Braai-or-bake chicken flattie with lime-garlic butter

Braai-or-bake chicken flattie with lime-garlic butter
Braai or bake: Tony Jackman’s spatchcock chicken ‘flattie’ flavoured with lime and garlic, photographed as soon as it came off the coals in Cradock. April 2024. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

A spatchcocked chicken is a versatile thing. You can bake (roast) it in the oven, or turn it frequently over hot coals on the braai. Just as long as you get it to golden, juicy deliciousness, it will be a treat.

Yes, it cannot be denied, this soaks up plenty of butter, and butter is expensive. Frighteningly so. Whenever I spot a good special on butter, such as the R49 for a 500 g brick I found at one of my local stores recently, into the trolley they go, and then all but one of them go into the freezer when I get home.

And that’s a good tip: butter freezes perfectly and is just fine once it’s been thawed at room temperature, or in the fridge if it’s a hot day.

How’s that for a saving? If the price is, say, R90 a brick, and I buy 10 bricks, I’ve saved R410 and probably have enough butter to get me through the winter. Without that discount, I would have paid R900.

Tell Tony: Have you seen butter for over R100 per 500g? I’d be interested to know when and where and what the price was. Please email me at [email protected]

In this recipe, lime and garlic make an interesting flavour combination, one bringing that wonderful depth that garlic brings to any dish, the other affording that delightful zing that citrus lends a dish.

(Serves 2 to 4 depending on the size of the chicken)


1 chicken

1 lime, juice and finely grated zest

1 cup (250 ml) butter

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste


How to prepare a spatchcock chicken? First, you need to cut along both sides of the spine (that’s on the underside) with a pair of very sharp, strong scissors or using a very sharp chef’s knife. This is discarded but can be used for a chicken stock.

Then you turn the chicken over, breast side up in other words, and push down hard with both hands on top of the chest. Bones below will snap and it will become flattened, hence chicken ‘flattie’. I also snip off the wing tips. Here’s a helpful video

I use two skewers, once the fowl has been flattened, to secure the bird which makes it easy to handle on the braai. You push one in from one side of the breast and across and up into the opposite leg and through the other side; the other goes the opposite way. See the photo as a visual aid. It’s easy and is done in seconds.

Melt the butter and add the lime zest and juice, and the chopped garlic. Simmer gently for two minutes, then turn off the heat.

Use your fingers to prise under the skin on the breasts, to make a pocket. Be careful not to break the skin.

Use a basting brush to dip into the melted line-garlic butter and push some under the skin, two or three times. Leave some of the baste at the furthest end, some in the middle and some just past where the brush is entering the pocket.

Baste the rest of the bird, mostly on top, and a bit on the underside too.

Season both sides with salt and black pepper.

I cooked it on very hot coals, with more logs burning nearby to add coals as needed. Chicken needs at least half an hour and requires frequent turning to prevent the skin from blackening. But for a whole spatchcock chicken, you need a good 50 minutes, up to an hour. The exact time depends on the combination of heat and the thickness of the chicken you’ve chosen. It’s essential to push a skewer through at the thickest part of the breast and also the thigh if you like, to be sure that the juices are not running pink, which would mean it’s not yet cooked to the bone.

NB: keep basting whenever you turn. If you run out of butter, just go back to the kitchen, add more butter to the pot, melt and stir well. It will take on the flavours of the garlic and lime that are still in the pot.

Alternatively, bake it in a 220℃ oven for about an hour, basting every 15 minutes.

We served it with a simple salad, but crispy potatoes are always lekker with chicken. DM

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer 2023, jointly with TGIFood columnist Anna Trapido. Order his book, foodSTUFF, here

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

This dish is photographed on a platter from a new range by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.


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