Weeknight Butterflied Chicken with Rosemary, Garlic and Lemon

Welcome to another recipe from our cooking class the other week. Cassia and I were both excited to include this recipe on the menu because it’s so dang easy to make. I have to admit that I have been among the ranks of people intimidated by the idea of roasting a chicken–but no longer!

Let me put it this way: the first time I butterflied a chicken and tossed this together, I was able to get home from work, put it in the oven, change my clothes, and dash out the door again to get to my yoga class all in 15 minutes. For realz. I left a note for my husband (due to get home shortly) to turn off the oven after 35 minutes. When I got back from exercising, the aromas that awaited me were mouth-meltingly good. And I realized that roasting a chicken is a fabulous weeknight meal–almost no prep time, and a very modest cooking time. Plus, butterflying a chicken is kind of . . . fun. As long as you own some hefty kitchen scissors, this neat trick will reduce the roasting time and get the chicken to cook evenly.

It’s also a great trick for the summertime, when the flat surface created by butterflying a chicken will allow you to slap ‘er on the grill. Brilliant! Maybe some day I’ll own a grill and I can experience the wonder for myself.

Let’s do this thang!


(Serves 5)

1 whole chicken (3-4 lbs), giblets removed

2-3 TBS olive oil

3 sprigs rosemary, leaves torn off 2 of them

1 head garlic

1 lemon, cut into 6 pieces



1 lemon, for garnish

First, preheat the oven to 400 F. Then, rinse the chicken (including the cavity) and dry the beast thoroughly with paper towels. Place it on a cutting board (with an optional sheet of wax paper underneath for cleanliness), breast side down and backbone side up. Arrange it so that the neck is facing you.

Now it’s time to butterfly!

Cut along either side of the backbone:

You’ll hear some crunches, but shouldn’t encounter any major obstacles. If you do, adjust your course accordingly. Above, I’m cutting along the right side of the backbone. Once you’ve cut all the way through, cut through the left side as well and simply remove the entire backbone. Remove the backbone and throw it away.

At this point you’ll see some extra skin and fat hanging around the bottom–cut that out.


Turn the chicken over, and firmly press on the breastbone to break it.

There I am dangling it from a casual hand during the cooking class.

I’m pointing to the breast bone, which we just broke. Your chicken should now look like this:

Now that the chicken is splayed out, pat it dry again with more paper towels (the drier you can get it, the crisper the skin will bake up).

Spread a layer of parchment paper on a large baking sheet, and slap the butterflied chicken on it, skin side up. Pour the olive oil over the chicken, sprinkle on the rosemary leaves, and generously season it with salt and pepper, spreading the oil and seasoning over the entire surface with your fingers.

Break apart the head of garlic (but you don’t need to remove the papery skins on the cloves).

Roughly chop the lemon:

Distribute the garlic and lemon all around and underneath the chicken.You don’t have to stuff anything under the skin, but I kinda felt like it.

I’m sorry if this grosses you out–but after 35 minutes in the old cooker, your chicken eeblie-jeeblies will turn into pure, unedited hunger.

I call dibs on that piece of lemon up in there!

We’re almost done–toss a couple whole sprigs of rosemary underneath it.

And ready to roast!

Roast it for 35-45 minutes (test for doneness at 35). And let me add–please don’t overcook it. If the juices are running clear, you’re probably good to go. But the difference between a chicken overcooked by 10 minutes (starting to get dry and fibrous) and a perfectly cooked chicken (think al dente pasta) is amazing. When it’s moist and just done, it’s an experience to be treasured bite by bite. Overcooking makes it mediocre and blah. The USDA will tell you to go to 170 in the breast, but keep in mind that their recommendation errs on the high end. The dry end. The fibrous end. I cooked my chicken to 160 in the thick part of the breast. For my taste, perfect!

Optional step: 10 minutes before it’s done, you can grab a stick of butter and smear it over the top. This will give the skin the lovely golden brown color that you see in these pictures.

Let it rest for about 10 minutes before carving and serving. Serve with fresh wedges of lemon, and the roasted lemon as well (the pulp will melt like butter!). And in the name of all that is good in the world, please don’t forget to squeeze the roasted garlic out of the skins–it’s to die for.

We served this chicken with the brussel sprouts and a creamy goat cheese polenta. What a perfect combination.

So, my friends–roast a butterflied chicken on a weeknight! It’s easy to prepare, quick to get on the table, and oh-so-satisfying to eat.

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37 Responses to Weeknight Butterflied Chicken with Rosemary, Garlic and Lemon

  1. Sarah R says:

    This looks great! I think I’ll try it this weekend…unless this is a strictly weeknight undertaking. :)

  2. Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon. ~Doug Larson
    That looks delicious!

  3. Wendi says:

    I love the idea that roast chicken can be a weeknight dinner. I’ve clipped and saved butterflied chicken recipes forever but never actually tried it. I think I need to remedy that.

  4. Joanne says:

    Now that I’ve roasted a whole chicken, I think I need to get butterflying under my belt. I have a feeling breaking all of those bones will be quite gratifying. And then eating it…will just about make my day.

