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"Butterfly" comes from the resemblance of the cut to the wings of a butterfly.
In butchery, butterflying transforms a thick, compact piece of meat into a thinner, larger one. The meat is laid out on a cutting board and cut in half parallel to the board almost all the way to the other, leaving a small "hinge", which is used to fold the meat out like a book. This technique is often used as an alternative to, or in conjunction with, pounding out the meat with a meat mallet to make it thinner.
For leg of lamb, it is generally followed by boning.
Common uses of this technique include creating thin cutlets from chicken breasts for dishes such as chicken piccata, or rendering lamb leg roasts suitable for making roulades. It can also be a first step to dicing chicken or slicing it into strips. Because the butterflying technique results in a thinner piece of meat or poultry, it allows for quicker cooking times and often more even cooking. 
Poultry is often butterflied. Spatchcocking is butterflying and also removing the backbone and possibly the sternum. Removing the sternum allows the bird to be flattened more fully. This is popular for grilling or roasting. Butterflying makes poultry easier to grill or pan-broil.
- . The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/food/2001/07/04/spatchcock-the-bird/6db9e0e3-0b35-4b96-a169-d0164a7d388d/. Retrieved 12 September 2017. Missing or empty
- "How To Butterfly A Chicken Breast". Perdue.com. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
- "How To: Butterfly A Whole Chicken - Rachael Ray". 30 August 2013.
- "How To Butterfly A Whole Bird". Perdue.com. Retrieved 31 January 2018.
- Marcus Wareing, Shaun Hill, Charlie Trotter, Lyn Hall, Knife Skills in the Kitchen, 2008 ISBN 0756647568, p. 169
- Gourmet Magazine, The Best of Gourmet, 2007 ISBN 1400066387, p. 239
- J.G. Ferguson et al., The Modern Family Cook Book, 1942, p. 499
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