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Grilled Spatchcock Chicken

The best way to grill a whole chicken! Making a Spatchcock Chicken on the Grill is surprisingly easy and simple. Cut your time in half by cutting out the backbone and laying your chicken flat, it makes a delicious meal the whole family can enjoy!

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Grilled golden brown spatchcocked chicken sitting on butcher paper and a cutting board next to grilled lemons and parsley.

How to Cook a Whole Chicken on the Grill

Spatchcocking (or butterfly) cutting a chicken is one of those ideas that I think are lost on a lot of home cooks because it just sounds harder than it is.

What does Spatchcock mean?

Spatchcock in the simplest form means a chicken split open and grilled. More specifically a chicken is which the back bone is taken out so the bird lays flat.

Some people will also call this butterfly cutting a chicken and although it technically isn’t wrong the term spatchcock is more accurate in the case. Butterfly cutting refers to any piece of meat being cut in two but still connected. So for example you can butterfly cut just a single chicken breast or pork chop.

So now that you know exactly what it means let’s talk about how any why.

Why Should I Spatchcock My Chicken?

Chickens can be a tricky food to grill if left whole. They either have to sit up or turned a lot making it near impossible to get an even cook. Spatchcocking solves all of that. By opening the chicken up you get a perfect even cook and in a much shorter amount of time as well as a much crisper skin.

And while in the post I cover grilling a chicken this same method applies to if you wanted to roast your chicken in the oven as well.

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

It sounds so complicated right?! It really can be described in a few sentences.

Start off by patting the chicken dry with a paper towel, do not rise off. Place the chicken back bone side up on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to cut the backbone out of chicken. I honestly recommend the kitchen shears, it makes this even easier! Once the backbone is out flip the chicken over and press down on the upper breasts to lay flat.

A whole raw chicken sitting on a white platter.
A raw spatchcocked chicken laid out on a white platter.

If you are more of a visual person I made you a quick video!

Grilling a Spatchcock Chicken on the Grill

Now that you opened your chicken up don’t worry grilling it is almost just as easy!

Preheat the grill to high heat.

Drizzle the chicken with oil and rub over. Now sprinkle the chicken generously with kosher salt (and pepper or other spices if you see fit).

A raw spatchcocked chicken on a platter being oiled with a silicone brush.
Salting an oiled and spatchcocked chicken getting it ready to grill.

Place the chicken skin side down on the hot grill. Cook 8 – 10 minutes until the skin of the chicken appears golden brown.

Carefully flip the chicken over and turn the grill down to medium-low. This is the most challenging part of the whole recipe, do so slowly and carefully. I recommened using two grilling tools to help, for example a tongs to guide and a spatula to flip. The chicken might start falling apart on you if it is cooking quickly so no need to rush through it. I have found if you have enough space on your grill it is easiest to flip it over in the direction of the head end, it is more of a roll over this way instead of a huge flip.

Once your chicken is flipped cook another 30 to 35 minutes, this will depend fully on the size of your chicken having a nice meat thermometer is key. The breast should reach a temperature of at least 165º F and the thigh should reach a temerature of at least 180º F. If you need a nice meat thermometer I swear by my Thermoworks Thermapen, it is a little bit of an investment but to me has been so so worth it with its speed and accuracy!

Once the chicken is done transfer to a cutting board or platter and let rest 10 minutes before carving.

A Grilled Spatchcock Chicken grilled to golden perfection laid out on some brown butcher paper on top of a cutting board.

Tips, Tricks, & Questions

Can I marinade or use seasonings on my chicken?

Absolutely! This post is meant to give you a starting off point. While I will admit something about an absolute plain chicken (including salt of course) is so so amazing you can use this basic kitchen skill to make the chicken how you want it!

Make it a Meal: So you have a Whole Grilled Chicken and now you are in the need of some sides?!? You can’t go wrong with a salad. I suggest either going to my Antipasto Salad for the traditional greens salad or my ‘Healthier’ Bacon Ranch Potato Salad for a fun twist. A good vegetable for the side is always great option, you could try my Oven Roasted Broccoli, Grilled Vegetables Platter, or Grilled Artichokes. If you are looking for a starch or carb for the side try it with my Rice Pilaf with Cranberries or my Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes! You can seriously go so many directions with a whole grilled chicken!

If you like this recipe for Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken you might like these other recipes:

Overhead view of a spatchcocked chicken grilled to golden brown perfection sitting on butcher paper on a cutting board.

Grilled Spatchcock Chicken

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

The best way to grill a whole chicken! Making a spatchcock chicken on the grill is suprisingly easy and simple. Cut your time in half by cutting out the backbone and laying your chicken flat, it makes a delicous meal the whole family can enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (4-6 pounds)
  • 3-5 tablespoons Cooking Oil (high heat like canola, vegetable, or refined olive oil work well)
  • Kosher Salt

Instructions

    1. Preheat grill to high heat.
    2. Pat chicken dry with a paper towel. Place the chicken back bone side up on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to cut the backbone out of chicken. Once the backbone is out flip the chicken over and press down to lay flat.
    3. Drizzle with oil and rub over the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken generously with kosher salt.
    4. Place the chicken skin side down on the hot grill. Cook 8 - 10 minutes until the skin of the chicken appears golden brown.
    5. Carefully flip the chicken over* and turn the grill down to medium-low. Cook another 30 to 35 minutes, this will depend fully on the size of your chicken having a nice meat thermometer is key. The breast should reach a temperature of at least 165º F and the thigh should reach a temerature of at least 180º F.
    6. Once done transfer the chicken to a platter and let rest 10 minutes before carving.

Notes

*This is the most challenging part of the whole recipe, do so slowly and carefully. I recommened using two grilling tools to help, for example a tongs to guide and a spatula to flip. The chicken might start falling apart on you if it is cooking quickly so no need to rush through it. I have found if you have enough space on your grill it is easiest to flip it over in the direction of the head end, it is more of a roll over this way instead of a huge flip.

Once you have the basics down for how to spatchcock a full chicken you should absoutely play around with marinades, rubs, and sauces!

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 breast, thigh, or drumstick
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 259Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 88mgSodium: 179mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 27g

Nutritional data is automated, final nutritional information will depend on ingredients used and any changes made.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment below on the blog or share a photo with me tag @the_schmidty_wife! Can't wait to see what you made!

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Peace & Love

Lauren, The Schmidty Wife

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Nick

Monday 14th of June 2021

Hi Lauren... just curious if you've ever tried dry brining your chicken. After spatchcocking the chicken pat it dry and cover the skin generously with kosher salt. Then set it on a rack on top of a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 6-8 hours. Dry brining can be used regardless of the cooking method. Absolutely worth the time and minimal effort.

Kind regards,

Nick

Lauren Schmidt

Friday 18th of June 2021

Yes! I love dry brining. I actually have a whole turkey recipe for dry brining here, https://theschmidtywife.com/dry-brined-turkey/ and I think the exact same method could and should be used for spatchcocking a chicken! Thanks for sharing Nick!

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