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Grilled Spatchcock Chicken (Grilled Whole Chicken)

by Capri Lilly

Cook a whole chicken on the grill in less than one hour with this easy Grilled Spatchcock Chicken Recipe! The chicken is first marinated in a sweet citrus-herb mixture, then grilled to perfection and smothered in homemade barbecue sauce. This simple method for cooking a whole chicken results in flavorful, tender pieces of meat that everyone can enjoy at your next barbecue or picnic!

The Spatchcock (or Butterfly) method is our favorite way to cook a whole chicken or turkey! It is the quickest way and always results in tender, flavorful, moist meat. If you want to try this useful technique for roasting spatchcocked chicken (or turkey), then check out our Spatchcock Turkey Recipe or Herb-Crusted Spatchcock Chicken Recipe next!

a whole spatchcocked chicken with a side of barbecue sauced, sliced oranges, grilled tomatoes, onions and asparagus
Grilled Barbecue Spatchcocked Chicken

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Grilled Spatchcocked Barbecue Chicken

Who doesn’t love grilled barbecue chicken!? This recipe for Grilled BBQ Spatchcocked Chicken has become my go-to for summer events when I am hosting a large group of my family and friends. It’s the perfect way to grill a whole chicken and saves lots of time! It can seem a bit intimidating at first but once you master the art of grilling spatchcocked chicken, you’ll want to do it every time. So, grab the kitchen shears, and let’s get to it!

This is the Best Grilled Spatchcock Chicken Recipe because it’s:

  • The perfect summer meal; straight from the grill!
  • The easiest and most efficient way to grill a whole chicken in half the time!
  • Super Flavorful– marinated with a delicious blend of oranges, garlic, and spices before being smothered in my homemade barbecue sauce
  • Naturally Gluten-Free (The sauce is gluten-free too!)
  • Versatile– serve it with yummy sides and use leftover chicken throughout the week for all kinds of culinary creations!
an entire butterflied chicken with an assortment of grilled fruits and veggies

What is Spatchcock Chicken?

Spatchcock Chicken, also known as butterfly chicken, involves removing the backbone from the chicken and roasting it flat, which exposes it to more heat and cuts the cooking time by more than half. The chicken also cooks more evenly, ensuring no chicken gets dried out or overcooked. (You can always ask your butcher to remove the backbone of the chicken to save yourself even more time!)

Another benefit is that it allows you to put any seasonings, brine, or marinade under the skin of the chicken. So, instead of putting all the flavor and seasoning on the outside of the chicken and pocking holes or just hoping the flavor seeps through, you can put any seasonings or marinades directly on the meat. When grilled (or roasted), the chicken comes out with a PERFECT, GOLDEN, CRISPY crust and TENDER, JUICY, FLAVORFUL meat.

Ingredients

Marinated grilled spatchcock chicken includes a variety of ingredients that you most likely have already. Just remember that you can season the chicken to suit your taste buds so feel free to adjust when necessary.

  • Whole Chicken: Use one that is 3-4 lbs.
  • Homemade BBQ sauce: You can slather the grilled whole chicken with your favorite store-bought sauce but I prefer to use my own homemade barbecue sauce. Why not skip the additives and opt for a healthier alternative instead!? My recipe takes less than 15 minutes to prepare and you’ll know exactly what’s in your sauce. 

Grilled Spatchcock Chicken Marinade

If you’re craving a grilled citrus herb spatchcock chicken, then you have to try this marinade!

  • Olive Oil: This releases the flavor of the herbs and seasonings.
  • Orange:  Juice freshly squeezed from an orange adds a delicate citrusy sweetness.
  • Garlic: Mince cloves and add them to the marinade mix.
  • Parsley: Chopped herbs will balance out this savory dish.
  • Brown sugar: This boosts the browning of the chicken and contributes to the skin caramelizing once it hits the grill. It also tenderizes the meat which is why I suggest an overnight marinade for the best results.
  • Seasonings: I used a simple blend of paprika, sea salt, Italian Seasoning (or Herbs de Provence), dried thyme, pepper, and red crushed pepper (optional).
Grilled Butterfly bbq chicken with a side of barbecue sauce and grilled vegetables

