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Spatchcocking secret to perfectly cooked chicken

The lazy days of summer wind down to an end this Labor Day weekend. As we say goodbye, let’s enjoy the holiday with some crazy delicious barbecued chicken. Sound good? I thought so.

Whether you’re planning an end of summer party or just having dinner with the family, this holiday calls for a special dish. Something with a little “Ta-da!” So we’re going to bust out the barbecue and grill up a delicious citrus marinated spatchcocked chicken.

Wait, what?

The term “spatchcock” is the technique of removing the backbone from a whole chicken so it will lay flat. This makes the chicken cook faster and more evenly in the oven or on the barbecue. Traditionally, it takes over an hour to cook a whole chicken, but this technique cuts the time to about 35 minutes, depending on the size of your bird and the temperature of your oven or barbecue.

This is also the secret to moist and juicy chicken. So often, the breast dries out before the thighs and legs are cooked. This technique exposes more of the bird to the heat source, so it cooks evenly. And since the whole bird is exposed to the heat, the skin comes out nice and crispy, too.

And it looks awesome. Did I mention that? They do this in fancy, schmancy restaurants because it makes such a beautiful presentation.

To spatchcock a chicken, you’ll need poultry shears and a whole chicken.

Here’s what you do: Rinse the chicken under water and remove any goodies from inside the cavity. Lay the chicken breast side down. Using poultry shears, cut a straight line up one side of the backbone of the chicken. Repeat on the other side of the backbone.

Turn the chicken on its back and use the heel of your hands to flatten the sternum so the chicken lays flat when finished. It’s like chicken CPR but a little too late to save the bird.

If you’re squeamish about handling raw chicken, try wearing latex gloves. It’s very helpful in overcoming the discomfort of that part of cooking.

Now, don’t throw that backbone away. Use it to make some chicken stock or pop it in the freezer for later.

Before we grill, we’re going to marinate this chicken. Here’s a light and bright marinade perfect for an end of summer barbecue.

Citrus Marinated Spatchcocked Barbecued Chicken

This makes enough marinade for one large chicken. Each chicken serves 4 to 6 people.

What you’ll need:

½ cup olive oil

½ cup cider vinegar

Zest and juice of one orange or ½ cup orange juice

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons fresh onion, grated

2 teaspoons ginger, grated

2 large cloves garlic, grated

1 large whole chicken

Here’s how:

Combine olive oil, juice, vinegar, salt, onion, ginger and garlic. I make the marinade in a zip-top baggie and plop the chicken right in there. Marinate chicken at least two hours or preferably overnight.

Prepare a grill with two heat zones: direct and indirect. Place the chicken skin side down over direct heat for about 15 minutes. Transfer to indirect heat to finish cooking, about 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 155 Fahrenheit.

Remove from heat. Tent with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes. It’ll come up to 165 F as it rests.

To round out this meal, I suggest serving a spinach salad with orange segments, brown rice and grilled vegetables like zucchini and peppers.

If you don’t want to spatchcock a chicken, simply substitute 3 to 4 pounds of bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces. I’ll never tell. But try it someday. It’s really cool.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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