  5. maryct70 says:

    Sounds delicious!
    Looks fairly easy to butterfly as well. Thanks for the photos as visual cues.
    Can’t wait to try it!

  6. Erin says:

    Nice! I’ve never butterflied a chicken either, and now I’m definitely going to try it this week. Your beautiful pics are so much more helpful for this visual learner than written directions – thanks for the confidence to give this a go! (esp. since I love roasted chicken but am always frustrated at the way the breast meat gets overdone trying to get the dark meat cooked through. Yay for a good solution!)

  7. leashieloo says:

    That looks so gorgeous and delicious. I haven’t made a chicken in ages!

  8. Ria says:

    Hi Jenna, thanks for dropping by my space :) So glad I came here, the chicken looks delicious!

    Btw, you look pretty too! Loved your yellow top :)

  9. Rosemary and garlic is one of my most favorite flavor combination! I LOVE my food with bold flavors and chicken should be cooked with any less than that :-)

  10. foongfest says:

    Very nicely done! That polenta also looks amazingly awesome…

    Oh, I also saw that you said to throw the backbone away but I’ve found some uses for it.
    I usually end up either freezing it for stock/soup later on or use it to make a quick sauce for said roasted chicken. (I brown the spine, add vegetables, wine, 1 cup of water and simmer. Reduce and then season to taste.) Anyway, just a few thoughts in case your are looking for ideas.

  11. Kankana says:

    you know every time i see a full chicken roasted .. i really want to gear myself up to challenge myself, but then i give up! :( I think it’s time i just get it done with!!
    Your dish is looks fantastic!!! so delicious…

    • Jenna says:

      That’s exactly how I used to feel. It feels great to finally do away with my fears and realize that roasting a chicken is way easier than a lot of things I make on a regular basis. You can do it! =)

    • foongfest says:

      Seriously, it’s reading things like that which make me real happy.

      I’m always happy to hear about people trying out roasting whole chickens. It’s simple and you’ll feel like you can conquer the world after.

  12. Ah! I shall butterfly a chicken! I’ve never done that. Thank you for sharing. Blessings…

  13. Amy says:


    What’s the recipe for that goat cheese polenta please :)

    • Jenna says:

      Getting to it . . . =) Fear not, it will happen soon. And by “soon” i actually mean “semi-soon.” Right. Keep applying pressure as you see fit, heh heh.

  14. Lindsay says:

    What an amazing looking weeknight meal!!! I am always struggling to make food during the week and the looks delicious. Thanks for sharing those photos too on how to butterfly the chicken — very helpful!

  15. Twinky says:

    You mean to tell me that after all those whole roast chickens I made in Spain (with lemon and rosemary and garlic in the cavity… suppository style!),or the pollo asado on a Sunday, it’s only now you are actually doing roast chicken???

    And yes, you can save the back and boil it up for stock, but I like the idea of making an immediate sauce with it to accompany the tasty delight of the chicken for a weeknight dinner!!

  16. I’ve always found roasted chicken easy but SO boring. This does not look boring! Big fan of the rosemary. I bet leftovers are great!

  17. Pingback: Weeknight Butterflied Chicken with Rosemary, Garlic and Lemon (via Jenna’s Everything Blog) | My Grandparent's Kitchen

  18. Veronica says:

    OK, you’ve convinced me. Your lovely step-by-step photos have overcome my resistance to cooking big pieces of meat.

  19. Veronica says:

    I’m making this! <—-That's how I meant to end the above comment, but I posted it too soon.

  20. Sarah says:

    so i’m kinda scared of whole chickens…but this looks good…. :)

  21. rsmacaalay says:

    Wow that chicken looks perfectly cooked, seems like it still have that crisp on the skin and a very juicy meat. Yummy!

  22. maryct70 says:

    I tried your recipe for dinner tonight. It might not be a weeknight, but it every night in our house is rushed! It came out great! Very juicy, with plenty of sweet lemon flavor to complement the rosemary and garlic. My whole family loved it, even the little ones!
    Thanks so much.

  23. Pingback: Healthy recipe of the week: Swiss chard and chicken with rosemary – I will eat better diary - Nutrition, healthy recipes and healthy eating how-tos

  24. Wendi says:

    Jenna, I made Butterflied Chicken for Easter dinner. It was simple and delicious.

  25. Melissa says:

    This turned out really well! Thank you for the awesome idea.
    I used a bigger bird (5lbs.) and it took over 1.5 hours to get it done…but was worth the wait :)

  26. Sharon B says:

    Yes, tried this one – pink in the breast at 45 minutes + 10 minutes rest at 400 farenheit for a 3lb bird – may need to extend that cook time a bit or use the fan in the oven maybe.

    • Jenna says:

      Hmmm, very strange! I actually used this recipe again at my aunt’s house this past weekend and it turned out great. Maybe my oven runs hot. Sorry it didn’t work out perfectly for you!

  27. Pingback: Butterflied Chicken | Bon Appetit Hon

  28. Mary O. says:

    This is now a staple in our weeknight dishes. Thank you so much for doing the blog. I think I might try the chicken tikka masala next. The pictures are so great. Hope you are well!

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