Spatchcocked Grilled Chicken

whole grilled chicken spatchcocked on parchment paper with a bowl of green garlic sauce grilled lemons
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Rubbed down with a smoky, sweet spice blend, and served with creamy, garlicky herb sauce, this grilled spatchcocked chicken is hands down the best darn recipe we’ve ever dreamt up. 

All Bang, No Buck. 

Well, maybe it’s more like “all bang, very-little buck”—any way you slice it, we’re so excited to share this gosh-darn easy grilled whole chicken recipe with you, because we just KNOW it’s everything your summertime dinner daydreams are made of. A simple spice rub—just brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper—flavors our spatchcocked chicken recipe, and that's all it needs. Hot off the grill, juicy, smoky, and drizzled in a creamy, cooling garlic-herb sauce this—might just be one of the best recipes we’ve ever made.

whole grilled chicken spatchcocked on parchment paper with a bowl of green garlic sauce grilled lemons

The Best Spatchcock Chicken Recipe, Ever. In the Universe. For Real. 

Grilling a whole chicken is the kind of showy, secretly easy recipes we live to create—it’s unbelievably simple to pull off, but it still makes for a dramatic dinner-party supper. Butterflied and hot from the grill, laid out on a platter with grilled lemons and a bowl of herb sauce, grilled spatchcocked chicken is a meal imbued with the spirit of sharing and generosity around which every gathering should be built. There’s something so wonderfully classic and inviting about serving a whole chicken—it’s homey and special all at once, and this recipe is easy enough that you’ll be able to relax with the friends you serve it to, which is what this whole dinner-party thing is all about, right?

raw spatchcocked chicken on parchment paper next to ingredients for garlic herb sauce, green onions, mayonnaise, parsley

Spatchcocked Chicken: How To Grill a Whole Chicken Without Losing Your Mind. 

Spatchcocked chicken—also known as butterflied chicken—is a whole chicken that has been split by removing the backbone, and then flattened out. Splitting and flattening the bird is dual purpose—you significantly reduce the cooking time, and ensure even cooking. While spatchcocked birds are great for roasting, they’re the hands-down best for grilling. In fact, the dictionary definition of the word “spatchcock” is literally “chicken or game bird split open and grilled.”

How To Spatchcock a Chicken

Most any butcher will be happy to spatchcock a whole chicken for you, saving you time and mess, but it’s also easy enough to do yourself. Good kitchen tools and a little confidence are all you need to spatchcock, or butterfly, a chicken at home. Here’s how to do it yourself: 

  1. Cut the backbone out of the chicken, starting from the thigh end and working upwards. You’ll snip through the rib bones as you go, but it shouldn’t be too hard—a good, sharp pair of poultry shears or kitchen scissors really help with this step. Get as close to the backbone as you can, and once you’ve removed it, don’t toss it! It’s great for making chicken stock. 
  2. Flatten that bird! Flip the chicken over so that it is skin-side up, and press down hard on the breastbone to flatten the chicken out. Remember: the goal is to make the chicken as evenly-splayed out as possible for quick, even cooking on the grill.  

P.S. Friendly reminder—don’t rinse your chicken! And wash your hands super thoroughly before and after handling raw chicken. And, while we’re talking chicken and food safety, always check that your chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165°F before you pull it off the grill or out of the oven.

How To Grill a Spatchcocked Chicken

Your chicken has been prepped, rubbed with a paprika-garlic spice mix, and the grill is hot—now what?! Your work is nearly over—it’s time to let your grill do the rest. Our grilled spatchcock chicken recipe works perfectly on either a gas grill or a charcoal grill. Here are a few things to know: 

  • If you’re grilling your spatchcocked chicken on a gas grill: start with medium-high heat for the first few minutes of cooking, just until the skin is a nice crispy, golden-brown. Then crank that heat to low.

If you’ll be grilling a whole chicken over charcoal: begin cooking the dry-rubbed, spatchcocked whole chicken over direct heat (the warmest part of the grill) to give the skin a lovely char. After a few minutes, flip and move the chicken so that it finishes cooking over indirect heat.

If You’ve Got 30 Seconds and a Blender, You’ve Got Homemade Herb Sauce. 

The best spatchcock chicken recipe is only as good as the herbs and spices that flavor it, and this easy, creamy garlic-and-herb sauce is what pushes the particular whole chicken recipe into overdrive. A whole spatchcocked chicken, fresh off the grill and carved at the table while it’s still steaming and juicy, served with this garlicky, bright, basil-y sauce for dipping and slathering and drizzling—well, let’s just say that it’ll make even the newbiest of new home cooks look like a master. And the best part? You just toss a bunch of fresh herbs in a blender with some mayo and lemon juice and give it a whirl. Herb sauce—made.

whole grilled chicken cut up on a sliver platter with a bowl of grilled lemons

Three Worthy Side Dishes: 

A gorgeous, grilled whole chicken is almost a meal in itself—just add a beautiful, colorful salad, and dinner is served. Here are a few of our summery favorites:

Tools You’ll Need: 

whole grilled chicken cut up on a silver platter drizzled with garlic herb sauce

Are You a Butterfly Believer Now? 

We’re crazy for this recipe, and we think you will be, too! Snap a photo of your grilled spatchcocked chicken and maybe even a video of the beautiful people you share it with! Tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper. Happy eating!

Spatchcocked Grilled Chicken

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp pepper
5 lb chicken, spatchcocked
10 basil leaves, packed
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, packed
4 green onions, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil

Method

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  2. Pat chicken dry using a paper towel. With your hands coat the chicken on all sides with the spice rub.
  3. Heat your grill to medium high heat.
  4. 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. Turn the heat down to low, flip the chicken over. ** Continue to grill until skin is golden brown all over, juices run clear, and an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 165°F. This will take about 45 minutes.
  5. While the chicken is cooking add all sauce ingredients to a blender and blend on high and set aside.
  6. Once chicken is cooked remove from the grill let it rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve alongside the green garlic sauce and enjoy!

**If using a charcoal grill, move chicken away from indirect heat while cooking to be sure you don’t dry it out. This method may take longer than 45 minutes, so be sure to use a thermometer for doneness.