Spatchcocked Game Birds

Spatchcocked Game Birds

  • Course

    Main

  • Serves

    Varies by Species (two quail will feed 1 person; a grouse could feed 1-2 people; a turkey can feed about 8-12 depending on the size of the bird).
Chef’s notes

I fell in love with spatchcocked game birds when I used to travel Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula with nothing but a backpack and a fishing rod.

After a few days of sleeping on remote beaches and eating little besides beans and rice, I was always eager to gorge myself on the chick­ens that curbside vendors would split with a machete and then grill over lump charcoal.

Since then, I’ve done pretty much every species of North American game bird in this fashion, always with excellent results. Using kitchen shears, cut along one side of the backbone (you can also cut on both sides of the backbone and remove it completely), then open up the bird, lay it skin side up, and press down on the breastbone so it lies flat. It comes out looking like a butterfly or a Rorschach test-take your pick. (If you cut out the backbone completely, don’t forget to save it in your freezer for stock.)

I like to brine game birds to get the maximum juiciness possible. You can brine for as little as 1-2 hours or up to 12 hours. After I brine it, I like to grill it; sometimes I’ll set up a quick impromptu smoker on my grill top by wrapping some mesquite or fruitwood chips in aluminum foil and placing the package above a low flame.

Ingredients

  • 1 game bird, plucked, gutted, and spatchcocked (see note at top of recipe)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp. black peppercorns
  • Rosemary or thyme sprigs
  • Vegetable or canola oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. To make the brine, combine 1 gallon water with 1 cup salt, sugar, honey, juice of the lemons, squeezed-out lemon halves, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, and rosemary or thyme sprigs.
  2. Lay the spatchcocked bird in a nonreactive baking dish or roasting pan. Pour the brine over the bird.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours (the smallest birds, such as quail, could be brined for as little as 15-20 minutes; larger birds, such as turkeys, benefit from 6-8 hours of brining or more).
  4. When ready to cook, remove the bird from the brine, rinse it, and pat it dry.
  5. Prepare the grill for indirect heat.
  6. Brush the bird with a little oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
  7. Lay the bird skin side down on the hot side of the grill. (Leave a little room on the hot side for the impromptu smoker, if using.)
  8. Close the lid, checking occasionally; move it off the hotter side if it appears to be burning.
  9. Once the skin is golden and crisped, flip the bird over and cook it on the cooler side until done; an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (but not touching the bone) should read 160°.Note: It’s difficult to give precise cooking times when grilling whole upland game birds, including turkeys, as they vary in size. fat content, moisture, etc, and grill qualities and temperatures vary wildly as well. In short, a safe bet is to cook the bird at medium to medium-high settings until the internal temperature of the thigh is 160°.
Chef’s notes

I fell in love with spatchcocked game birds when I used to travel Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula with nothing but a backpack and a fishing rod.

After a few days of sleeping on remote beaches and eating little besides beans and rice, I was always eager to gorge myself on the chick­ens that curbside vendors would split with a machete and then grill over lump charcoal.

Since then, I’ve done pretty much every species of North American game bird in this fashion, always with excellent results. Using kitchen shears, cut along one side of the backbone (you can also cut on both sides of the backbone and remove it completely), then open up the bird, lay it skin side up, and press down on the breastbone so it lies flat. It comes out looking like a butterfly or a Rorschach test-take your pick. (If you cut out the backbone completely, don’t forget to save it in your freezer for stock.)

I like to brine game birds to get the maximum juiciness possible. You can brine for as little as 1-2 hours or up to 12 hours. After I brine it, I like to grill it; sometimes I’ll set up a quick impromptu smoker on my grill top by wrapping some mesquite or fruitwood chips in aluminum foil and placing the package above a low flame.

