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A Thanksgiving spatchcocked and roasted chicken on a platter with roasted potatoes.

Sweet Tea & Sage Thanksgiving Chicken

A stunning centerpiece for any Thanksgiving dinner or special occasion! Brined in a sweet, black tea marinade, this spatchcock chicken looks incredible on the table. But you can leave the chicken whole if you like. Either way, perfectly crispy skin leads to succulent, savory meat. Serve it with roast chicken jus, or fresh cranberry-orange relish

  • Total Time: About 1 Hour 30 minutes (25 Active)
  • Yield: 1 Roasted Chicken 1x



Sweet Tea Brine

  • 1 gallon or 4 quarts of water (or 2 quarts of water and 2 quarts of ice)
  • 6½ ounces or about ⅔ cup of kosher salt
  • 4 whole lemons
  • 7 small or 5 large black tea bags
  • 1 cup of honey or granulated sugar
  • 4 sprigs of fresh sage
  • 1 large onion, peeled and roughly cut into large chunks
  • 5 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns, optional
  • 3 bay leaves, optional

Spatchcock Roast Chicken

  • One 3 to 5-pound whole chicken (one without any retained water*)
  • About 3 tablespoons of avocado, sunflower, or canola oil
  • ½ teaspoon of kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper, optional
  • Fresh sage leaves, sliced thin or chopped for garnish


Before you begin, gather your ingredients and equipment, and read through the recipe well. Butterflying the chicken is optional. 

To Spatchcock (Butterfly) the Chicken

  1. Remove any (innards and pat the chicken dry. Then place it breast side-down on your cutting board.
  2. Find the spine of the chicken at the neck or tail end, and using sharp kitchen shears or a chef's knife cut on one side from end to end. Stay as close as possible to the backbone.
  3. Repeat on the other side to free the spine from the chicken. Flip the chicken over and press down on the breasts to crack the breastbone. You'll hear a pop or crack (how you know you've succeeded). 
  4. Keep the chicken cold until the brine is ready. You can butterfly the chicken a couple of days ahead of brining and/or cooking. 

For the Brine

  1. Ready your brining container. A large stainless steel bowl or a clean cooler that fits in your refrigerator work best. A brining bag is helpful but not necessary. 
  2. Measure two quarts (eight cups) of water into a large pot. Add all the remaining brine ingredients.
  3. Bring the brine just to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the salt and honey or sugar. Pour the contents of the pot into your brining container, and add two more quarts of cold water or ice. 
  4. Cool the brine to at least room temperature, or refrigerate it if making ahead. Once the brine is cool, add the chicken with the breast-side down to fully submerge most of the meat.
  5. Brine the chicken in the refrigerator overnight, for up to 12 hours. 
  6. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Place it on a clean plate or pan.
  7. Optional: Refrigerate the brined chicken uncovered for up to three days. This will dry out the skin which will crisp beautifully in the oven and lock in the meat's juices. 

To Roast the Chicken

  1. Preheat your oven to 400° F. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator about an hour before you roast it (room temperature chicken cooks faster and more evenly).
  2. Place the chicken skin-side up on your preferred baking pan. I like to set a rack inside the pan, as it allows heat to reach all sides of the chicken. 
  3. Oil the chicken well and season it evenly with about half a teaspoon of kosher salt. Place fresh sage sprigs around the chicken, if you like.
  4. Roast the chicken until the skin is deeply colored, and a thermometer reads almost 165° F in the center of the thickest part of the thigh and breast. This takes about 45 minutes for a four-pound spatchcocked chicken. Longer if you're roasting a whole chicken, or a larger, butterflied one. Cooking time truly depends on your oven and the size of the chicken. Temperature, not time, is the best way to know when the chicken is cooked properly.
  5. Let the roasted chicken rest for at least twenty minutes before carving and serving. Garnish with more fresh chopped sage.


On the Salt

This recipe specifically calls for kosher salt because that is the type of salt I use. Different varieties of salt are different in strength. So one cup of finer ground salt like table salt will make the brine much saltier than one cup of kosher. For best results, use kosher or a flake sea salt in the brine. 

On Buying Chicken

During processing, many fresh or frozen whole chickens are injected with a saline solution. It's one of the negatives of mass-produced meat. So if you plan to brine any piece of meat, you'll want to find one that doesn't contain any additional ingredients. Check the label carefully. Just because it reads "Natural" doesn't mean it's free from additives or wasn't injected with a saline solution.

On Adding Sugar or Honey

Since this recipe is designed for indulging, the brine contains a fair amount of sugar. But it's not necessary for a showstopper of a roast chicken. You can cut the amount in half. Or eliminate it altogether if you need to avoid refined sugar. If you don't mind honey, you can add a few tablespoons.

On the Nutrition Information

The amounts below don't include any of the brine ingredients, since it's a bit tricky to know how much of each the chicken meat absorbs. The brine will add some additional sugar and salt to the amounts below, but not an excessive amount. 

  • Author: Christina
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Category: Thanksgiving
  • Method: Brining & Roasting
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Gluten Free


  • Serving Size: 1 Quarter Roast Chicken
  • Calories: 360
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Sodium: 334 mg
  • Fat: 17 g
  • Carbohydrates: 0.5 g
  • Protein: 48.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 155 mg

Keywords: Thanksgiving chicken, spatchcock chicken, butterflied chicken, sweet tea brine