Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Cooking with Chef Jo: Grilled Spatchcock Chicken

I had to opportunity to butcher some chickens with a neighboring homesteader recently. Since this neighbor was new to butchering animals, my payment for teaching them the ins and outs of the techniques was half a dozen legs and thighs out of the forty they were butchering.

Homesteaders can spend a small fortune on specialty butchering products like propane fired deep kettles for scalding the birds, butchering tables, assorted special knives, a plucker, etc. We set the date for a weekend after the chickens were 12-weeks old. Like most folks coming off the government lockdown, money was tight.
The husband asked, "What do we need?"
The wife grabbed her notebook to write it all down. 
The husband was ready to mentally tabulate what they'd have to spend.
I rattled off my list. "Your water bath canner pot, a couple really sharp knives, a sharp pair of garden shears or kitchen shears, a work table, a meat thermometer, a couple 5-gallon bucket, and an ice cooler. Oh, and some clothes you don't  mind getting dirty in."
They smiled and answered back immediately, "We got all of that! Except a worktable."
"No worries. You still got that old door in the barn, two empty trash cans, and an old tarp? 
They nodded. 
"Clean 'em up with bleach, and then we got us a worktable!"

When I asked them how they were going to use the chickens (the chef in me snuck out), About half  were going to be cut into pieces for frying and about 15 birds would be left whole for roasting. The wife, being a city girl, had no idea how to cut up a chicken, but she'd watch others do it.

They had been on YouTube watching videos of people butchering chickens. They saw all the equipment, the dollar signs were rolling into a tidy sum equaling a house payment and they were worried. 

This was their first venture into raising their own meat. They didn't even know if they wanted to do this yet. Some people like my roommate, find the process distasteful. They'll do anything else to homestead but leaves the butchering to someone else. Me, I don't feel that way. I believe God populated the Earth with animals to help, feed, and clothe us. They should be cared for and respected throughout their lives until that time comes. The fact is, you can get it if you want it, but you DON'T HAVE TO HAVE IT. I teach the basics first. Remember my old chef's motto, Have knife and I'll cook? Well, it's the same for butchering.

Butchering day came. The night before I went over and helped them setup because we'd start at 8AM. I arrived an found the couple, his tween son from another marriage, and one and half sets of parents. Her father had to work. I started the class, "I didn't know we'd have so many hands today. Welcome to how to butcher a chicken 101. "

My teaching method is is simple; see one, do one, show one to teach one, and pass it on. The site I chose was close to the house and a faucet. I'd instructed hubby dearest to start a fire in the fire pit and to put the kettle on to heat by 7:30. I checked the temperature with the thermometer. It was right at 140 degrees and I poked the wood some. "You want to the temperature at 150-160 degrees before you butcher your first chicken."

I won't bored you readers with the slaughter and butchering process except to tell you how to spatchcock a chicken. There's just three steps:
  1. Cut along either side of the back bone and place spine aside, 
  1. Remove the chicken innards and turn the chicken breast side up.
  1. Press hard on the center of the breast until you hear it crack. You will notice that the chicken now lays flat.
Congratulations! You've just spatchcocked your first chicken.

Now what can you do with it? Quite a bit. Spatchcocking a chicken is the first step of a partially deboned chicken, you can grill it in less time, it makes it easier to cut into pieces, roast it, you can do almost anything to it. I rarely hear at the dinner table, "I want the back pieces, please."

By Spatchcocking a chicken before you cut it up into pieces, it's easier to see where the cuts are for leg, thighs, wings. and breasts. I was teaching our homestead newbie wife how to cut up a chicken too. I was horrified to learn that they only wanted the breast meat and only a little bit of dark meat. That's our favorite part. We saved the back, hearts, livers, gizzards, and feet of the birds for broth, and the organs for pet food. The heads and other innards went to another homesteader's hogs. The feather went into the compost pile. Nothing was wasted. With so many hands working all forty chickens were in the cooler full of salted ice water for the night by early afternoon. Waste not want not.

What?! Is that it? No recipe?!
Now, would I do that to you after you patiently read through the story?

Grilled Chicken with Wild Rice Stuffing
Serves 8

What you'll need
2 chickens shown here
1 Spatchcocked chicken, raw
3TBS honey
1 tsp dried thyme, or 2 tsp fresh, finely chopped*
2 cloves garlic, minced or 2 tsp garlic powder*
1 tsp onion powder, or 2TBS minced fresh onion*
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground rosemary, or 2 tsp fresh minced*
3 TBS oil
1 tsp sage, dried and ground or 2 tsp fresh minced*

Notes-* I prefer using dried herbs when grilling. Fresh herbs tend to leave a charred flavor.

Wild Rice Stuffing
If you like Uncle Ben's, this is similar without the chunky bits
Serves 8- 1 cup servings

What you'll need
2 tsp salt
4 c water
4 cup chicken stock
4 c long grain rice
2/3 c dry wild rice
1/2 c mushrooms, chopped
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/2 c dried raisins
1/2 c toasted pecan, chopped
half stick of butter
1/2 medium onion, small dice
1 rib of celery, small dice
1 tsp parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp turmeric, ground
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp black pepper

Putting it all together
Spatchcocked Chicken

  • Blend honey and oil together until combined well.
  • Dry entire surface of the chicken with paper towels.
  • Coat entire surface of the chicken, front and back with honey mixture.
  • Blend remaining herbs and spices, and sprinkle on both sides of the chicken slightly pressing the herbs into it.
  • Place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  • After the marinade time is done grill over hot coals. Approximately 20 minutes each side. Until meat thermometer reads 160 degrees. 
  • Set aside 10 minutes to seal juices in under a foil tent.
Wild Rice Stuffing

  • In a cast iron Dutch oven pot, melt butter over medium coals.
  • Add onions, celery, cranberries, rices, mushrooms, salt, and raisins to the melted butter. Cook while stirring until the onions are translucent. 
  • Add broth, herbs and spices, and water to the pot. Bring to a boil.
  • Stir at a boil for 2 minutes, and cover the pot. 
  • Move pot so that the temperature simmers the rice mixture. 
  • Once the liquid is all absorbed, the stuffing is done.
Serving suggestions- A green tossed salad comes to mind as an additional side. Place a cup worth of
stuffing onto a plate. Cut the the chicken into portions and place on top of the rice stuffing. This will allow any meat juices to run onto the stuffing. With a tossed salad, you've got a plate full over yumminess that can't be beat. The fruity, nuttiness of the dressing compliments the savory sweetness of the chicken. The sweetness of the honey has caramelized onto the skin of the chicken giving  it a crispy texture compared to the juicy savory meat.

Y'all have a blessed day!
Chef Jo                                                       


  1. Hi Jo :) Great job explaining the process, and I think it's important to impart your knowledge on people who want to learn! And I love that recipe too! :)

  2. Rain, I'm a firm believer of shared knowledge.


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