Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken

published Aug 6, 2022
summer
Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken Recipe

Spatchocking then grilling a whole chicken over an open flame gives it a delicious smoky essence.

Serves4

Prep10 minutes to 15 minutes

Cook50 minutes to 1 hour 5 minutes

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Credit: Jason Rampe
Grilled spatchcock chicken with jerk seasoning

My new favorite way to cook a whole chicken is to spatchcock it and throw it on the grill. (Spatchcocking is a method of cutting a chicken so it lies flat and cooks more quickly — we’ll show you how below.) Aside from the reduced cook time, grilling the whole chicken over an open flame gives it a delicious smoky essence.

To maximize the flavor, I dry-brine the chicken with Nicole Rufus’ excellent jerk seasoning rub and let it rest in the fridge overnight on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. It’s an easy extra step that deeply seasons the chicken through and through. Plus, it dries out the skin for optimal crispiness.

Making it this way takes me back to the jerk stands in Kingston, Jamaica, where the hot chicken is chopped up with a heavy knife and served on top of thick sliced bread and gravy. Smoky, spicy, and deeply savory with island vibes — what’s not to love? 

How to Spatchcock Chicken

If this is your first time trying this technique, we recommend checking out our helpful guide to spatchcocking chicken. Here are the basic steps.

  • Prepare the chicken. Position the chicken breast-side up on a cutting board and remove the giblets and neck bone from the cavity.
  • Remove the back bone. Flip the chicken over and cut out the back bone from the chicken using kitchen shears.
  • Flatten the chicken. Flip the chicken again and, using your palm, press down on the center of the breast bone until you hear a small snap to flatten it.

Once you have removed the backbone and pressed the breastbone flat, it’s time to dry-brine.

How to Cook Spatchcocked Chicken

While you heat the grill to about 400°F, but for no longer than 30 minutes, let the chicken rest at room temperature. If you are using a charcoal grill, create heat zones for direct and indirect cooking. 

Brush some oil on the chicken and season again with a jerk seasoning. Place the chicken on the grill, skin-side down, and cook until the skin is deep golden-brown and charred in spots. This is the only time the skin will touch the flame, so this is when you’ll get most of the color. Flip the chicken over to indirect heat and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. It’s alright if the bottom of the bird gets dark — it’s mostly bone. Let the chicken rest before cutting into portions or shredding. (Jerk chicken sliders, anyone?)

How to Flip Spatchcocked Chicken

Flipping a spatchcocked chicken can be tricky, but you’ll be OK if you have the right tools. You’ll need a set of tongs and a large flat spatula.

Slide the spatula under the bird with your dominant hand. Hold the tongs around the bird with your less dominant hand, to help keep things steady, then gently flip the chicken skin side-up over indirect heat. I say gently cause ideally, you don’t want to tear the skin. (But hey, things happen, and some torn skin won’t ruin your chicken dinner.)

Seasoning Spatchcocked Chicken

If jerk seasoning isn’t the flavor profile you are feeling, feel free to use any dry spice blend of your choice. We have quite a few seasoning recipes on our site (like this DIY Ranch seasoning, homemade Cajun seasoning, and this versatile dry rub). Or you can use your favorite store-bought blend.

Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken Recipe

Spatchocking then grilling a whole chicken over an open flame gives it a delicious smoky essence.

Prep time 10 minutes to 15 minutes

Cook time 50 minutes to 1 hour 5 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 3 tablepoons

    dry jerk seasoning, divided

  • 1 tablespoon

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1

    (4 to 5-pound) whole chicken

  • 2 tablepoons

    vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Fit a wire rack into a rimmed baking sheet. Place 2 tablespoons of the jerk seasoning and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the kosher salt in a small bowl and stir to combine.

  2. Position 1 whole chicken breast-side up on a cutting board. Check for and remove the giblets and neck bone from the cavity of the chicken. Tuck the wing tips behind the chicken’s shoulder by gently folding them towards the neck cavity and then behind the chicken. Pat dry with paper towels.

  3. Flip the chicken over so it is breast-side down. Use kitchen shears to cut out the back bone: Starting from the tail end of the chicken, cut along one side of the back bone, then repeat on the other side to remove the backbone. Keep the cuts as close to the spine as possible — this may require a little more pressure above the thigh bone. Remove the back bone and save it for stock or discard.

  4. Flip the chicken again so it is breast-side up. Using your palm, press down on the center of the breast bone until you hear a small snap to flatten it. Slide your fingers underneath the skin over the breasts to loosen it from the meat.

  5. Flip the chicken over and sprinkle just enough spice mixture to coat the back. Flip again and use the remaining rub to season the skin side and breast meat (season under the skin where you loosened it). Transfer the chicken skin side up onto the wire rack. Refrigerate uncovered to dry-brine at least 6 hours or up to overnight.

  6. Let the chicken sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat an outdoor grill for indirect, medium-high heat. If using a gas grill, heat to about 400ºF.

  7. Place the remaining 1 tablespoon jerk seasoning and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt in a small bowl and stir to combine. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Brush 2 tablespoons vegetable oil all over the chicken. Season the bone side of the chicken with 1 teaspoon of the seasoning mixture, then flip the chicken and season with the skin side with the remaining seasoning mixture.

  8. Scrape the grill grates clean if needed. Place the chicken skin side down on the grill grates. Cover (leave an open vent for a charcoal grill) and grill until the skin is golden brown and charred in spots, 10 to 15 minutes.

  9. Flip the chicken, cover, and grill until the thickest part of the thigh not touching bone registers 160 to 165ºF on an instant-read thermometer, 40 to 50 minutes more. Transfer to a clean cutting board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Cut the chicken into pieces or shred the meat.