Recipes > Butterflied Roast Chickens

Butterflied Roast Chickens


Brined and flavored with compound butter, this crispy and golden roast chicken is easy to make.
  • Serves: 8 to 12
  • Active Time: 40 mins
  • Total Time: 3 hrs
  • Views: 73,410
  • Success Rating: 100% (?)
    0% - I fed it to the dog


Step 1: Brining the Chickens (optional)

Brining the Chickens (optional)
  • 2 whole chickens
  • All-Purpose Brine (Rouxbe Recipe)


To start this dish, it is optional to brine the chickens, but it does make the meat incredibly moist and flavorful.

Choose a suitable-sized container and prepare enough All-Purpose Brine to fully cover the chickens.

Remove the neck and the insides from each chicken and place them into the container. Pour the cold brine over top and place into the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight.

When ready to roast the chickens, remove them from the brine and let drain. Pat dry with paper towels.

Step 2: Roasting and Serving the Chickens

Roasting and Serving the Chickens
  • 6 to 8 tbsp Compound Butter (Rouxbe recipe)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • kosher salt (to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper (to taste)


To cook the chicken, first preheat your oven to 400º degrees Fahrenheit (200°C).

Next, butterfly each chicken. Press down on each chicken to ensure it lies flat. Using your fingers, loosen the membrane and skin under the breasts, thighs and drumsticks. Be careful not to tear the skin. Place a slice of compound or regular butter under each breast, thigh and drumstick. Spread the butter underneath the skin as you go.

Set the chickens onto a baking tray. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and rub all over the skin. Season with salt and pepper. If you haven’t brined the chicken, you may want to season a bit more liberally.

Place into the oven for about 20 minutes. Then turn the heat down to 350º degrees Fahrenheit and let cook for another 30 minutes or so. Baste both chickens part way through with the drippings from the bottom of the pan.

To check for doneness, flip over and cut off a thigh. Make an incision in the thickest part of the thigh to peek inside. Transfer to another tray in the event that one chicken needs to go back into the oven. Be sure to check both chickens for doneness as they may be different sizes and cook at different rates.

Once done, make sure to let the chicken rest prior to carving. Transfer to a platter. If desired, drizzle with a reduced dark chicken stock and serve.

Chef's Notes

Recipe for: Tarragon and Shallot Compound Butter

For crispier skin, the chickens can be air-dried in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours before roasting. Set a cooling rack over a baking tray. Pat the chicken(s) dry after brining and set on the rack to air dry in the refrigerator. It is best to let the chicken come to room temperature for about 30 mins before cooking.

You don’t have to cook two chickens. We cook two so we have leftovers that we can use in other dishes such as:

Chicken Enchiladas
Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken and Dumplings


