How to Spatchcock (or Butterfly) a Bird for Sous Vide Cooking


Ever tried to cook a whole chicken or game bird sous vide only to have the vacuum pouch bob like a cork in the water bath? Whole chickens, ducks, or game hens will float, because without a chamber vacuum sealer, it’s not possible to completely evacuate the air in the cavity. The residual air makes it impossible to successfully submerge the bird in the water oven and that can lead to uneven cooking of the meat.

Here’s a tip to achieve even cooking and easy vacuum sealing of whole poultry: flatten the birds using a technique called spatchcocking. Here are the step-by-step instructions:

  1. Thoroughly wash the bird in cold water, pat it dry, and position it breast side down on a stable cutting surface.
  2. Using poultry shears, insert one blade into the cavity just beside the backbone; cut up one side of the backbone, then down the other, and remove it.
  3. Spread the cavity apart and seek out the diamond-shaped breast bone on the inside surface. Carefully use the tip of a sharp paring knife to cut around the edges of the breastbone all the way around, without cutting into the meat.
  4. Loosen the breastbone and lift it from the cavity, snipping the attachment points as needed with shears, and remove it. The bird will now lie flat and can easily be packaged into a cooking pouch with a standard suction vacuum sealer.

Here’s a great how-to video from The Virtual Weber Bullet.

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  1. I just read “how to spatccock a whole chicken for cooking. I would like to know how to cook that whole chicken sous vide.
    On Mower

  2. Once spatchcocked how should the bird be cooked SV? Normally a different temperature is used for white/.dark meat so what would the appropriate time/temp be in this case?

    SousVide Supreme responds: You make a good point. We have usually split the difference and cooked at 155F — a little hot for white, but still good — and the time depends on the thickness of the pouch once the chicken is spatchcocked and vacuum sealed. (Thickness, not weight, is always the critical variable for determining minimum cooking times in sous vide cooking.) For a maximum thickness of about 2 inches (5 cm) a cooking time of 5 to 8 hours would suffice.

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