What’s cooking today: Asian-marinated spatchcock chicken on the braai

What’s cooking today: Asian-marinated spatchcock chicken on the braai
Tony Jackman’s Asian-marinated spatchcock chicken, on a cool red-trimmed enamel plate. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

A chicken flattie, or spatchcock chicken, cooks twice as fast as an intact bird, and looks pretty splendid too. But don’t be tempted to undercook it.

Cooking a spatchcocked chicken on the braai grid can be a messy business. But if you use a pair of skewers, whether metal or bamboo, it makes turning it a cinch and keeps it from breaking up.

I found a brief, to-the-point BBC Good Food video of a chef showing how to spatchcock one and also how to skewer it. Have a quick watch (it’s very short) and you should have no difficulty doing it yourself:

He used metal skewers for that. I don’t have any, so I used bamboo ones and they worked perfectly. Just work slowly so they don’t snap.

I concocted an Asian-insired marinade with a citrussy emphasis, with plenty of garlic and ginger, and let it steep for several hours. You can marinate it the night before if you like.

Be careful not to undercook it on the coals. It needs plenty of heat, so in order to prevent it burning or the skin blackening you need to turn it frequently over very hot coals. That’s why the skewering is so important. I can guarantee it would break up without them.


1 whole chicken, spatchcocked

1 cup soy sauce

½ cup sweet soy sauce (or kecap manis)

2 tsp yuzu paste

½ cup lime juice

¼ cup Thai fish sauce

3 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped finely or grated

2 red chillies, chopped finely


Lay the chicken out on a board in front of you, upside down and with the parson’s nose facing you, as in the above video.

Use a pair of sharp kitchen scissors to cut along both sides of the spine, from the parson’s nose to the other end. Freeze this for use in a chicken stock later, unless you’re making one on the same day. Flatten the chicken downwards with the palm of your hand.

Combine all marinade ingredients in a container large enough to hold the spatchcocked chicken, and douse thoroughly on both sides and in every nook and cranny, turning it over a couple times to be sure every part of it is covered by the marinade.

Leave in the fridge to marinate for half a day or longer. Turn now and then.

Skewer the bird twice by placing it flat on a surface in front of you, and pushing one skewer cross-wise inwards through the thigh and then the breast, and repeating on the opposite side. Use this photo as a guide:

Insert skewers through the leg/thigh portion and then through the breast of the marinated bird. Repeat on the opposite side.  (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Braai it on a grid high above moderate coals for about an hour, turning frequently. Have any remaining baste to hand and a basting brush. It’s wise to have a fire burning nearby so that you can add more coals as needed. Baste as often as you can. Test for doneness by inserting a skewer in the thickest part of the breasts and thighs/legs. The juices should run clear, not pink. If they’re still pink, keep cooking. Turning frequently and basting now and then helps to prevent the skin from blackening overly (though I like the umami that a little blackening brings). DM/TGIFood

To enquire about Tony Jackman’s book, foodSTUFF (Human & Rousseau) please email him at [email protected]

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