What You Need to Make a Spatchcock Chicken

  • Sharp Kitchen Shears: Using sharp poultry or kitchen shears will make removing the breastbone very easy. Use kitchen shears like these for the best results.
  • Large Knife and Boning Knife: Sharp knives help with breaking and/or removing the cartilage and rib bones. This is the boning knife I use: Mercer Culinary Boning Knife | Amazon.
  • Instant Thermometer: Checking the Grilled Spatchcock Chicken temperature is the best way to determine the doneness and ensure it is properly cooked. This instant thermometer is less than $10 and works well: Meat Thermometer | Amazon.
images to show how to spatchcock a chicken the top image shows the cutting of the spine with kitchen shears, the bottom image shows a raw whole chicken flat on a cutting board with the spine removed. there is text on the image that reads How to spatchcock chicken

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Before we begin, I want to note that you can always ask your butcher to remove the backbone of the chicken to save yourself even more time! (But then you don’t get bragging rights!)

  1. Clean and prepare the chicken by removing any neck parts and gizzards. Be sure to rinse and dry the chicken with a towel.
  2. Then, using kitchen shears, cut along the backbone from the tail to the neck. Cut along both sides of the backbone until it is removed completely. You can save the backbone piece to make stock or throw it away.
  3. Break the breastbone. Now, flip the chicken over and break the breastbone to flatten the bird. There are two ways to do this:
    1. Easy Method: Make a small cut in the cartilage between the breast bone. Using your palms, press on both sides of the breast bone. Using your full body weight press down to crack the bone all the way through, breaking the rib cage. Once done, the chicken should lie completely flat.
    2. Carving Method: Using a paring knife or boning knife, cut along the cartilage and rib bones to remove them from the chicken. This way takes a bit longer but is well worth the effort.
  4. Place the chicken, with its backbone removed on a plastic cutting board, breast side down. In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the marinade.
  5. Pat chicken dry using a paper towel. With your hands, coat the chicken on all sides with the marinade. Place in a Ziploc bag and marinate for at least 2 hrs, or overnight if time permits.

If you’d like to see a video on how to spatchcock, check out this video here: How To Spatchcock A Chicken.

an 8 step image guide to grilling spatchcock chicken
Grilling A Spatchcocked Chicken On A Gas Grill

How to Grill a Spatchcocked Chicken

  1. Firstly, heat your grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Once the grill is preheated, brush the grates with olive oil. Grill the chicken skin side down over direct heat, until golden brown, crispy, and lightly charred, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to low, and flip the chicken over.
  3. Place the whole chicken on the center of the grill (above the burner that is turned off), skin side up. Then close the lid and grill for 50 to 60 minutes. After about 40 minutes, you can start brushing the top of the chicken with the BBQ sauce.
    1. Brush the chicken with barbecue sauce two or three times, carefully flipping once if desired. Be sure to close the lid after each time.
    2. Use a thermometer to make sure the chicken is fully cooked. The thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the chicken and read 165°F (74 degrees C).
  4. Remove the chicken and let it rest for 10-15 mins before carving.
  5. Finally, enjoy!
spatchcock chicken on the grill alongside orange slices and onions
BBQ Butterflied Chicken On The Grill

What to Serve with Grilled BBQ Spatchcocked Chicken

Hot off the grill, you’ll want to enjoy this smoky, sweet juicy chicken with a few delicious sides. Because it’s grilling season, let’s keep it light with some grilled veggies and salad. Here are some tasty ideas:

Common Questions

What is spatchcock chicken?

To spatchcock, or butterfly a chicken is to remove the backbone and breast bone from the chicken. When you do this you are able to roast the chicken flat, which exposes it to more heat and cuts the cooking time in half.

Is butterfly chicken the same as spatchcock chicken?

Yes! The method is the same and results in a chicken with the backbone removed.

How long does it take to grill spatchcock chicken?

It takes about an hour for a 3-4 pound chicken to cook. Cooking time varies based on the size of the chicken and the temperature of the grill. Always use a thermometer to make sure the chicken is fully cooked. The thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the chicken and read at least 165°F (74 degrees C) when fully cooked.

Do you flip a spatchcock chicken on the grill?

Yes, it is essential to achieve the perfect golden, crispy skin! Start by crisping the skin of the chicken by placing it skin-side down on direct heat. Grill until the skin becomes crisp with a light char, which takes about 5 minutes. Then, flip the chicken and place it in indirect heat, close the lid, and cook for about 40 to 50 minutes, or until an instant thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads at least 165°F.

a close up view of a sliced butterflied chicken
Grilled Barbecue Chicken

I Hope You Enjoy This Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken Recipe!

