Butterflied chicken, aka spatchcocked chicken (which is much more fun to say), is one of the items on my list that can now be checked off. Butterflying/spatchcocking (see? more fun 😉 ) a chicken simply means cutting out the backbone so that the chicken lies flat, and as such, it cooks faster and more evenly. Last week we had a run of gorgeous early summer weather (shorts, t-shirts, and SPF 30 kind of weather – it was glorious) so I fired up the barbeque to celebrate and cooked my spatchcocked chicken on the grill.
Grilled bone-in chicken, whether whole or in pieces, is best cooked over indirect heat and then finished off over higher heat to crisp it up and turn it golden brown. I followed the cooking method from Serious Eats and was rewarded by one of the better whole chickens I’ve ever cooked. It smelled amazing and was perfectly done all the way through, which is hard to do with a whole chicken because inevitably, the breast meat dries out before the dark meat is cooked. However, there are some tricks in this cooking method that get around this problem to give you some seriously delicious chicken.
I seasoned the chicken pretty simply with a generous amount of salt and pepper along with some smoked paprika and minced fresh thyme, and then let the grill do the rest. It’s raining this week, so I’ll have to wait until the weather gets better to cook outside again, but when I do, I will definitely be making this chicken!
Grilled Butterflied Chicken
Adapted from Serious Eats. This method works best with a 3 – 4 lb chicken.
Prep the grill
Prepare your grill for indirect cooking by lighting only one side of the grill and turning it to high heat, leaving the other side of the grill off. You will place the chicken over the “off” side, and the heat from the “on” side will cook it indirectly.
Butterfly/spatchcock the chicken
Turn the chicken breast-down so that the backbone faces up with the tail towards you. With a pair of kitchen shears, cut up along both sides of the backbone, removing it completely so that the chicken can be laid flat.
Turn the chicken breast-up and with the heel of your hand, press down on the breast to break the breast bone so that it lays even flatter. Thread one long skewer through the wings/top of the breast breast and another through the thighs/bottom of the breast, which will make the chicken easier to handle on the grill. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper, then turn skin-side up and sprinkle with smoked paprika and some minced fresh thyme.
Grill the chicken
Place the chicken, skin side up, on the “off” side of the grill with the legs facing towards the hot side. Cover and cook over indirect heat until the chicken registers just below 180˚F in the thighs. Flip the chicken, skin side down, onto the hot side of the grill and close the lid immediately – this will help minimize flare-ups (there will be some, but that’s OK). Cook for a few minutes, until the skin is golden brown with grill marks. The chicken should now be at 180˚F in the thighs – if not, return it to the “off” side of the grill (skin side up) and cook for a few minutes more.
Remove from the grill and sprinkle with a little more fresh thyme before serving.