Spatchcock Chicken

If you’re looking for a quick and easy mid week meal is hard to go past cooking  a chicken. Chicken is easy to grab on your way home from work and is very affordable, with a whole bird selling for under four dollars a kilogram at the big supermarkets.

One of the drawbacks with cooking a whole chicken though is that it is not always easy to get it to cook evenly. What looks like perfectly cooked chicken can easily have a breast that is cooked beautifully and unfortunately, thighs that are still pink and far from done.

One easy solution to this, is to spatchcock the chicken before cooking it. As you’ll see in the accompanying photos, a chicken that has been spatchcocked is quite consistent in its thickness when it sits on the grill. This helps to cook evenly throughout.

The process of making a spatchcock chicken is a lot easier than it sounds. The only tool you really need is a pair of poultry shears or some heavy duty kitchen scissors. You can add a pair of metal skewers to the equipment list to hold the bird in shape, but I rarely bother.

Begin by turning the chicken over so the breast faces the chopping board and so the legs are facing you. You’re about to cut the backbone out of the chicken using the poultry shears, so have a feel around to work out where the backbone runs. The aim is to neatly cut up inside of the backbone, through the ribs, before removing it entirely.

Once removed flip the bird over and firmly press down on the centre of breast until you feel a bit of a pop. If you have a look at the bird resting on the chopping board, you can see that it is now a much more consistent thickness, which will aid it in cooking evenly.

Take a healthy amount of margarine and rub it all over the bird. This will help with the application of your chosen rub and also helps the skin to crisp up.

When cooking chicken is important to aim for a higher heat to help the skin cook to perfection. Cook it too low and there will be no colour to the skin and it will have the texture of rubber. I usually aim for about 350F, but anywhere between 320 and 370F should be okay.

At 350F  the chicken will take somewhere between 45 minutes and one hour 15 minutes, depending on how large it is. The chicken cooked in the accompanying photos was a monster, weighing just over 2 1/2 kg, so it took a good  hour and 15 minutes to cook.

The setup for cooking a spatchcock chicken when using a WSM is very easy. I fill the fire ring with Heat Beads lump charcoal and remove the water pan entirely. This allows the juices from the chicken to fall onto the lit coals, giving that lovely charcoal chicken taste. I always cook using top grate for ease of access to the bird throughout the cook and the extra distance from the fire also helps.

For those of you after a decent chicken rub to use, the following recipe is one that I often use at home. Mix together and store in an airtight container.

  • 1/4 cup smoked paprika
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp black pepper
  • 1tbsp onion powder
  • 1tbsp thyme
  • 1tbsp oregano
  • Chilli powder (add to taste, but a little will go a long way)


Author: AJ

Complete BBQ tragic and committed collector of BBQs, particularly Webers. Even known to talk BBQ recipes in his sleep, AJ’s years of cooking triumphs and failures have left him completely convinced that BBQ is overthought.

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