Spatchcock Chicken

 I've been grilling chicken for longer than I care to remember.  Only recently did I discover what I consider the best way to cook poultry -- Spatchcock!

This is not a nasty way to cook chicken, rather it is just "butterflying" the poultry and grilling it.  The term "spatchcook" is actually a French term and refers to removing the backbone so that the chicken can be laid flat on the grill.  It sounds simple and it is.  It's a winner --  it reduces cooking time, cooks more evenly, makes a great presentation and gives you a very juicy, tasty, crowd-winning meal.  (and if you've been cooking beer-can chicken, try this one time.  You'll never go back!)
 If you haven't spatchcocked a chicken, now is the time!  And here's how:

What you'll need:
  • 1 whole chicken
  • Kitchen Shears
  • Instant-read probe thermometer
  • Rib Rub or other seasonings
  • Garlic Powder

 Rinse the chicken and place it breast down with the legs toward the rear (wings near you). 
Using kitchen shears and starting at the neck, cut straight back to the rear along an imaginary line just to the side of the backbone.

Then cut the same on the other side of the 
 backbone.  You will cut through ribs and skin along the way.  The backbone will then lift cleanly from the chicken.
  At this point I also remove as many remaining ribs as I can, with a small knife. 
This makes it easier to serve the breast meat at dinner time.  Now rinse the chicken in cold water, and then pat dry.
Spread the chicken so that it lays flat..
For seasoning, I use a equal amount of my Merlin's Magic Rib Rub along with McCormick's Grillmates Montreal Chicken seasoning and Garlic Powder.  This combination imparts a great ying and yang of sweet, spicy and tasty!  But use whatever seasonings you prefer.  Sometimes I use half Merlin's Magic Rub and half Garlic Powder.

IMPORTANT: Season under the skin.  Carefully separate the breast skin and the thigh skin from the meat using a spoon or spatula.  Be careful not to break the skin.  Then rub a generous amount of the seasonings inside. Arrange the skin so that the meat is covered again.  This seasons the meat, not just the outer skin.
Season under the skin

Then place the chicken with the breast side down.  Sprinkle a generous amount of the seasonings.  Turn the chicken over, breast side up, and apply more seasonings.  Handle the chicken carefully so that the seasonings do not scrape off.  You can cook now or let the chicken refrigerate for a few hours.  Take the chicken out of the refrigerator at least 45 minutes before cooking.

Cook using indirect heat, ideally using a smoker.  I use a pellet grill which makes life really easy!  Smoke at 225° for 90 minutes and then increase the temperature to 350° until done (approximately 45 more minutes).  Do not rely on time.  The chicken is only done when the coolest part of the meat (breast or thigh) reaches 165°F.  Do not let the chicken cook past 165°F.  Check the meat with an instant-read probe thermometer.  (Therma-Pen is the best)  And do not open the smoker any more than necessary.  Every time you open the lid you will lose at least 5 minutes of cook time.

Let the chicken rest 15 minutes before carving.  This makes such a great meal!  And you will find it easy to carve and makes for a really nice presentation.

Buen Provecho!


  1. Do you put it on the smoker breast up or down?

  2. Breast up. The chicken lies flat and the skin browns evenly.