Grilled Butterflied Whole Chicken, AKA Spatchcocked Chicken, is a classic method of flattening a whole chicken to allow more even cooking with delicious tender meat and crispy skin.
A grilled butterflied whole chicken is a beautiful thing. Make it as BBQ using a BBQ rub and sauce, blackened with a blacking rub or any seasoning you like.
Butterflying can apply to any meat to prepare it for cooking, while Spatchcocking is butterflying a whole chicken or other poultry by removing the spine and flattening. The term Flattened Chicken is also commonly used. Flattening an entire chicken makes it easier to get all parts of the chicken cooked correctly in a reasonable amount of time.
Many home grillers are intimidated by this, but it is easy to follow the simple step-by-step photo instructions.
Why not just throw the whole chicken on the grill? Actually, you can with the correct technique—it is not that hard when you get your technique down. Please see Grilled Whole Chicken on a Gas Grill.
For another whole chicken option, see Roasted Whole Chicken. And other skin-on chicken recipes, see Baked Split Chicken Breasts, Grilled BBQ Split Chicken Breasts, Baked BBQ Split Chicken Breasts, or Grilled Split Chicken Breasts.
- Chicken—whole, 4-5 pounds
- Seasoning—a rub or seasoning of choice. A simple rub is provided if you don't have one
- Optional Spice Rub if needed—kosher salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, ground cumin, cayenne pepper
👨🍳How to Make Grilled Butterflied Chicken
- Pat dry the chicken. Cut the backbone out of the chicken with sharp kitchen scissors or knife,
- Give the breastbone a large nick in the front of the chicken to help the bird lay flat. Flip over and push down to flatten.
- Brush the chicken with oil and season to taste.
- Place on the preheated grill of 350°-400° with the skin side up for 10 minutes. Then flip to skin side down for 8-10 minutes until browned but not burnt.
- Flip back to the skin side up and cook until about 165° in the breast.
- If doing BBQ spatchcocked chicken, give the chicken a good brushing of BBQ sauce of your choice a few minutes before done.
- Let sit off the grill for 5 minutes before serving.
The chicken can be seasoned any way you want. Just salt and pepper will do, but it is a bit boring. To buff that up, I use butter on the skin and my Homemade All-Purpose Seasoning, which will add garlic.
For traditional BBQ flattened chicken, use the simple rub I suggested or try Memphis Dry Rub, BBQ Dry Rub, Chipotle Seasoning, or Black Magic Seasoning. Then finish with Memphis BBQ Sauce, Alabama White Sauce, or your favorite barbecue sauce.
For Blackened flattened chicken, use Blackening Seasoning and no sauce.
Commercial seasoning mixes that are commonly available will also work.
👨🍳How to Butterfly (Spatchcock) a Chicken
- First, pat the chicken dry with paper towels so it is not slippery. We do not rinse chicken anymore for safety.
- Remove the backbone with sturdy scissors or kitchen shears by cutting up one side of the backbone from tail to neck, then down the other side of the backbone. Discard the backbone.
- Use a knife to make a good size cut at the front of the breast bone in the long direction of the breast bone. This helps the chicken flatten in the next step.
- Flip with the chicken breast side up and the cut area down. Pull out on the sides at the bottom, put your palm over the breast bone, and press down hard, and it will flatten. Fold the wing tips back under the wing to lock them in place if possible—time for seasoning.
♨️How to set up the grill
Get to 350°-400° grill surface temperature, which is medium or slightly less on most grills. DO NOT TRUST the built-in thermometer on the lid. You must use a grill surface thermometer.
For help on grill surface temperature, please see my A Beginners Guide to Grill Temperature on a Gas Grill.
The charcoal grill setup is a little harder to get the right surface temperature to not burn the chicken while still getting the chicken cooked to the minimum temperature.
👨🍳How to cook spatchcocked chicken in the oven
To oven bake spatchcocked chicken, follow the grill instructions but place on a rimmed sheet pan and bake in a 425° oven to 165° in the thickest part of the breast—about 45-50 minutes.
