Portuguese Spatchcock

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I have done so much cooking in the last three weeks but I haven’t been taking many photos.  When you have guests, it just seems rude to whip the food away for a photo whilst they are sitting at the table, all expectant.   I did manage, however, to photograph this little bird before it was eaten.

In Perth, of late, it has certainly been barbecue weather.  We have had a week of high 30’s to low 40’s.  It is killing me and most others I know.  Even dear Bridgetown, renowned for its mild weather, has been smoldering.

I am not a barbecue fan.  It’s not that I don’t like the taste of barbecued meat – on the contrary, I love it.  I just hate cleaning the bloody barbecue.  But when I have a crowd of people, I relent and accept that the cleaning involved is probably no worse than if you had baked the meat in the oven or, worse still, cooked it on the cook top.

For this recipe, you can either spatchcock a whole poussin (in Australia, a poussin is a young chicken, less than 28 days old at slaughter and usually weighing 400–450 grams) or half a small chicken.  I chose the latter because poussins are relatively expensive for the amount of meat you get.  If you are in Perth and decide to go for poussins, you will need to go to a specialty butcher or order them in.  Small chickens are a little easier to find.

This recipe comes from a great book called BBQ Food for Friends by Jane Lawson and Vanessa Broadfoot.   I bought the book in 2002/3 when it was first released but it is still available, indicative of its popularity.  I use it every summer.


  • 1 red onion
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 3 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1½ tsp paprika
  • ¼ cup oil
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 4 poussins or 2 small chickens (no more than 1kg each)
  • ⅓ cup of chopped parsley, to serve
  • 2 lemon halves, to serve
  1. Put the onion, garlic, lemon zest, chilli flakes, paprika, oil and vinegar in a blender and blend to a smooth paste.
  2. Remove the back bone from the poussins or chickens (cut down each side of the backbone with a sharp knife then, with poultry shears, cut through the bone).  If using poussins, press the whole bird flat.  If using small chickens, cut them in half along the breast bone.
  3. Rub marinade into poussins/chickens and place in a plastic or glass container (pour any remaining marinade over the birds).  Cover and marinate in the fridge overnight.
  4. Barbecue poussins/chickens until cooked through.
    If you have a barbecue with a hood, you may wish to lower the temperature and put the lid down for a while to ensure they are cooked through before placing them on a hot grill to get nice char marks.
  5. When poussins/chickens are nearly ready, grill the lemon halves.
  6. Serve with a lemon half and sprinkled with parsley.

10 thoughts on “Portuguese Spatchcock

  1. BBQ seems right..today it rained this morning but we are now heading for 39 degrees. The best possible option would be to take a discreet chair and sit in the freezer section at the supermarket….last night though I was adventurous and cooked..Lebanese- eggplant caviar babba ghanoush), falafels, marinated chicken shishkebabs and the parsley/mint salad…it was really enjoyable in this neverending hot weather.

  2. Like Celia I don’t own a barbecue either. Does a slab of steel over hot coals count? We’ve done that a few times at the farm – the meat did ‘stew’ a little so wasn’t pleased with the result. Other than that, I’m coping fine without one and I certainly feel “Australian”!

    Your spatchcock looks superb Glenda – forget the cutlery, just pass that baby over and I’d happily tuck into it with my bare hands; hehe.

    BTW – I chuckled about all the cooking you’ve done and hardly any photos due to entertaining interfering with picture taking. I completely relate!!

      • I know. And I’m really ticked off about not getting a ‘great’ picture of my Tartare Sauce on xmas day. I want the recipe for this month’s cooking column in the paper and need to make it all over again just for one lousy photo. Very inconvenient!

  3. I feel inspired, haven’t lifted the barbecue cover since we arrived and this morning took off the cover to find the BBQ in expected unclean state but did not expect to find the side wok burner in disgusting mess after some paying guests were here last year.
    Shocked Celia does not have a BBQ at all, I will tell her it is very un-Australian, she will laugh. Roz

  4. Glenda, it looks fabulous! We don’t even own a bbq, but we talk about it often – though like you, I don’t like the idea of having to clean it. Having said that, it would be good to take the cooking out of the kitchen on scorching hot days!

    • Hi Celia. Has it been hot your way? It has been shocking here. Food tastes great barbecued but I am yet to come up with an easy way to clean them.

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