On my most recent trip to the grocery store, I noticed a package of prepared chicken for sale that had been spatchcocked and covered with spices. A spatchcocked bird is made by removing the backbone, or breastbone sometimes, and then spreading open and pressing flat. Because it lies flatter, it has a larger surface area and therefore cooks faster and more evenly.
The cost of the bird was $5.25 per pound. Right beside it was a whole fryer chicken for $2.92 per pound. In other words, it was nearly 80% more expensive. At about 3 pounds per bird, the difference in price would be close to 7 dollars. And that is $7 for a little bit of manual labor and maybe a teaspoon or two of spices.
A few step further, I found a prepared 3 pepper ribeye steak. Compared to its unadorned counterpart, the price was $6.62 per pound extra for a few grams of added ingredients. That's basically paying someone $2.50 per 6oz steak to sprinkle the spices on for you!
So, what does it take to prepare the chicken yourself?
- Prepare your spice mix, or get out your favorite ready-made one. 5 - 30 seconds.
- To spatchcock the chicken, you need to cut down both sides of either the backbone or the breastbone. The easiest way is with kitchen shears. Once the bone is removed, flip the bird over and press down firmly to flatten it. 60 seconds
- Turn the bird over and sprinkle spices on the inside of the bird, flip it back and sprinkle spices on the outside. 10 seconds
Total time 75 to 100 seconds.
At that rate, if you were getting paid, you would be making about $250/hour. Put another way, the average wage earner in the US earns about $25 per hour. That means they are trading around 17 minutes of paid work for less than 2 minutes of effort at home.
OK, I get that modern life is busy. I helped raise two daughters, with sports, after-school activities and choir, among other things. The whole bit. Some days it would be a half hour from getting home to getting back out the door. But while some convenience foods are real time savers, others like this are just illusions. You still need to shop, take the food out of the package and cook it. And you still need to clean up afterwards. The only real time saving is those 100 measly seconds.