Grilled Spatchcock Chicken is moist and juicy, seasoned with a salty and spicy dry rub that crisps up the skin for an abundance of flavor and texture. Spatchcocking cuts down on the cooking time so you can spend less time at the grill, and more time at the table!
Spatchcocking is a quick, simple way to flatten a whole chicken or turkey before cooking. With a spatchcocked chicken, you get an even thickness that allows for faster grilling and even heat distribution throughout.
With this method, it’s also easy to trim excess fat and meat as you go. These trimmings, along with the backbone removed during the process, are fantastic for freezing and using later to make soup stock. It’s very frugal and cost-effective!
My spatchcock chicken recipe includes a step-by-step guide, including a how-to video (see below in recipe card), on how to flatten and grill a juicy, moist whole chicken with a crisp and flavorful skin.
For this recipe, I use a basic dry rub of salt, pepper, paprika, and a couple of other spices and seasonings that’s perfect for grilling. I recommend serving with my Alabama White Sauce, a tangy mayo BBQ sauce with just a touch of heat.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Whole Chicken – The grill timing and amount of dry rub ingredients in this recipe is based on a 4 lb chicken.
- Black Pepper & Salt – These no-brainer seasonings can be found in almost every dry rub. Black pepper adds an even, neutral spice. Salt, alternatively, is important for drawing out some of the moisture and helping the skin crisp up.
- Sweet Paprika – Compared to smoked paprika, this variety is fruity and sweet. You could swap out the two, but using smoked paprika will add more heat to the rub.
- Garlic Powder – To impart a subtle, mild garlic flavor to the meat. Granulated garlic might make a good substitute, though it is coarser and has a stronger flavor.
- Celery Salt – A peppery, grassy seasoning. Celery seed is an appropriate substitute — just compensate with additional salt.
- Cumin & Coriander – Cumin is warm and earthy, while coriander is fresh and citrusy. The two are often paired and balance each other nicely.
HOW TO GRILL SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN WITH INDIRECT HEAT
With a Gas Grill: Create a “2 Zone” set up in one of two ways. You can light half the grill so that it reaches the desired temperature, laying the meat on the unlit side. Alternatively, you can light both sides of a grill while leaving the center unlit, placing the meat in the center where the temperature is lowest.
With a Charcoal BBQ or Smoker: Light the charcoal. Similar to the directions above, move the charcoal either to one side of the grill or to both sides while making a space in the center that is unlit. Place the meat where it is not above any lit charcoal. Use a drip pan below the meat.
HOW TO MAKE SPATCHCOCK CHICKEN
- Make the Rub. Combine all of the dry rub ingredients with a whisk and set aside.
- Remove the Backbone. Lay the chicken on a flat surface, breast-side down. With a pair of kitchen scissors, begin cutting the bird at the neck: cut along both sides of the backbone toward the legs, cutting the rib bones during the process. Remove the backbone and press the chicken open.
- Cut the Cartilage. Locate the triangular cartilage in the center where the breastbone starts. Carefully make a quarter inch cut downward. You can now flip the bird and fully flatten with your hands.
Another Method: Instead of slicing the cartilage, you can spread the chicken open with your hands and flip it. Using the heel of your hand, press down and flatten the breast bone. This butterflies the meat and gives it an even thickness throughout.
- Apply the Rub. Massage the dry rub into the spatchcocked chicken. Let sit while preheating your grill to 400°F.
- Grill. Lay the whole spatchcocked chicken onto the grill, ribs down, and grill for up to 45 minutes until the meat’s internal temperature reaches 160°F. Every 20 minutes or so, baste with a sauce of your choosing.
- Let Cool & Serve. Remove from the heat and let cool for 15 minutes while the meat continues to cook, climbing up to a safe internal temperature of 165°F.
What is the point of a spatchcocked chicken?
When spatchcocking poultry, you remove the backbone and flatten the bird. This allows it to cook more quickly and evenly. It also helps the meat stay nice and juicy while developing a crisp outer layer in the process.
Can you roast a spatchcock chicken?
Yes. Put the spatchcocked chicken into the oven at 450°F for 30-35 minutes. Check the internal temperature of the meat — once it reaches 160°F, remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes while the meat continues cooking up to 165°F.
How long does it take to grill spatchcock chicken?
It takes 40-45 minutes of grill time, plus an additional 15 minutes for the meat to rest before slicing and serving.
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Grilled Spatchcock Chicken
- 4 lb whole chicken
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp sweet paprika (not smoked)
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp celery salt
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground coriander
- In a small bowl whisk together the dry rub ingredients and set aside.