If you try the recipe, don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know what you think in the comments below! Take pictures, tag #goodfoodbaddie, and share them with me on Instagram! I love seeing my recipes come to life in your kitchen.

More Tasty Grilling Recipes:

Overhead view of a whole grilled butterflied chicken

Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken

Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken is juicy, marinated chicken that is grilled to crisp perfection before being smothered in homemade BBQ sauce. This simple method for cooking a whole chicken results in flavorful, tender pieces of meat that everyone can enjoy at your next barbecue or picnic.
5 from 30 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 605kcal
Author: Capri Lilly

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lb Whole chicken, spatchcocked spine and cartilage removed
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce plus more as needed

Grilled Spatchcock Marinade

  • ¼ cup Olive Oil
  • 1-2 Oranges, juiced about 1/3 cup fresh squeezed Orange Juice
  • 8 cloves Garlic minced
  • cup Chopped parsley packed
  • 2 tbsp Paprika
  • 1.5 tbsp Brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp Sea salt
  • 1 tbsp Italian Seasoning or Herbs de Provence
  • 2 tsp Dried thyme
  • 1 tsp Pepper
  • 1 tsp Red Crushed Pepper optional

Instructions

Preparing the Spatchcocked Chicken

  • Clean and prepare the chicken by removing any neck parts and gizzards. Be sure to rinse and dry the chicken with a towel.
  • Using kitchen shears, cut along the backbone from the tail to the neck. Cut along both sides of the backbone until it is removed completely. You can save the backbone piece to make stock or throw it away.
  • Break the breastbone. Now, flip the chicken over and break the breastbone to flatten the bird. There are two ways to do this:
    a. Easy Method: Make a small cut in the cartilage between the breast bone. Using your palms, press on both sides of the breast bone. Using your full bodyweight press down to crack the bone all the way through, breaking the rib cage. Once done, the chicken should lie completely flat.
    b. Carving Method: Using a paring knife or boning knife, cut along the cartilage and rib bones to remove it from the chicken. This way takes a bit longer but is well worth the effort.
  • Place the chicken, with its backbone removed on a plastic cutting board, breast side down. In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the marinade.
  • Pat chicken dry using a paper towel. With your hands, coat the chicken on all sides with the marinade. Place in a ziploc bag and marinade for at least 2 hrs, or overnight if time permits.

Grilling the Spatchcocked Chicken

  • Heat your grill to medium high heat.
  • Once grill is preheated, brush grates with olive oil. Grill the chicken skin side down over direct heat, until golden brown, crispy and lightly charred, about 5 minutes.
  • Then, place the chicken skin side up on the center of the grill (above the burner that is turned off)or in a place where the chicken will be in indirect heat. Close the lid and grill for 50 to 60 minutes. After about 40 minutes, you can start brushing the top of the chicken with the BBQ sauce.
    Brush the chicken with barbecue sauce two or three times, carefully flipping once if desired. Be sure to close the lid after each time.
  • Use a thermometer to make sure the chicken is fully cooked. The thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the chicken and read 165°F (74 degrees C)
  • Remove the chicken and let it rest for 10-15 mins before carving.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

  • Always use a thermometer to make sure the chicken is fully cooked. The thermometer should be inserted into the thickest part of the chicken and read 165°F (74 degrees C)
  • For the best results, marinate the chicken overnight. If you are limited on time, marinate for at least 2 hours before cooking. 
  • When you are ready to cook the chicken, let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking to ensure even cooking and the best results!

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 605kcal | Carbohydrates: 22.3g | Protein: 41.4g | Fat: 38.9g | Saturated Fat: 9.6g | Cholesterol: 194mg | Sodium: 654mg | Potassium: 214mg | Fiber: 1.5g | Sugar: 14.7g | Calcium: 71mg | Iron: 4mg

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25 comments

Nora May 11, 2022 - 10:30 am

5 stars
Such a great grilled chicken recipe! Already gave it to my hubby, so he can make it for us this weekend! Thanks for the recipe!

Reply
Capri Lilly May 12, 2022 - 8:36 am

You’re welcome Nora! I hope you both enjoy it!

