Why It Works
- Sandwiching the chicken between two hot, heavy surfaces produces the crispiest skin, in a remarkably short cooking time.
- Mincing the aromatics in the marinade boosts their flavor.
Chicken under a brick (pollo al mattone) is a method for making roast or grilled chicken that delivers some of the crispiest skin ever, with an even shorter cooking time than a more traditional roast bird. This recipe works no matter what equipment you have at home (see the "Special Equipment" section for more info).
- 1/2 cup (120ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons; 30ml juice), zest finely minced, plus lemon wedges for serving
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Needles from one 8-inch rosemary sprig, finely minced
- Leaves from 1 large sage sprig (about 8 leaves), finely minced
- 4 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
- One 4- to 5-pound (1.8 to 2.3kg) chicken
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cooking spray, such as Pam, or other neutral oil, for greasing the equipment
In a medium bowl, mix together olive oil, lemon juice and zest, red pepper flakes, rosemary, sage, and garlic.
Using sharp kitchen shears or poultry shears, remove spine from chicken (reserve spine for stock or another use). Flatten chicken by placing it skin side up on a cutting board and applying firm pressure to the breastbone. Transfer to a baking dish, season all over with salt and pepper, add marinade, and rub all over chicken. Cover dish with plastic. Marinate, refrigerated, at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
Preheat oven, along with all cooking equipment for whichever setup you're using, including skillets, foil-wrapped bricks, chicken press, barbell weight, et cetera (see the "Special Equipment" section below for more info), to 475°F (245°C).
Scrape marinade and minced aromatics off chicken as best you can. Using cooking spray or oil, grease the interior of the bottom skillet/roasting vessel. Lay chicken down in skillet, skin side up, arranging it so that it lies flat.
Using cooking spray or oil, grease the bottom of the top weight. (Depending on your setup, this could be one side of the foil-wrapped bricks, or the bottom of the second skillet or chicken-press weight.) Press the top weight down on the chicken, making sure it evenly covers it and is in contact with both the breast and the legs.
Transfer to oven and cook until thickest part of breast, close to bone, registers 150°F (66°C) on an instant-read thermometer, about 30 minutes.
Remove chicken from oven, remove top weight, and let rest 5 to 10 minutes. Carve and serve with lemon wedges, drizzling fresh olive oil over chicken at the table.
Perhaps the easiest approach is to use two regular bricks wrapped in heavy-duty aluminum foil as the weights, with a skillet below. Or you can use two large aluminum, cast iron, or stainless steel skillets, or an Italian chicken press. If you're using lightweight aluminum skillets, it helps to add a five- or 10-pound barbell weight (also preheated) to the top one to press it down onto the chicken better. If you're using cast iron, stainless steel, or aluminum, make sure the exterior of the top skillet is not treated with any kind of special finish or enamel—it should just be plain aluminum, stainless steel, or cast iron all over. To spatchcock the chicken, use kitchen shears or poultry shears. And don't forget to test for doneness with an instant-read thermometer.