Butterflying a whole chicken and then weighing it down with bricks on the grill is an old Italian technique that allows the bird to cook more evenly.

In Britain, butterflying, or using sharp kitchen shears to remove the backbone and usually the breastbone so the bird can be opened up to lie flat, is called “spatchcocking.” Some say the term derives from “dispatch the cock.”

Good kitchen scissors are one of the best investments you’ll ever make. I swear by Joyce Chen’s model.

Serve the chicken with this Spicy Red Pepper Sauce spooned alongside. Good accompaniments are an end-of-season red potato salad, an arugula salad and a basket of corn muffins.


If you have the time, the extra step of brining is well worth it. The salt/sugar mixture plumps up the bird, making for juicier and more flavorful cooked meat.

Makes 4 servings

Special equipment: 2 bricks, wrapped in foil

Brine and rub:

2 tablespoons salt, plus 1 teaspoon for rub

2 tablespoons sugar

½ cup hot water

2 cups cold water

1 whole chicken, about 3 pounds

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons olive oil

First, find 2 bricks and wrap in foil. Bricks are a good size and shape and, unlike metal, do not conduct heat.

To make the brine, combine the 2 tablespoons salt and the sugar with the hot water in a large bowl and whisk until salt and sugar are mostly dissolved. Stir in the cold water.

To butterfly chicken, use kitchen shears to cut alongside both sides of the backbone. Discard the backbone (or use it to make stock). Open the chicken like a book, skin side down, and remove the breastbone with kitchen shears. Cut the chicken in half (my preference) or leave whole. Tuck the wing tips under. Place in the bowl with the brine, weighting if necessary so chicken is submerged. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 6 hours.

Prepare a moderately hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to medium.

Remove the chicken from brine and pat dry with paper towels. To make the rub, combine the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, black pepper and paprika in a small dish. Smear the chicken with oil, then with the pepper rub.

Place the chicken skin side down on the grill, breasts facing cooler outside edges, legs facing toward hotter center, and place the foil-wrapped bricks on top. Cover the grill and cook until the skin is nicely browned and grill marks appear, about 20 minutes.

Wear an oven mitt to remove bricks, turn the chicken, replace bricks, and cook for 15 minutes. Test the dark meat for doneness; if not quite cooked through, turn again and continue to cook for a few minutes until the meat is no longer pink.

Remove to a platter and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut into serving-size pieces, slicing some of the breast so it can be distributed evenly, and serve with Spicy Red Pepper Sauce.

Spicy Red Pepper Sauce:

Makes about 1 cup

½ cup coarsely chopped roasted red peppers from a jar

½ cup sliced almonds

2 peeled garlic cloves

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more to taste

¼ cup olive oil

½ teaspoon sugar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a food processor, pulse peppers, almonds, garlic, vinegar and a tablespoon or so of the olive oil to make a paste. With the motor running, add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil to make a smooth puree. Season with the sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Taste, and if the sauce needs a bit more sharpness, add up to 1 tablespoon more vinegar. (Can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated. Return to room temperature before serving.)

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks She can be contacted via:


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