flattening it for an afternoon grill?

Slow grilling split chickens makes for a wonderful aromatic and very tasty presentation and there is something special that just "happens" when done correctly. Whatever you do, leave the split chicken attached - do not cut it into two separate pieces.

The origin and practice of splitting fowl down the middle can be disputed and often is. The term "to spatchcock" a chicken is widely used in culinary circles and is not to be confused with "spitchcock" which refers to split eels for the grill as you'll see here from the Dictionary of Food And Nutrition.

Small birds split down the back and flattened before grilling. Spitchcock is eel treated similarly.

And this from

n. spatchocock
A dressed and split chicken for roasting or broiling on a spit.
tr.v. spatch·cocked, spatch·cock·ing, spatch·cocks 1. To prepare (a dressed chicken) for grilling by splitting open. 2. To introduce or interpose, especially in a labored or unsuitable manner

Some historians dedicate the practice of spatchcocking to the Irish. However, you will now most likely see Italians and Greeks grilling split golden birds for customers. No matter whom we attribute this practice to, we are equally able to do this at home and enjoy an excellent classic method of grilling chicken.

Grilled (Spachtcocked) Chicken Flattened Under a Brick

2 chickens (about 2 lbs/1kg each), prepared as described
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or herbs such as oregano and basil- your choice.
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp black pepper
1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes
2 lemons sliced


Place olive oil, rosemary and herbs, lemons, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes in a shallow dish and mix well. Place chicken in the dish and coat on both sides with olive oil mixture. Marinate 10 minutes or refrigerate up to overnight.

Wrap four bricks with foil. Place chicken flat, with skin side down on medium- hot barbecue. Place a brick on top of each side of chicken. Cook 15 minutes on medium heat. Check to make sure chicken is not burning. Lift off bricks carefully, turn chicken, replace bricks and cook another 15 minutes. Repeat until chicken is cooked through - about a total cooking time of 15 to 20 minutes per side, turning once or twice. I usually cook chicken on medium or medium high the whole cooking time but if it begins to burn reduce heat. Serve 1/2 chicken per person.