Baking chicken is basically one of those areas of cooking where you can hardly go wrong. Basically, you put the bird into the oven and cook until done. And it comes out great. Nothing to it.

Of course, there actually is more to it, at least if you want a great result, or even above average. As a budding gourmet cook, you should be shooting for nothing but the best, and that’s what I have for you, right here on this web page.

I’ve baked many a chicken, but the procedure below works the best. Once you’ve tried it, you will never want to do it any other way. It starts with “butterflying” the bird . . .

Butterflying a whole baking chicken will make it juicy, flavorful, and much quicker to cook. You butterfly a chicken by simply removing the backbone and flattening the chicken. Once you butterfly a chicken a few times, you’ll be able to do it in just two or three minutes. Kitchen shears work best for this technique.

Using poultry shears,

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cut along each side of the backbone to remove it. Flip the chicken over, press firmly on the center of the breast and break the breastbone. That’s it. Simple, huh?

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A flattened baking chicken looks impressive, but looks aren’t the only benefit to butterflying. Since the flat shape allows for more even heat distribution during cooking, a butterflied chicken cooks faster and stays juicier than a whole chicken. It is delicious simply brushed with a little olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper before cooking.

A Wonderful Marinated Butterflied Chicken Recipe

  • 1 3 ½ to 4 pound chicken
  • 8 medium cloves garlic, cut into slivers
  • 1 2-inch knob ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt (about 1 lb)
  • 2 tsp. coriander seeds, crushed

Butterfly the chicken as described above. Sprinkle both sides of chicken evenly with 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Put the chicken in a 9X13-inch Pyrex baking dish. Add the lemon and lime juice and turn to coat the chicken well. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Combine the ginger, garlic, coriander, and yogurt in a large, shallow, nonreactive bowl, and stir until the mixture is smooth and all of the seasonings are distributed evenly. Drain the excess citrus juice off the chicken but don’t pat the chicken dry. Put the baking chicken in the bowl with the yogurt marinade, coating the chicken on all sides and working the yogurt mixture under the breast and thigh skin as much as possible. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 2 or 3 hours.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F. Just before cooking, remove the baking chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade. Don’t wipe off the marinade that coats the chicken because it will keep the meat moist and form a delicious crust as it roasts. Set the chicken skin side up on a broiler pan. Sprinkle with salt. Tuck the wingtips under the breast.

Bake until the juices run clear and the thigh registers

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175 to 180 F. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before cutting it into quarters and serving.

The next time you are thinking about baking chicken, I earnestly urge you to try this approach. Your table guests will be falling all over themselves telling you how good the chicken was and begging for the recipe. It’s up to you whether you want to share it.