Grilled Whole Chicken is as easy as a simple prep without spatchcocking (butterfly or flattened) and grilling the whole chicken with indirect heat on your backyard gas grill.
Whole chicken—4-6 pound range
Seasoning—coarse salt and pepper or seasoning of your choice.
- 👨🍳How to Grill a Whole Chicken Without Flattening
- How long to grill a whole chicken
- Seasoning Options
- Related Recipes
- Grill setup for indirect cooking
- 🌡️Temperature monitoring
- 🍴How to serve grilled whole chicken.
- ❄️How to store leftovers
- Food Safety
- 📖 Recipe
- Grilled Whole Chicken without Spatchcocking
Featured Comment from Janice:
"5 stars, Best. Ever. Why would you ever bbq a whole chicken any other way? No changes to the recipe. Perfect the way it is. Thanks!!"
The easiest way to cook a whole chicken on your BBQ grill is to toss it on—no need to cut out the backbone and not flatten it. This delicious grilled whole chicken has great crispy, smoky skin, is very moist, and is almost no work.
It's adaptable to most grills that are big enough for indirect grilling, keeps the chicken intact, and gets great grilling flavor at the same time.
👨🍳How to Grill a Whole Chicken Without Flattening
Start with setting up your grill for indirect cooking. Clean and oil the grates. Turn the burners that will be on to full heat and watch the grill's surface temperature. Aim for 350° to 400° in the indirect area—adjust the burners as needed.
Clean, trim, and pat dry the chicken—do not rinse. Be sure to remove any giblets.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the microwave and brush all sides of the bird. Save the remainder for brushing the bird during the rotation on the grill. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. We use my All-Purpose Seasoning Mix, which has salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Place on the grill with indirect heat, angling one thigh and the leg to the direct heat side. Close the lid, and don't touch it for 40 minutes.
Rotate the bird at 40 minutes, angling the other thigh towards the heat. Give it a brush of butter and continue grilling until the internal temperature of the breast is 165°.
Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
For more details, keep reading. See the Recipe Card below for complete instructions and to print.
How long to grill a whole chicken
A 5-pound whole chicken will take about 80 minutes to grill at 400°F indirect heat on a gas grill, although a charcoal grill may be used if you can control the heat. The variables are the exact grill setup and chicken size. A butterfly chicken will take about half that time due to the flattening.
The chicken is done when it is at least 165°F in all areas for safety. At that time, the thighs should be in the 185°F range for tenderness.
While I recommend classic butter, garlic, and salt, you can use any seasoning you like with chicken. Rosemary and thyme are typical, as are some other combinations like lemon-butter seasoning and my All-Purpose Seasoning.
♨️Barbecues Whole Chicken
🔥Spicy Seasoned Whole Chicken
Try this "spicy rotisserie chicken" spice option, which is packed with spicy flavor. Apply this spice mix after brushing the chicken with butter.
Mix 4 teaspoons of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon each of pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, 2 teaspoons of paprika, and sugar. Optional ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
If you are interested in the spatchcock technique of cooking a whole chicken.
Grill setup for indirect cooking
With indirect grilling, only part of the grill surface is over an active burner (direct side), and the other part (the indirect side) has the burners turned off. This is how we grill things like pork butt or beef brisket—also used in this whole chicken recipe.
Grills will vary how you do indirect cooking. Please see A Beginners Guide to Grill Temperature on a Gas Grill for a more detailed discussion of grill temperature. And How To Set Up Your Gas Grill for Smoking and Low and Slow Cooking, where indirect grill setup is discussed in more detail.
While you can do this with a grill surface thermometer and an instant-read thermometer, a remote two-probe thermometer will help you maintain the grill temperature.
Smoke™ by Thermoworks™
Thermapen™ One from Thermoworks™
ThermaQ2™ Kit with Probes by Thermoworks™
- We do not rinse raw poultry, like chicken, due to problems with contamination of the surrounding area for splatter. See, Why not to rinse raw chicken? for details.
- The minimum safe internal temperature for chicken is 165°, according to the USDA. Aim for that in the middle of the thickest parts of the chicken. You will want to have the thighs or legs in the 185° range for tenderness.
- Do not stuff the chicken with anything that will be eaten. Anything in the cavity will need to reach 165° to be safely consumed, and that will require the chicken to be overcooked and dry.
- Wash your hands well before and after handling raw chicken.
- Store raw chicken under 40°F and away from other foods.
The legs are tied (trussed) to bring them towards the bird's center, leading to more even cooking. Use kitchen twine, which is made for cooking.
During cooking any meat, fluid is forced out to the cells of the meat. It will stay between the cells while heat is being applied. After being removed from the heat, the fluid will migrate back into the cells, producing a moist and tender result.
Grilled Whole Chicken without Spatchcocking
- 4 pound whole chicken - 4-6 pound range. Bigger will take longer.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste - Or seasoning of your choice.
- Start with setting up your grill for indirect cooking. Clean and oil the grates. Turn the burners that will be on to full heat and watch the grill's surface temperature. Aim for 350° to 400° in the indirect area—adjust the burners as needed.
- Clean, trim, and pat dry the chicken—do not rinse. Be sure to remove any giblets.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the microwave and brush all sides of the bird. Save the remainder for brushing the bird during the rotation on the grill. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. We use my All-Purpose Seasoning Mix, which has salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
- Place on the grill with indirect heat, angling one thigh and the leg to the direct heat side. Close the lid, and don't touch it for 40 minutes.
- Rotate the bird at 40 minutes angling the other thigh towards the heat. Give it a brush of butter and continue grilling until the internal temperature of the breast is 165°.
- Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Your Own Private Notes
- A good estimate of cooking time is 15-20 minutes per pound. But there is also variability due to the difference between grills.
- I suggest a 4-6 pound chicken. You can try bigger, but the skin may get overdone.
- Getting the grill set up correctly is the key to doing this right the first and every time.
- The grill surface temperature and the internal temperature of the chicken must be monitored.
- Never trust a grill hood thermometer, and never cook by time alone.
- This works better if you have a method of monitoring the chicken and grill surface temperature without opening the lid repeatedly.
- If you want BBQ whole chicken, use a dry rub to season.
- The minimum safe internal temperature for chicken is 165°. Aim for that in the middle of the breast. You will want to have the thighs or legs in the 185° range if you can.
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 11, 2017. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.