Grilled Spatchcock Chicken

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Spatchcocking or butterflying a chicken before grilling helps it to cook evenly creating a juicy, perfectly done chicken. The presentation is pretty impressive too.

Spatchcocking or butterflying a chicken before grilling helps it to cook evenly creating a juicy, perfectly done chicken. The presentation is pretty impressive too.

I love to cook chicken on the grill. Whether it’s a whole chicken or chicken breasts I just feel like the grill adds another layer of deliciousness. Maybe it’s the fresh air or just being outdoors. Whatever it is, it makes me happy.

One method that I’ve been using lately to grill a whole chicken is spatchcocking. I know, what a crazy name. Some say it’s an Irish term others say it is a variation of spitchcock which, apparently, means to split an eel in half and fry it. Who knew?

Essentially, it means to butterfly a chicken by removing the backbone and flattening it. This does two things. The first is that it allows the chicken to cook evenly. The second is that it makes a pretty spectacular presentation. It also makes it much easier to carve, so I guess it does three things.

Don’t let the name or the description of the process scare you off. It’s so simple to do this. You turn the chicken on its breast, and using kitchen shears cut up one side of the backbone and then repeat on the other side to remove the backbone. Turn the chicken over and press on the center of the breastbone to flatten the chicken. Here’s a great video that walks you through it. P.S. I don’t use the skewers. I don’t think they are necessary and I don’t like to put holes in the skin. I also like to tuck the wings under the body by grabbing the wingtip, pulling it toward the neck cavity, and tucking it under the body to secure.

I use the indirect method of grilling to cook the spatchcocked chicken. This helps to reduce flare-ups so the chicken is cooked perfectly with no burnt spots.

To set up your grill for indirect cooking follow the directions below. Quick note, before you place the chicken on the grilling grate, I do recommend that you place a drip pan under the grate to catch juices and fat that will be rendered during the cooking process. This is a huge help during cleanup.

Three Burner Gas Grill – turn the left and right burners to medium and ignite. Leave the center burner off. Place the drip pan over the non-lit burner under the grate. You’ll place the chicken in the center over the non-lit burner

Four Burner Gas Grill – turn the two left burners to medium and ignite. Leave the two right burners off. Place the drip pan over the non-lit burners under the grate. You’ll place the chicken in the center of the two burners that are off.

Charcoal Grill – light the charcoal using a chimney lighter. Pour the charcoal out of the chimney and push over to one side of the grill. Leave the other side free of coals. Place the drip pan on the non-charcoal side under the grate. You’ll place the chicken on the side of the grill with no charcoal.

Similar to when I grill a whole chicken, I like to brine the chicken first. This is absolutely not necessary but pretty delicious. It does add about 8 – 12 hours to the process, but oh, the flavor it adds…

If you haven’t brined before, I have a great post here that explains the how’s and why’s of brining.

I place the chicken on the grill breast side up and let it cook without turning. I suppose that I could turn it to get those grill marks, but to be honest, I just don’t want to risk that delicious skin sticking to the grates. If you are particularly skilled at turning chicken and not getting the skin-stick, you can start breast-side down for the first 15 minutes of cooking and then turn and finishing the last 30 minutes breast-side up.

Enjoy!

Christine :)

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Grilled Spatchcock Chicken


  • Author: Allie McDonald
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 4

Description

Spatchcocking or butterflying a chicken before grilling helps it to cook evenly creating a juicy, perfectly done chicken. The presentation is pretty impressive too.


Ingredients

  • 14 to 5 lb. whole chicken
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the grill to medium heat (350˚F).
  2. Remove chicken from packaging and remove giblets from body cavity and/or neck.
  3. Rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
  4. Lay the chicken on working surface breast-side-down. Locate the backbone. Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut along one side of the backbone (you’ll be going through some little ribs so press hard to cut). Repeat on the other side of the backbone. Discard the backbone or save it for making stock. Turn the chicken over and press on the center of the breast to flatten it. Tuck the wings under the body by grabbing the wing tip, pulling it toward the neck cavity, and tucking it under the body to secure.
  5. Massage olive oil over the breast, legs, and wings of the chicken.
  6. Season with salt and pepper making sure that the legs and wings are seasoned.
  7. Place breast-side up on a grill that has been preheated to 350˚F. Cook for 45 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, without touching the bone, reads 165˚F. If you are particularly skilled at turning chicken and not getting the skin-stick, you can start breast-side down for the first 15 minutes of cooking and then turn and finishing the last 30 minutes breast-side up. See note below for indirect heat instructions and placement of chicken.
  8. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Notes

Prepping the Grill for Indirect Heat:

Three Burner Gas Grill – turn the left and right burners to medium and ignite. Leave the center burner off. Place the drip pan over the non-lit burner under the grate. You’ll place the chicken in the center over the non-lit burner

Four Burner Gas Grill – turn the two left burners to medium and ignite. Leave the two right burners off. Place the drip pan over the non-lit burners under the grate. You’ll place the chicken in the center of the two burners that are off.

Charcoal Grill – light the charcoal using a chimney lighter. Pour the charcoal out of the chimney and push over to one side of the grill. Leave the other side free of coals. Place the drip pan on the non-charcoal side under the grate. You’ll place the chicken on the side of the grill with no charcoal.

Spatchcocking or butterflying a chicken before grilling helps it to cook evenly creating a juicy, perfectly done chicken. The presentation is pretty impressive too.

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