Grilled Citrus Herb Spatchcocked Chicken Recipe

Kick up your grilled chicken with this foolproof recipe.

When I was a kid, grilled chicken always meant bone dry meat buried under a thick layer of burnt on BBQ sauce. Fortunately as I grew older, I began to realize that grilled chicken could be infinitely better than what was served to me for so many summers.

In fact, my first encounter with properly grilled chicken came in the form of a whole chicken that had been flattened like a book (a technique that I later learned was called spatchcocking). The bird was then cooked until the meat was moist and tender, the skin was perfectly crisp, and a mouthwatering aroma of smoke filled the air. It was so juicy and flavorful that there was absolutely no need for a sticky sweet BBQ sauce.

In honor of that game changing chicken, I created the following grilled spatchcocked citrus herb chicken recipe. By removing the backbone from the chicken and grilling it bone-side down, you not only allow the chicken to slow roast without drying out or burning from direct flame but also make sure the dark and white meat cook evenly.

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Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken

If you’ve been frustrated by unsuccessful grilled chicken, this recipe for citrus herb rubbed spatchcocked chicken will be a revelation.

Makes. 4 servings.

Takes. 15 minutes prep. 1 hour cooking.

Serve with. Chardonnay.

Special Tools. Kitchen shears or poultry shears.

Ingredients

1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) whole chicken

1 tablespoon Morton’s kosher salt (read more about the science of salt here)

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon olive oil

Method

1) Fire up. Prepare a smoker for indirect cooking. Alternatively, you can set up a charcoal grill for 2-zone cooking by placing a chimney full of pre-heated charcoal briquets on one side of the grill's charcoal grate in order to create direct and indirect cooking zones. Adjust the smoker or grill vents to bring the temperature to about 325°F and add 2 to 3 chunks of your favorite smoking wood to the charcoal for flavor. On a gas grill, adjust the temperature knobs so that one half of the grill is off and the other half is heated enough to maintain a temperature of approximately 325°F on the indirect side.

2) Prep. To spatchcock the chicken, use kitchen shears or poultry shears to cut along both sides of the backbone. Remove the backbone. Turn the chicken over and flatten it by pressing down on the breasts with your palms. You may hear the breast bone crack, which is fine.

Spatchcocking a Whole Chicken

Removing the Backbone from a Whole Chicken

Flatten the Spatchcocked Chicken

3) Prepare the citrus herb paste by combining the salt, lemon zest, rosemary, paprika, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, and olive oil in a small bowl. Blend well until all ingredients are incorporated into a paste.

4) Rub the chicken skin all over with the citrus herb paste.

5) Cook. Place the spatchcocked chicken skin side up on the indirect side of the grill, positioning it so that the legs are facing the heat source.

6) Cover the grill and allow the spatchcocked chicken to cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F, approximately 1 hour. Place the chicken skin side down over direct heat and cook until the skin is crisp, approximately 4 minutes.

7) Serve. Remove the chicken from the grill, carve, and serve immediately with any juices from the cutting board.

"I love chicken. I would eat chicken fingers on Thanksgiving if it were socially acceptable."Comedian Todd Barry

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