Chick on the GrillJump to Recipe
I love it when you all vote for what I want on a poll. Last week’s had a bunch of grill options and I definitely wanted to try out the chicken.
I’ve had chicken cooked like this before, but have never tried it myself. Turns out Grilled Spatchcock Chicken is pretty easy to do and the final bird is delicious and beautiful!
There is, of course, that whole spatchcocking thing, which can be a bit intimidating, but we will get through it. Keep in mind the good meal you are prepping and also know that the cutting part is the hardest part of the recipe. Nail that and it’s smooth sailing!
My absolute favorite way to grill a whole chicken is under an hour is to spatchcock it! It’s not as scary as it sounds.
1) Preheat gas or charcoal grill for medium heat. If you’re using charcoal, you want indirect heat to start and you can move the chicken over direct heat later to get it crispy.
2) Turn your chicken over and use kitchen shears or a good sturdy knife to cut down the backbone of the bird. If you cut on both sides of the backbone, you should be able to remove it. You can save it for stock if you want.
3) Flip the bird over and flatten it with your hands until it lays mostly flat and rub it well on both sides with your favorite dry rub. (You can do this in advance and let the chicken rest for up to a day in the fridge to let the rub penetrate and season the bird.)
4) When you’re ready to cook, rub the grill with some oil (I just use paper towels). Also oil a square of heavy duty foil.
5) Place the chicken, breast side up, on the grill. Cover it with the oiled foil and a heavy pot or pan (like a cast iron skillet – the foil just keeps the dirty pot from touching the chicken). Cover the grill and let the bird cook for 15-18 minutes.
6) Remove the weight and foil from the bird and carefully flip it. Replace foil and weight and grill for another 15-18 minutes.
At this point, test the chicken with a meat thermometer. You are looking for 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the thigh. If it isn’t at that temperature yet, flip the bird again and let it cook for another few minutes. Depending on how dark the skin is, you may also want to leave it skin-side down to continue to crisp up the skin.
Once the chicken reaches the right temp, remove it from the grill carefully and loosely cover it with foil. Let it rest for 10 minutes.
Then chop the chicken into large pieces. I usually cut off the wings and have them as a chef snack, then I cup off the thigh and leg on each side and cut the breasts in half.
Grilled Spatchcock Chicken
Besides a good roaster chicken (buy the best bird you can afford), you really only need a few ingredients to make this happen. Most importantly, you’ll need some rub.
I used some Tom Douglas rub that a friend gave us, but you can definitely use any rub you have. If I hadn’t had this rub in my pantry, I’ve would’ve made up a batch of my all-purpose rub and used that!
Ok. The tricky part of making Grilled Spatchcock Chicken. You need to cut the backbone out of this bird. It’s not easy, but it’s not hard either. If you have a good pair of kitchen shears you can run it up both sides of the backbone and you’ll be done.
If you’re like me and you don’t have a pair of shears, you’ll have to use a sturdy knife to chop through the bones. Luckily the bones are pretty small and you can still do the task in a minute or two.
Then flip the bird and flatten it well on your surface. Rub it like crazy with your rub of choice. Rub it on both sides of the bird so the flavors can really penetrate.
Ideally, you would wrap the bird at this point and let it rest for at least a few hours (or overnight) so the rub can really do its magic on the bird.
Cooking the Chicken
The tricky part about cooking a whole chicken on the grill is temperature control. You don’t want it blazing hot or your skin will burn and the chicken will still be raw. So start with a medium heat. You can always crank up the heat at the end if needed.
If you’re using charcoal, which would undoubtedly be better, start the bird over indirect heat and move it to direct heat if you need to.
I like to start mine with the skin-side up.
Before you toss the bird on the grill, rub a little oil on the grates just to prevent sticking.
To help the chicken cook evenly and also promote that traditional spatchcock look, add some weight to the top of your chicken. Traditionally, this would be a big brick, but for me a cast iron skillet does the job just fine.
I recommend putting some lightly oiled foil between the skillet and the chicken (oiled side on the chicken). This just helps protect the bird from what is undoubtedly a dirty pan.
Cooking time on this sucker can vary wildly, but I would start by grilling it for 15-18 minutes per side.
So after that time, remove the weight and foil and give it a flip. Then let it go for another 15-18 minutes on the second side.
Ultimately, it’s pretty hard to know when the Grilled Spatchcock Chicken is done by touch alone. Maybe if you cooked these everyday you would get good enough to just know, but you should probably use a meat thermometer to make sure your chicken is cooked through.
You are shooting for 165 degrees F. in the thickest part of the thigh.
You also want the skin to be nicely crispy. Mine maybe got just one shade too crispy, but I like it that way.
Most importantly, when you take the bird off the grill, let it rest for at least 5 minutes (but 10 is better) before even thinking about slicing into it.
Then you can chop off the wings, cut off the thighs and chop the breast pieces in half. It’ll be much easier to carve up then a full, uncooked chicken. The pieces will pretty much fall apart.
For my money, it’s tough to beat that thigh right there. That’s pretty much grilled perfection.
Serve this however you want. Salad? Baked potato? Maybe my favorite grilled salad of the summer?
Have you ever spatchcocked a bird like this? It’s a bit intimidating but the results are fantastic!
Hello! My name is Nick Evans and I write and manage Macheesmo. I started Macheesmo 11 years ago when I was just learning my way around the kitchen. I love to cook and love everything food-related, but I have no formal training. These days I focus on fast, accessible recipes with the occasional “reach” recipe!
I’ve posted almost 2,000 recipes on Macheesmo. For each one, I do my best to give full explanations of what I did and tips on what I’d do differently next time. I’ll bring up the tricky parts and the easy parts.
I hope you can find something and cook something!