The easiest way to grill a whole chicken is just tossed on the grill. A little butter and some seasoning, and you're ready to cook. There is no real secret. As Thoreau said, "simplify, simplify."
We all need easy, dependable recipes. Something you can just do. Well, this is it.
To research this recipe, I read a lot of recipes. Lot's of very odd things going on out there. Some of the recipes were not too bad, just non-specific.
Not one suggested a grill temperature. No mention of surface temperature. Some even just said "preheat" with no suggestion of amount. A few would say to use "high," but there is huge variability in grills so not helpful.
There were other errors that make the recipes unworkable to the point of "did they really try this," and it showed in the comments.
So what I wanted:
- I wanted the chicken left intact. Not cut up or butterflied, I wanted simple.
- While I was going to season with just butter, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, it should be a basic recipe people could season to their taste.
- It should be adaptable to most grills.
This was an amazingly good chicken. Great skin, very moist, and almost no work. A high 4 or low 5. My wife broke the tie, and she says 5. My wife wants more skin next time, and I got the "you can do this anytime you want."
I suggest a chicken in the 4-6 pound range will work best. Do not do this with a very large chicken or small turkey. Bigger will need to cook longer to get the meat done and may overcook the skin. You can try, but be sure the final internal temperatures are correct.
This is a basic recipe that is ultra-simple. So no fancy this or that. No brine, no stuffing things under the skin or inside, and no smoking. You can do those things if you want, and the recipe will still work fine. But I like to present a good basic recipe and let you fancy it up.
If you want BBQ, give it a light brushing of your favorite sauce about 5 minutes before the finish. Now you have the best BBQ whole chicken.
This recipe depends on indirect cooking. The chicken is cooked in an area of the grill with no heat under it while the other burners are turned on.
Grills will vary how you do indirect cooking. But it is not that hard. I don't feel there will be enough drainage to require a drip pan.
You will want the indirect cooking in the 350° to 400° range on the grill surface. Never depend on a thermometer in a grill hood.
Please see A Beginners Guide to Grill Temperature on a Gas Grill for a more detailed discussion of grill temperature.
Angle one chicken thigh and leg towards the direct side since you want their final temperature higher than the breast anyway. The side of the chicken towards the direct heat will get cooked faster, so rotation once in the middle is needed. Then the other thigh and leg will cook faster to even things out.
After you rotate, continue to grill until the breast hit 165°, the thigh and legs are in the 185°-190° range.
While you can do this with just a grill surface thermometer and an instant-read thermometer, some sort of remote thermometer will help you maintain the grill temperature.
I used the Thermoworks Therma Q Blue (This is an affiliate link, meaning I do make a small amount from your purchases. Your price is not affected by this commission.)
My recommendation for seasoning is a nice brushing of melted butter along with salt and pepper to taste. In my house, garlic is also required, so I went with my 7:2:2 seasoning.
You can modify the seasoning to your taste.
📖Whole Chicken Recipes
Start with setting up your grill for indirect cooking. Clean and oil the grates. Turn the burners that will be on to full and watch grill surface temperature. Aim for 350° to 400°. Adjust the burners as needed.
Clean, trim, and pat dry the chicken. Be sure to remove any giblets. I have a hard time not rinsing the interior of a bird. If you do it, do it carefully and clean up after done. See my discussion on Chicken… To Rinse or Not To Rinse?
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. Garlic powder or other things if you wish. I used my 7:2:2 seasoning.
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 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.
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Originally Published June 11, 2017. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.