Reply
Lindsay Howerton-Hastings May 11, 2022 - 12:10 pm

5 stars
This is our favorite way to make chicken! Can’t wait to make this again and again.

Reply
Capri Lilly May 11, 2022 - 1:53 pm

I am so happy to hear it! Thanks for leaving a review Lindsay!

Reply
Marysa May 11, 2022 - 1:56 pm

I’ve never heard of spatchcocking a chicken before finding this recipe. Sounds like something my husband would really enjoy. It would be perfect for Father’s Day.

Reply
Capri Lilly May 12, 2022 - 8:34 am

Hi Marysa! It’s def the perfect dish for Father’s Day! Enjoy 🙂

Reply
Jan May 11, 2022 - 3:30 pm

The flavours of the marinade were spot on. Everything just worked well together.

Reply
Capri Lilly May 12, 2022 - 8:32 am

Thanks, Jan! The marinade makes all the difference!

Reply
Tamara May 11, 2022 - 5:46 pm

5 stars
Wow! When I tell you this chicken is SUPER flavorful!! It was so easy to make following your instructions. My kids said it’s one of the best chicken dishes they’ve ever had!

Reply
Capri Lilly May 12, 2022 - 8:32 am

Hi Tamara! I am happy to hear that the instructions were easy to follow! And even happier to hear that your family loved it!!

Reply
Kim May 11, 2022 - 6:30 pm

5 stars
This was so good! And the marinade spices were amazing. I let mine marinate overnight and hubs grilled it the next day. Will be in our weekly rotation for sure!

Reply
Capri Lilly May 12, 2022 - 8:31 am

Hi Kim! I am glad to hear it! Thanks for leaving a review 🙂

Reply
Marta May 13, 2022 - 6:48 am

5 stars
I made this grilled spatchcock chicken for my family last night and they raved over how flavorful it was. It was juicy and the smoke from the grill added such a depth of flavor.

Reply
Crystal May 13, 2022 - 6:24 pm

5 stars
First time spatchcocking a chicken, and you made me feel like a pro! Only way I’m cooking whole chicken from now on! And the marinade is money!

Reply
Capri Lilly May 15, 2022 - 5:54 pm

Yess! I am glad you found it easy to do! Thanks for leaving a review, Crystal!

Reply
Amy Liu Dong May 13, 2022 - 6:40 pm

5 stars
I can smell the flavors of this dish so delicious!
I am so excited to make this for my family this weekend, and I am sure they will love this!

Reply
Robin May 14, 2022 - 1:57 am

5 stars
After marinating the chicken overnight, I grilled it the next day. It was so succulent and tasty no one ever reached for bbq sauce!

Reply
Capri Lilly May 15, 2022 - 5:53 pm

Hi Robin! That’s great! I love spatchcocking chicken because it always turns out so juicy! Glad you liked

Reply
Cheryl May 17, 2022 - 7:52 am

5 stars
I’m always looking for a good chicken recipe and this one is it. That marinade makes such a difference to the flavor of the chicken and your homemade bbq sauce is the perfect finish. Will definitely be coming back to this recipe.

Reply
Capri Lilly May 18, 2022 - 8:52 am

Hi Cheryl! The marinade is probably my favorite part! It makes all the difference! Thanks for giving the recipe a try. I am happy you enjoyed it.

Reply
Jessica May 17, 2022 - 11:43 am

5 stars
I absolutely loved all of the flavors in this recipe and was shocked at how much quicker a whole chicken cooked when prepared this way! Changed my life.

Reply
Capri Lilly May 18, 2022 - 8:54 am

Isn’t it so! It cooks so fast and so perfectly! I totally feel like a grill master when making this chicken! I am glad you liked the recipe! Thanks for leaving a review

Reply
Kate May 17, 2022 - 2:40 pm

5 stars
My spatchcock chicken turned out so moist and delicious! Everyone asked for second helpings! This is certainly going to be in rotation in our home.

Reply
Capri Lilly May 18, 2022 - 8:50 am

Yay! I am so happy to hear it. Thanks for leaving a review, Kate!

Reply
Jen May 18, 2022 - 10:21 am

5 stars
As soon as I saw this grilled chicken recipe I knew I had to try it. Not only did it look delicious but it tasted good too. It disappeared in seconds and everyone asked me to make it again!

Reply

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