Spatchcocked Chicken

The word “spatchcock,” according to Webster, refers to a chicken or game bird that has been split and grilled. It can be a noun or verb, but semantics aside, it’s an easy way to grill a whole chicken in only 45 minutes. The result is a moist, juicy bird with a crisp skin and delicious grilled flavor.

Spatchcocked Chicken

Spatchcocked Chicken

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Grilling a whole chicken over indirect heat takes only 45 minutes when you remove the backbone and flatten the bird.


  • 4 to 5 lb whole chicken
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt, see notes
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • To split the chicken, use a pair of poultry shears to remove the backbone by cutting on either side of it from the open side of the cavity toward the neck. Once the backbone is removed, lay the chicken skin side up and flatten it by pressing firmly on the breastbone with the heel of your hand.
  • Combine the olive oil, salt, garlic powder and a few grinds of black pepper in a small bowl. Brush the chicken on both sides with the mixture and set aside while you prepare the grill.
  • Preheat a gas or charcoal grill for indirect grilling over medium heat (see instructions below). Once the grill is preheated, oil the grates and start cooking the chicken by placing it skin side down directly over the flame or coals. Cover the grill and cook for 8 to 12 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown and has nice grill marks.
  • Using tongs, turn the chicken skin side up and move it to the indirect heat side of the grill. Cover again and continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 160°F, approximately 25 to 35 minutes. Check several times during cooking and rotate if necessary for even browning. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to rest for 5 minutes prior to carving.

Tips for Making This Recipe

Recipe Notes:

Feel free to use your favorite flavored grill seasoning blend in place of the salt, pepper and garlic powder. For chicken, we like McCormick Grill Mates Roasted Garlic & Herb Seasoning.
You can also opt to marinate the chicken up to a day in advance with your favorite marinade. If your marinade contains any ingredients with a sugar content, you may have to reduce the initial cooking time over direct heat to prevent the skin from charring too much.

About Indirect Grilling:

Indirect grilling is a technique that enables you to grill larger cuts of meat without burning or blackening. Essentially all it means is that you preheat the grill to a medium temperature (about 350°F) and only have the flame or hot coals under 1/2 of the cooking area.
If you have a 2-burner gas grill the process is pretty straightforward. Preheat the grill by lighting both sides and heating to a medium setting, then when you are ready to start cooking simply shut off one side.
Charcoal grills make the process a little more complicated. Depending on the size and configuration of your grill, you may want to pile the charcoal either on one side of the fire grate, or around the edges leaving a cooking space in the middle. Whichever you choose, you want to allow your coals to burn until they are glowing orange and have a light layer of ash coating them. You can tell that the coals have “cooled” to medium heat by holding your hand about 4 inches above the cooking grate. It should take 6 to 8 seconds before you need to pull your hand away.
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