What you want to serve depends on the seasoning you choose. Usually, you will want a potato option like Grilled Baked Potatoes, Grilled Baby Potatoes, or Baked French Fries.
Picnic-type options like Macaroni Salad, Caprese Paste Salad, Spinach Salad, or a green garden salad. For a hot vegetable, try Grilled Corn on the Cob, Grilled Carrots, or Grilled Mix Vegetables.
Like most cooked chicken, seal in an airtight container and refrigerate for 4 days or freeze for 3 months.
There are several safety points for cooking chicken.
First, we no longer recommend rinsing raw chicken. The slatter of water in the kitchen area increases the risk of foodborne illnesses. See To Rinse or Not to Rinse for a complete discussion.
Second, to be safe to eat, all chicken must reach 165° according to the USDA guidelines.
Third, leftover cook chicken can be safely stored under 40°F for 3-4 days, according to the USDA.
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Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Preheat the grill to a grill surface temperature of 350°-400°. Clean and oil well.
Pat dry the chicken. Cut the backbone out of the chicken with sharp kitchen scissors. You could use a knife, but the scissors are much safer and work great.
With a large knife, give the breastbone a large nick in the front of the chicken to help the bird lay flat. Flip over and push down to flatten.
Give all sides of the chicken a brush of oil and seasoning of your choice. The spice rub in the recipe card is a great choice instead of just the salt and pepper.
Start with the skin side up for 10 minutes. Then flip to skin side down for 8-10 minutes. Watch the color, and don't over-brown the skin. Flip back to the skin side up and cook until 165° in the thickest part of the breast.
If doing BBQ, give the chicken a good brushing of the BBQ sauce you choose a few minutes before the temperature is 165°.
Let sit for 5 minutes, then cut and serve.
Grilled Butterflied Whole Chicken—AKA Spatchcocked Chicken
- 1 whole chicken - 4-5 pounds
- Seasoning of choice
Simple Spice Rub if needed
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper - optional
- Preheat the grill to a grill surface temperature of 350°-400°. Clean and oil well.
- Pat dry the chicken. Cut the backbone out of the chicken with sharp kitchen scissors. You could use a knife, but the scissors are much safer and work great.
- With a large knife, give the breastbone a large nick in the front of the chicken to help the bird lay flat. Flip over and push down to flatten.
- Give all sides of the chicken a brush of oil and seasoning of your choice. The spice rub in the recipe card is a great choice instead of just the salt and pepper.
- Start with the skin side up for 10 minutes. Then flip to skin side down for 8-10 minutes. Watch the color, and don't over-brown the skin. Flip back to the skin side up and cook until 165° in the thickest part of the breast. Total cooking time about 40 minutes
- If doing BBQ, give the chicken a good brushing of the BBQ sauce you choose a few minutes before the temperature is 165°.
- Let sit for 5 minutes, then cut and serve.
Your Own Private Notes
- Remember, times are estimates. Please cook to a final temperature and NEVER by time only.
- I’m suggesting a 4-5 pound whole chicken to decrease variability some. You can do bigger as long as you watch the endpoints. In addition to the chicken being a variable, the grill's exact temperature, the flow of air, and the radiant heat all affect cooking time.
- As always, we are cooking to final results and NEVER BY TIME ALONE. I give times so you have some estimates of how long something will take but in this recipe, you should cook to the final temperatures and the skin results.
- I suggest BBQ sauce or the alternative spice rub, but this can be seasoned any way you want. Seasoning is discussed in the post.
- Preheat the grill to a grill surface temperature of 350°-400°. If you need help with that, please check A Beginners Guide to Grill Temperature on a Gas Grill.
- If either the breasts or thighs are lagging behind the other, turn off one side and rotate to chicken to help the side that is behind. Also, watch the browning on all sides to prevent burning.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Originally Published June 23, 2013. Updated with refreshed photo along with updated options, discussion, and instructions to reflect current technique.