Why would you cook chicken under a brick? Southern Kitchen explains

Mackensy Lunsford
Southern Kitchen

A whole chicken, cooked until juicy and crisp-skinned, deserves a place among the best of the world's comfort foods. 

A hot grill can crisp up a skin nicely, and a spatchcocked, or butterflied chicken "under a brick," cuts cooking time and helps your bird roast more evenly. No more dry breasts.

Cooking a chicken under a brick means weighing it down so the body is relatively flat. Though you can use literal bricks (wrapped in foil, please), we prefer to use a clean, heavy skillet.

The only other special piece of equipment you'll need to pull this off is a pair of strong kitchen shears. You'll also need a whole, raw chicken, salt, olive oil and the chicken rub of your choice.

We're being nonspecific on quantities since chickens vary in size, but err on the side of seasoning generously. The general rule on salt is about a teaspoon per pound of chicken, taking into consideration whether your chicken rub has salt in it.

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How to spatchcock a chicken

Place your chicken, breast-side down, on a plastic cutting board or in a roasting pan. Remove anything that remains in the cavity of the chicken. Using poultry shears, cut along each side of the backbone from one end of the cavity to the other to remove the spine.

A hot grill can crisp up a skin nicely, and a spatchcocked, or butterflied chicken "under a brick," cuts cooking time and helps your bird roast more evenly.

Next, flip the chicken over, skin-side up, and place the heel of your hand on the breastbone. Give it a good press to snap it and flatten the bird. Finally, cut off the wing tips with your shears. You can save the spine and wing tips, along with the gizzards, for stock.

Rub the bird inside and out with salt. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes in the fridge and 30 minutes at room temperature. Pat your chicken dry, rub it with just enough olive oil to cover the skin, and then add the chicken seasoning of your choice. 

How to grill your chicken

A hot grill can crisp up a skin nicely, and a spatchcocked, or butterflied chicken "under a brick," cuts cooking time and helps your bird roast more evenly.

Cooking time should be approximately an hour, depending on the size of your bird. I've been known to grill my bird for 30 minutes or so and finish it in a hot oven until it reaches 165 in the thickest part of the thigh.

Prepare your grill for medium-high indirect heat. On a charcoal grill, that means banking your coals to one side. On a gas grill, turn all the burners on medium-high, then turn off the burner where you'll be cooking your bird once the grill is nice and hot, or around 500 degrees.

Put the skillet on the hot grill surface for 5-10 minutes to preheat it. 

Put the chicken, skin side down, on the indirect-heat side of your grill. Reduce the heat of the burners that remain on to medium.

Carefully, using tongs or a heavy-duty grill glove, place the skillet on top of the chicken. Grill this way for about 10 minutes, or until the breast browns and the skin releases easily from the grill without tearing. Remove the skillet, flip the chicken over with tongs and replace the skillet. 

Watch for flare-ups and make sure your chicken does not overly blacken. Adjust heat and turn chicken as needed. Your chicken is done when the thickest part of the thigh reaches 160-165 degrees. Rest on a room-temperature platter for at least 10 minutes. 

Serve this in halves or quarters, breasts sliced or not, with chimichurri or the sauce of your choice. 

Mackensy Lunsford is the food and culture storyteller for USA TODAY Network's South region and the editor of Southern Kitchen.

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Reach me: mlunsford@southernkitchen.com