Hearing grilled chicken on the menu may elicit feelings of fear of dry and bland chicken drenched in too much barbecue sauce. But that is a thing of the past. It turns out how you grill it is the key. Introducing grilled spatchcock chicken; it’s tender, juicy meat and the best way to grill a whole chicken.
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Let’s face it; it’s hard to perfect a chicken recipe where, when grilling, it ensures the bird cooks evenly from breast to thigh. The thighs tend to cook faster, the breast slower. There’s a lot of rotating, covering with foil, and small prayers that get sent up when managing the fire.
That is, until you start spatchcocking your bird.
Why spatchcocking works for grilling
No, not a pirate word or slang for anything nefarious. Spatchcocking is the technique of cutting open the bird by removing the backbone of the chicken. This allows the chicken to be flayed out and lay flat for grilling so entire bird gets even heat and cooking quicker. Although intimidating at first, this method is one of our favorite ways to cook poultry fast with a ton of flavor.
Because the meat is all on an even level, the bird cooks up to 25% faster. A chicken under 5 pounds can cook in under an hour when spatchcocked. Making this the perfect method for flavorful, juicy chicken while also minimizing the risk of the bird drying out or becoming tough.
While smoking whole chicken is usually cooked at a lower heat for a longer period to infuse a robust smoke flavor, this easy recipe is grilled hotter. It’s a faster cook with that distinct grilled flavor you can only get from charcoal. It also works for bigger birds like spatchcock turkey and smaller birds like cornish hens.
- Whole chicken
- Girl Carnivore Chick Fest or Over Easy Sprice blend, or your favorite herbaceous chicken rub.
- Salt – we always use kosher salt
- Fresh Herbs – use a blend of fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage
- Oil – high-quality extra virgin olive oil
How to grill a spatchcock chicken
- Start by spatchcocking the chicken. To do so, pat the chicken dry and arrange it on a clean work surface. Use heavy-duty sharp kitchen sheers to cut along the side of the backbone, then the other side to remove it and fold the chicken open. Press down on the center of the breast bone to flatten the bird and tuck the wing tips behind the breast.
- Season the chicken with the dry rub on both sides liberally with the GirlCarnivore Chick Fest and salt.
- Place the chicken in the fridge until ready to grill.
- Then, prep the grill for indirect heat. Light charcoal briquets or lump charcoal in a charcoal chimney and wait about 15 minutes until they are about 70% ashed over.
- Pour the hot coals on one side of the grill and place the grill grate on top. Clean and oil the grate.
- Cover the lid and adjust the air vents of the grill to preheat the charcoal grill to a grilling temperature of 375 to 400 degrees F.
- When the grill is ready, place the herbs directly on the grill grates on the indirect side of the grill, the cooler side, to create a bed for the chicken.
- Nestle the spatchcock chicken onto the herbs, chicken breast side up, bone side down. Cover the grill with the lid. Grill the chicken for 30 minutes, and then brush the chicken with a little olive oil to help get crispy chicken skin. Repeat every 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through, rotating the chicken once, if needed to ensure even cooking.
- Grill the chicken until the breast reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, and the thickest part of the thigh reaches 170 degrees F with an instant-read thermometer.
- Carefully remove the spatchcock grilled chicken from the grates and place it on a baking sheet or large cutting board to rest.
- Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes before carving, discarding any of the herbs stuck to the bone sides. Garnish with freshly minced parsley and lemon zest, if desired.
GirlCarnivore Expert Tips
- This grilled spatchcock chicken recipe works on a gas grill or pellet grill as well.
- For a gas grill, preheat the grill for indirect heat to 375F by igniting 1 of the 3, or 2 of the 4, burners to create a hot side and a cool side. Grill the chicken as instructed with a bed of herbs until cooked through. Add a smoker box filled with wood chips for extra flavor.
- For a pellet grill, preheat the Traeger to 375 degrees F and grill the spatchcock chicken on a bed of herbs until cooked through. We recommend Jack Daniel’s charcoal pellets for a better char-grilled flavor.
- We recommend Cowboy all-natural hardwood briquets. And if you can get them, the garlic and onion all-natural briquets are our favorites for fast cooks like this one for another added layer of flavor.
- We ignite our charcoal with a traditional charcoal chimney and all-natural fire starters. Leaving no chemical taste on the coals or food.
