Are You Spatchcocking?

Categories:  Food & Drink    Community
Monday, November 24th, 2014 at 1:38 PM
Are You Spatchcocking? by Mary Birdsong
Michael J. Bennett

While certain portions of Robert Mapplethorpe’s oeuvre might come to mind initially, this fun and naughty-sounding word, spatchcocking (say it aloud!) is the leading edge of holiday bird preparation this year among all those trend-setting types who like to throw around culinary slang as if they are part of a secret all-knowing food society.

For me, it started innocently when I spied a comment on a Facebook post from someone who, with many ums and ellipses, announced that she would be spatchcocking her turkey this year.

Then it popped up in someone else’s post. And then someone else’s. Cook and writer that I am, I headed to the Internets to see what was going on here.

Turns out, spatchcocking, despite being a blush-inducing word, is a simple technique for splitting apart your poultry so it can cook more quickly.  According to the mighty Wikipedia (and verified elsewhere), a spatchcock “is poultry or game that has been prepared for roasting or grilling by removing the backbone, and sometimes the sternum of the bird and flattening it out before cooking.” It can be used as a noun (spatchcock) to describe the bird that is being prepared or as a verb (spatchcocking) to describe the method one use to do so. Read more here.

Although currently trending, spatchcocking a bird (because one cannot bring up this word too many times) has its origins in the 18th century. And for nearly that long linguists have been arguing about its etymological roots.  The Oxford English Dictionary claims it came from the Irish -- a combination of "dispatch" (quickly) and "cock." (Giggle.) Others disagree, suggesting it came from "spitchcock," a dish made with fried eels.

Culinary types argue about the broad terms, with some saying that a spatchcock can only be a bird six weeks old or less (it’s small; you split it and cook it quickly, see?) and those that have embraced the wider context

Not wishing to bore you with the finer details of either the etymology or gastronomic details, you may examine the evidence for both sides here. (A very odd website, I might add)

If you feel you must try spatchcocking, the Wall Street Journal tells you how.  Or if you want to do it more beautifully than anyone else, Martha Stewart weighs in here.

If you just want to drool over gratuituous images of spactchcocked turkeys, go here.

Me? I’ll be stuffing my turkey, despite USDA warning of the danger. I want to be ahead of the 2030 holiday trend promoting stuffing the bird as “getting back to our roots,” and “the only true way to practice the full turkey experience.” Oh, I do brine. You don’t? Snort.

Say it with me one more time: Spatchcock. Good name for a band.



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