  • Bill S
    Bill S
    This was easily the juiciest chicken I've ever eaten. Brining will now be something I do as a matter of course. We made a compound butter with tarragon, basil, and oregano. The only downside was on doneness. After 50 minutes, testing a thigh showed it needed more time. After 10 more minutes, the other thigh looked good. Unfortunately, while carving, we found other parts of the bird that were still pink, so I've still got some learning to do on when a chicken is fully cooked.
  • Joe G
    Joe G
    Hi Bill. Glad you enjoyed this delicious chicken. Equally glad you tried brining and now understand what a big difference this easy step can make to your final meal. Nice work. As for cooking time, I'd strongly suggest from this point forward, that you always disregard cooking times published on ANY recipe. Everyone has a different ovens and everyone's oven is out be a few degrees (or more), making it impossible to judge doneness by published cooking times. In cooking school you are never allowed to ask the question, "how long". And if you do, you will always get the same answer - cook until it is done. With this chicken, don't hesitate to turn it over, and cut into the meat in a couple of places (always the thickest part). And always make sure to rest it before eating. For a whole roast chicken, you can watch this Drill-down for how to test chicken: Cheers, Joe
  • Liz S
    Liz S
    This was a great way to roast chicken. We brined a small free range organic chicken and just "eye-balled" a mix of tarragon, green onion and butter together to put under the skin. It was so moist and tender and made the best gravy. I had done a separate chicken stock reduction but just added that to the gravy. Yummy. I made the mistake of cutting out the bone before brining but that didn't seem to hurt it any. This will become a favourite way of roasting from now on.
  • Stephen W
    Stephen W
    This recipe calls for butterflying the chickens after the brine process. Will it make a difference if I butterfly the chickens before the brine process? Thank you.
  • Dawn T
    Dawn T
    No difference if you butterfly before you brine...go for it!
  • Kelly M
    Kelly M
    I realize the cooking time question is old, but this is very important, so I thought I would bump it for others who also might be wondering. While the drill-down Joe posted is indeed useful to tell if the bird is under-done, it won't keep you from first cooking it to the point where it is overdone, which, in my experience, is more often the problem. As Joe said, each oven is different. And, what is more, the temperature you set is an average temperature. Some ovens will stray much farther from that average temperature than others, meaning they will get much hotter or colder before their thermostats kick in to make a change. So, even if their average temperature is set at the target, they still might cook faster or slower than other ovens. In short, time is a pretty useless thing to judge by; what takes an hour in the person who made the recipe's oven might take 45 minutes in yours, or an hour-and-a-half. The only 100% reliable way to tell is to cook to temperature. The best way I have found to do this is with a probe thermometer, with which the probe goes in the meat, and the "brain" stays outside the oven, and sounds an alarm when the meat gets up to a preset temperature, which in the case of poultry is 165 degrees. The alarm goes off, you take the bird out, rest it for a few minutes, and voila, perfectly roasted bird. The same, of course applies to beef roasts, pork roasts, and so on, although temperatures vary. Cook to temperature, though, and whatever you roast will always come out perfect.
  • Dawn T
    Dawn T
    There are also a cooking school lesson on How to Roast Chicken. Here you will find even more information about cooking and testing a chicken for doneness.
  • Ruth A
    Ruth A
    I didn't realise how much difference brining could make. As I am by my self and only like dark meat I though I would try using four thighs. I put them in the brine for an hour. As I am watching my weight I only rubbed the out side with olive oil.The results was unbeliable. I sonn will be 82 abd have been cooking as long as I can rember. So the saying that you never get to old to learn something new is so true By Ruth .
  • Allan O
    Allan O
    For my first time brining, I experimented with two cornish hens. These were easy to butterfly with kitchen shears, and I used a compound butter I made with fresh shallots and dried thyme. Everything about this dish was delicious! The hens were so full of flavor! I can't wait to do this again, but with a larger, roasting chicken.
  • Jayne H
    Jayne H
    I have an oven that has a probe thermometer - never used it! I'd like to try with this recipe. My question is where do I place the thermometer for the best read - thigh or breast? The thigh seems smaller although I know that they often take longer to roast. Thanks.
  • Joe G
    Joe G
    Because this chicken is butterflied, it might be a bit more difficult as one of the benefits of butterflying is that it will cook more evenly (compared with roasting whole). However, I would still stick it into the thickest part of the thigh. Insert right down to the bone and then pull back off the bone just slightly (if the thermometer hits the bone, it tends to show the bone temperature which can be higher than the temperature of the meat. Consider investing in an instant read thermometer sometime. This way you can check the temperature in a few spots while checking for doneness. Cheers, Joe.
  • Mimi joan F
    Mimi joan F
    I finally got a chance to try this recipe out and I must say I am pleased. The chicken was brown and crispy on the outside and tender and thoroughly done everywhere! The technique is simple, once you get the back bone cut out, which was a bit tricky for me, since my kitchen shears are not all that strong, so I had to manoeuver around the thicker bones. Instead of compound butter, I would suggest just pushing some chopped fresh or dried spices and herbs under the skin. The chickens are quite fatty enough without the butter. I also skipped the basting. Instead I tented some foil over the chicken for the first twenty minutes. I had one large chicken instead of two, so I cooked it an extra half hour. I wasn't happy with the amount of browning, so I gave it a little time under the broiler to crisp up. I used an instant read thermometer in the thigh (I swear I did not read your reply first, Joe!) and it was 162 or 3F, so I cut into the thigh as in the recipe and it was totally done! Next time, maybe I will do a turkey!!! I also cooked the spine, which is my favorite part, pope's nose and all, along with the chicken and it was delicious! The one thing I would change is I would put the chicken on a rack, so that it is not sitting in the grease.
  • Ken R Rouxbe Staff
    Ken R
    Hi Mimi Joan- Oh, great work! I really enjoyed reading your suggestions and now you can do this recipe again and improve upon it. You seem to be a very intuitive cook, and that is the goal! And I agree, a rack is very useful for keeping the chicken elevated but it also encourages more even cooking. Keep up the great work and we appreciate you sharing your cooking experience with us. Enjoy!
  • Mimi joan F
    Mimi joan F
    Thanks for your appreciation! There are two reasons I can cook intuitively. One is the attitude I have picked up from Rouxbe, that it is more important to know the techniques, then to follow the recipe to the letter. I am better able to look at what I want from cooking any particular set of instructions and what is actually happening in my kitchen and if it is not working, I can find a way to get where I want to go! Sometimes! The second thing is that I have to deal with a cranky stove, that will not do what I want, and tools that resist my best intentions. They really encourage me to find solutions. When I start the cooking school, I am hoping that the courses will test my inventiveness and intuition to the max!
  • Ken R Rouxbe Staff
    Ken R
    Hi Mimi Joan- We look forward to helping you along the way and we also look forward to the mentorship and encouragement you can offer to your fellow students. I know they will cherish that as well. I believe deeply in the power of peer-to-peer learning. See you "in class"- Enjoy!
  • Sunnie S
    Sunnie S
    I tried this one a few days ago. I used the All-Purpose Brine recipe and brined the chicken overnight, then dried and let air dry in the fridge for about 5 hours. My bird was done after about 55 minutes of cooking time. I did find however, that the skin did not crisp up (and get the color I was hoping for)...I did start the chicken at 400 degrees and then reduce to 350 after the first 20 minutes. I often have trouble getting good browling in my non-convection oven...Perhaps, next time, I will try starting the bird at a higher temperature (maybe 425 or 450 degrees) and then reduce to 350. Thinking that may help solve my color issue? The chicken was AMAZING. So moist and each piece was SO flavorful. The brine really does make all the difference in the world when it comes to flavor and moisture. Looking forward to more brining! Thank you Rouxbe!
  • Eric W Rouxbe Staff
    Eric W
    Hi Sunnie, Yes, give it try at the higher temperature for added color. ~Eric
  • Ann Q
    Ann Q
    My oven stopped working yesterday so I cooked this on my grill. Did not add the butter. It was the most tender chicken I have ever tasted! Will never cook a roasted chicken without brining prior again! Yummmmm.

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