- This grilled chicken cooked in 45 minutes on our classic Weber kettle grill.
what to Serve with Grilled Chicken
Leftovers and Reheating
Store leftover grilled chicken in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. To make storing leftovers easy, we cut the chicken up before wrapping it up.
To reheat leftovers, carve what you need from the whole bird. Reheat in an oven preheated to 325F for 10 to 12 minutes until heated through. Alternatively, heat under the broiler, like we do with our baked chicken leg quarters, with a watchful eye, for crispy skin.
Because the chicken is laid open in an even layer, the breast meat and thighs cook evenly when spatchcocked. Grill the chicken breast-side up and the bones on the grill grate for the best results. The only reason to flip the bird would be if you want to char the chicken skin a bit and add grill marks, but it cooks evenly without this step.
No, to spatchcock is to lay the entire bird flat by removing the spice. Butterflying is a technique used to slice the center of a chicken breast or cut of meat about three-quarters through the thickest part to open it for stuffing, like in our bacon-wrapped stuffed chicken recipe. However, some recipes use the ‘butterfly technique’ interchangeably with spatchcock when referring to a whole chicken.
The Irish. It’s said that spatchcock is a variation of ‘dispatch the cock.’ Which is really the best and the only answer we needed to satiate this curiosity. Now, you can grill a wonderful bird and win trivia night.
Have you tried grilled spatchcock chicken yet? We love this method! Make sure to rate the recipe and drop a tip below in the comments for the next guy who’s trying this.
Grilled Spatchcock Chicken
- 4 lbs whole chicken
- 2 tbsp Girl Carnivore Chick Fest spice blend or your favorite chicken seasoning mix
- 1 tbsp salt
- Mixed fresh herbs rosemary, thyme, and sage
- 2 tbsp oil
Spatchcock the chicken
- Prep the chicken by removing it from the package and patting it dry.
- Spatchcock the chicken to lay it flat.
- Season the chicken liberally on both sides with Girl Carnivore Chicken Fest seasoning blend and salt.
- Place the spatchcock chicken on a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator until ready to grill.
Prep the grill
- When ready to grill, prep the charcoal in a charcoal chimney until 70% ashed over. Arrange the charcoal in your grill for indirect heat by pouring the coals to one side of the grill.
- Place the grate on the grill and clean and oil.
- Cover with the lid and open the air vents. Allow the grill to come to a temperature of 375 to 400 degrees F.
Grill the chicken
- When the grill is ready, place the herbs directly on the grill grates on the cool side (indirect heat) of the grill to create a bed of herbs.
- Arrange the spatchcocked chicken on the bed of fresh herbs and cover the grill with the lid.
- Grill the chicken for 45 minutes to 1 hour, rotating the chicken once, if needed to help it cook evenly.
- After 30 minutes, baste the chicken with oil, and every 15 minutes after that until the chicken is cooked through.
- The chicken is done when the breast reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F, and the thighs reach 170 with an instant-read thermometer.
Rest and Serve
- Carefully remove the chicken from the grill grates and place on a baking sheet or cutting board to rest. Discard the herbs.
- Allow the grilled spatchcock chicken to rest for 10 minutes before carving to serve.
- To carve, cut the drumsticks and thighs from the whole chicken. Then remove the wings. Finally, carve the breasts, and remove the rib bones if desired.
For a gas grill:
- Preheat the gas grill to 375F by lighting 2 of the 4 (or 1 of the 3, depending on how many burners your grill has) to preheat the grill for indirect heat.
- Clean and oil the grill grate.
- If desired, add a smoker box with wood chips to the hot side of the grill to create smoke for better grilled flavor. We recommend hickory, post oak, or even mesquite wood chips.
- Grill the chicken as instructed by placing the spatchcock chicken on a bed of herbs on the cooler side of the grill.
- Rotate as needed for even cooking and baste after 30 minutes and every 15 minutes afterward with the oil until cooked through.
- Grill the chicken until the breast reaches 160F and the thighs reach 170 degrees F with a digital meat thermometer.
For a pellet grill:
- To grill this on a Traeger grill, follow the recipe as instructed.
- Preheat the Traeger to 375 degrees F and grill the spatchcock chicken on a bed of herbs until cooked through.
- We recommend Jack Daniel’s charcoal pellets for a better char-grilled flavor.