- Be sure to have the chicken on a clean cutting surface breast side down. Starting at the neck area using kitchen scissors or poultry shears, cut along each side of the backbone towards the legs to remove it, cutting through the rib bones as you go. Discard the backbone or freeze for soup stock.
- In the center area there will be a triangle of cartilage right where the breastbone starts. Using a sharp knife, cut down a quarter inch and spread the cut area open to reveal the breast bone. Flip the chicken over and press down. OR after removing the back bone, spread the chicken out and turn over. Flatten the breastbone using the heel of your hand so that the meat is butterflied and all one thickness.
- Sprinkle the dry rub all over the chicken and using your hand rub into the skin to adhere. Set aside while you start up your oven, grill or smoker to heat 400°F.
- Place the spatchcocked chicken rib bones down on and roasting sheet (oven) or the grill and cook for 40-45 minutes, or until the internal temperature registers 160°F.
- I used hickory wood chips/pellets and baste with you favorite sauce every 20 minutes.
- Remove chicken from grill/smoker and allow to rest 15 minutes, it will continue to cook and reach 165°F before cutting up into pieces or shredding.
- To grill using Indirect Heat: for gas grill do what’s known as the 2 Zone set up, which is either half the grill is lit to achieve desired temperature and the meat is placed on opposite side, or have sides lit leaving the center NOT on or lowest temperature. To grill using indirect heat on a charcoal BBQ or smoker, ignite charcoal and place it to one side of the grill, creating a space for the food or the center with meat you’re cooking not directly over those lit coals. Typically use a drip pan under the meat to avoid any flareups.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
I have made this twice now, and it will be made again. Not only is the chicken easy to make, it is super tasty at a summer BBQ. The first time I served it I forgot to put out the sauce, so I had to serve it again because the Alabama White BBQ Sauce is not to be passed over! Guests were raving. One of the best BBQ recipes I have ever made.
Now that’s high praise and I’ll take it! Kidding aside, thanks so much for coming back to let me know Tony. 🙂
I made this for dinner this evening, along with the white sauce. It practically fell apart after the 15 minute resting time. It was so juicy and flavorful! Definitely a repeat…and I have other marinade ideas to try too!
Excellent! So happy you enjoyed this one Danielle!
Hi! Is there any way to make ahead and rewarm with a similar result? Thanks!
Definitely. I would let it come to room temp and reheat, maybe even a 1 minute under the broiler to crisp up the skin, too.
Can I do it low and slow at like 225 for 2 hours?
Just be sure final internal temp is 165°F Aaron.
I made this tonight for dinner and it was fabulous!! I cheated and bought a spatchcock chicken at Whole Foods on sale. This recipe is a keeper!
We tried this recipe this evening and it was incredible!!!
It was the first chicken we’ve done in the smoker , the rub was perfect !!!
Can’t wait to try it again!!!
I am so glad you enjoyed it! I hope you try it again soon!
This was just terrific! A heads-up on timing … my chix was 6# and so I planned for longer using the indirect gas/propane grill method (center fires off). Did 20 minute check-ins, and after 1 hour, I rotated the bird 90 degrees and did turn on the center fires to ‘lowest’. After another 15 minutes, the chix was perfect – a little charred on the skin which I love, but still sooo juicy and tender. Thanks for the video re: cutting into the breast bone – that was a new tip to me (an ‘old’ cook – LOL).
I am glad you enjoyed it! I am glad you found that helpful! Thank you Betsy!
Hmmm, that hasn’t been my experience.
Hi Kevin. I’m making this chicken tonight on my Traeger grill. I’m curious about the photo you posted above the recipe…the one where it appears you’re basting the cooked chicken with a cremy looking sauce? What is that? It looks like a secret I would like to know more about. Please and thank you.
Excellent Jenny! The sauce I used on the spatchcocked chicken is my Alabama White Sauce. Hope you enjoy it!
And that was using a 4 pound chicken? That is a crazy long time spatchcocked. I would think the chicken would be dried out. Sorry, that’s just never happened for me.
Did you do direct or indirect heat on the grill?
That would be indirect heat Mike. I’ve updated the recipe card to reflect. Thanks and enjoy!
Very tasty! Reminiscent of shake’n bake but waaaay better. I put chicken on foil in bbq for easy manipulation and to catch juices to baste instead of sauce. Thanks!
Thank you Melissa! That is a great idea to have that extra flavor!