You can have a butcher butterfly a chicken for you but if you do it yourself, you can customize it. A sharp cleaver or heavy chef’s knife will make your work easier. Remember, this does not have to be your Julia Child moment.
1. Wash the bird and pat it dry with paper towel. Put it on your work surface.
2. Use your hands to remove any excess fat. Then cut off the excess skin dangling at the cavity. If you want to remove the tail/butt, do it. Discard or set aside in a small bowl.
3. I like to remove the two outer wing joints and save them for making stock. Cut them off at the chicken’s elbow. If you’re going to use them immediately, give them a few whacks to cut through the bone. Set them aside.
4. Because the skin at the drumstick pull back during roasting and can be unattractive if parts of it are still attached to the knees, I whack off the knees to free the skin. The skin neatly retracts during roasting to reveal the drumstick bone, resulting in a clean presentation. This is a nifty French technique that my Mom taught me when I was young.
5. Finally, put the bird on its breast. Make an incision through the skin on one side of the backbone. You may already be cutting through the bone. In any event, you have a score mark. Position your knife at the neck and give a gentle downward push to sever the bone, which is thin in that part of the chicken. Cut down the spine to open up the chicken.
Once the chicken is opened up, splay it on your work surface and give it a little push on the breast to flatten. Now, wield your knife to cut on the other side of the backbone to detach it from the chicken. Add the backbone to the wing joints. You’re done.
Use the fat for cooking, if you like. Save the bones for stock; remember to include the neck and giblet and heart.