Ingredients

  • 1 game bird, plucked, gutted, and spatchcocked (see note at top of recipe)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp. black peppercorns
  • Rosemary or thyme sprigs
  • Vegetable or canola oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. To make the brine, combine 1 gallon water with 1 cup salt, sugar, honey, juice of the lemons, squeezed-out lemon halves, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, and rosemary or thyme sprigs.
  2. Lay the spatchcocked bird in a nonreactive baking dish or roasting pan. Pour the brine over the bird.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours (the smallest birds, such as quail, could be brined for as little as 15-20 minutes; larger birds, such as turkeys, benefit from 6-8 hours of brining or more).
  4. When ready to cook, remove the bird from the brine, rinse it, and pat it dry.
  5. Prepare the grill for indirect heat.
  6. Brush the bird with a little oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
  7. Lay the bird skin side down on the hot side of the grill. (Leave a little room on the hot side for the impromptu smoker, if using.)
  8. Close the lid, checking occasionally; move it off the hotter side if it appears to be burning.
  9. Once the skin is golden and crisped, flip the bird over and cook it on the cooler side until done; an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (but not touching the bone) should read 160°.Note: It’s difficult to give precise cooking times when grilling whole upland game birds, including turkeys, as they vary in size. fat content, moisture, etc, and grill qualities and temperatures vary wildly as well. In short, a safe bet is to cook the bird at medium to medium-high settings until the internal temperature of the thigh is 160°.

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Spatchcocked Game Birds

Recipe by: Steven Rinella
Spatchcocked Game Birds
  • Course

    Main

  • Serves

    Varies by Species (two quail will feed 1 person; a grouse could feed 1-2 people; a turkey can feed about 8-12 depending on the size of the bird).
Chef’s notes

I fell in love with spatchcocked game birds when I used to travel Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula with nothing but a backpack and a fishing rod.

After a few days of sleeping on remote beaches and eating little besides beans and rice, I was always eager to gorge myself on the chick­ens that curbside vendors would split with a machete and then grill over lump charcoal.

Since then, I’ve done pretty much every species of North American game bird in this fashion, always with excellent results. Using kitchen shears, cut along one side of the backbone (you can also cut on both sides of the backbone and remove it completely), then open up the bird, lay it skin side up, and press down on the breastbone so it lies flat. It comes out looking like a butterfly or a Rorschach test-take your pick. (If you cut out the backbone completely, don’t forget to save it in your freezer for stock.)

I like to brine game birds to get the maximum juiciness possible. You can brine for as little as 1-2 hours or up to 12 hours. After I brine it, I like to grill it; sometimes I’ll set up a quick impromptu smoker on my grill top by wrapping some mesquite or fruitwood chips in aluminum foil and placing the package above a low flame.

Ingredients

  • 1 game bird, plucked, gutted, and spatchcocked (see note at top of recipe)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp. black peppercorns
  • Rosemary or thyme sprigs
  • Vegetable or canola oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. To make the brine, combine 1 gallon water with 1 cup salt, sugar, honey, juice of the lemons, squeezed-out lemon halves, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, and rosemary or thyme sprigs.
  2. Lay the spatchcocked bird in a nonreactive baking dish or roasting pan. Pour the brine over the bird.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours (the smallest birds, such as quail, could be brined for as little as 15-20 minutes; larger birds, such as turkeys, benefit from 6-8 hours of brining or more).
  4. When ready to cook, remove the bird from the brine, rinse it, and pat it dry.
  5. Prepare the grill for indirect heat.
  6. Brush the bird with a little oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
  7. Lay the bird skin side down on the hot side of the grill. (Leave a little room on the hot side for the impromptu smoker, if using.)
  8. Close the lid, checking occasionally; move it off the hotter side if it appears to be burning.
  9. Once the skin is golden and crisped, flip the bird over and cook it on the cooler side until done; an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (but not touching the bone) should read 160°.Note: It’s difficult to give precise cooking times when grilling whole upland game birds, including turkeys, as they vary in size. fat content, moisture, etc, and grill qualities and temperatures vary wildly as well. In short, a safe bet is to cook the bird at medium to medium-high settings until the internal temperature of the thigh is 160°.