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How to Butterfly a Chicken

Chef Nathan Lyon of the Clean Eating Academy explains how to roast a perfect, juicy chicken every time.

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When I was a child, a few times every year, my family and I would drive out to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia to visit the family farm where my great-grandmother, Mema Hattie, lived. With its red barn, grazing cows and huge chicken coop, it was an endless source of enjoyment for my two brothers and me.

In their well-groomed side yard, which sloped gently towards the two-lane country road, sat a brick, two-level grill. The wood was piled into the pit, lit aflame and burned until deep red in color. Then, when the temperature was just right, the halved chickens went on the grill. They were the best-tasting chickens I ever had—juicy and succulent, with a salty, crispy skin. Now, we all may not have a double-decker grill, but with this one tip on how to butterfly a chicken, you can have that juicy, succulent chicken that finger-licking dreams are made of.

You see, when a whole chicken is put into the oven, (picture putting it in the oven as it is when you buy a whole chicken from the grocery store), the breasts (white meat) sit high on the body while the leg and thighs (dark meat) are tucked away. This means that the breast meat cooks too quickly which can result in perfectly dried out white meat chicken jerky.

If only the chicken could be reconfigured for better roasting…

A-ha! By butterflying the chicken, that is­­ — laying the chicken flat, you ensure even cooking via a greater amount of surface area exposed to the heat which means — juicy white meat, properly cooked dark meat, and lots of crispy skin.

Now, that’s a recipe for success. Go ahead, give it a try and let’s get make our roast chicken dreams come true!