Grilled Butterflied Chicken

Butterflied Chicken 12

Butterflied chicken (or spatchcocked chicken), just means cutting out the backbone so that the chicken lies flat, and in turn, cooks faster and more evenly.

Grilled bone-in chicken, is best cooked over indirect heat and then finished over higher heat to crisp the skin. It 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.

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.

Butterflied Chicken how to cut

Marinade Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon chopped onion
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (3-4 pound) whole chicken, butterflied
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Special Equipment – Charcoal chimney starter, instant-read thermometer,


  1. Whisk together the oil, garlic, thyme, lemon zest and onion in a large baking dish. Add the chicken and turn to coat in the oil. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours. (Brining a whole chicken adds significant moisture to the bird. We’ll cover this in another post soon)
  2. When ready to cook, prep the grill. For a charcoal grill, light one chimney full of charcoal. When all charcoal is covered with gray ash, pour out and spread coals evenly over one-half of bottom grill grate. If using a gas grill, set half the burners of a gas grill to high heat, the other side burners off.  Put the cooking grates in place, cover grill, and allow to preheat for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the chicken from the marinade and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the chicken, skin side up, on the “off” side of the grill with the legs facing towards the hot side. Cover grill with the vents on lid open. Open bottom vents of grill if using a charcoal grill.
  5. Cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast registers 110°F. Should be about 20 minutes or so.
  6. Do not leave the lid off for longer than it takes to check temperature.
  7. Carefully flip chicken and place on hot side of grill, skin side down, with breasts pointed toward cooler side. If using a gas grill, reduce heat to medium-low. Press down with a grill spatula to get good contact between bird and grill grates.
  8. Turn the chicken over, close the cover and continue cooking until just cooked through, about 20 minutes longer. The skin should be crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast registers 150 to 155°F.
  9. If chicken looks like it will burn before temperature is achieved, carefully slide to cooler side of grill, cover, and continue to cook until done.
  10. Remove from the grill, transfer to a cutting board and loosely tent with foil and let rest 10 minutes before cutting. (Internal temperature will continue to rise.)
  11. Carve (see video link below) and serve.

Butterflied Chicken 3

How to carve a Butterflied Chicken – This NY Times video is about carving a Turkey. The same principles apply here for a butterflied chicken:

Butterflied Chicken presentation

This method of carving makes serving easier and the presentation can be eye catching.


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