Butterflying ensures a crispy-skinned chicken grilled fast.

How to Butterfly a Chicken to Grill or Cook

by Zora Hughes

Thinking about a smoky, moist, whole grilled chicken may make your mouth water, but the time it takes to cook a whole bird on the grill may put you off. Butterflying, the process by which you remove the backbone and flatten the chicken, speeds up the process, as the chicken cooks much faster in a flattened state. With a good pair of kitchen shears or a quality chef's knife, butterflying chicken is a simple and quick procedure that helps you give your kids a tasty chicken dinner in no time.

Place a fresh chicken on a clean cutting board with the breast-side down and the tailbone closest to you.

Cut along one side of the backbone using kitchen shears, slicing through the thin back ribs connected to it. If you don't have kitchen shears, make a shallow cut on both sides of the backbone with a sharp chef's knife, from the tail to the neck. Stay as close to the backbone as possible.

Cut along the other side of the backbone with the kitchen shears and remove it. If using a knife, press down gently with it along the shallow cuts you made to break through the back ribs and remove the backbone. Save the backbone for making chicken stock later.

Flip the chicken over and press down on the center of the breast firmly with your hands until you hear the breastbone breaking, so that the chicken is now flattened.

Season or brine the chicken as desired to prepare it for grilling, or cooking it using other methods, such as pan-roasting or broiling.

Items you will need

  • Whole chicken
  • Cutting board
  • Kitchen shears
  • Sharp chef's knife


  • Use a heavy skillet to weigh the chicken down on the grill for a crispier skin and solid grill marks on the chicken. Cook poultry to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.


  • Kitchen shears are the easier and much safer option for butterflying a chicken; however, they have a very sharp point. Keep your kids away from the shears to avoid their confusing them for child-safe scissors.
  • When using a chef's knife, place your fingers on your cutting hand on top of the blade for sturdiness. Keep the blade facing away from you as much as possible.
  • Cleaning your hands and any surface the raw chicken touched is essential to avoid exposure to harmful bacteria found on raw chicken, such as salmonella. Have a paper towel ready to use to turn on your faucet without contaminating it, and wash your hands in hot, soapy water, as well as the cutting board, kitchen shears and knife. Wipe down your counters and kitchen sink with a cleaning solution that contains bleach.

About the Author

Based in Los Angeles, Zora Hughes has been writing travel, parenting, cooking and relationship articles since 2010. Her work includes writing city profiles for Groupon. She also writes screenplays and won the S. Randolph Playwriting Award in 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in television writing/producing and a Master of Arts Management in entertainment media management, both from Columbia College.

Photo Credits

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