Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
29 May

Aromatic Whole Grilled Chicken

As spring in our part of the world finally gives way to summer, cooks start their migration outdoors, turning off ovens and firing up grills. But saying goodbye to your oven for the summer doesn’t have to mean saying goodbye to slowly roasted, succulent meat. As reader Rich Freund has pointed out when submitting the following recipe, meals like whole roasted chicken are just as good, if not better, when cooked on a grill. The trick lies in a culinary technique with an extremely technical term.

Ladies and Gentleman, let us introduce you to spatchcocking.

We swear we did not make that term up. Neither did Rich, although he has perfected the technique on his own backyard barbecue. Spatchcocking involves slicing the bird down the backside to remove the backbone before cooking. This makes a chicken more flexible so you can flatten the bird out, insuring that all parts cook evenly. Removing the backbone can be done with a sharp knife, but is easiest with kitchen shears. Some cooks take spatchcocking one step further by also breaking the wishbone (clearly visible once you remove the backbone) and then cutting out the keel bone, which is the dark breastbone in the middle of the chicken. You can watch a tutorial on how to remove the keel bone, but to be honest, we don’t think it’s entirely necessary. Rich’s chicken always cooks evenly when he only removes the backbone and so did ours, so why bother with an extra step?

A spatchcocked (that word is embarrassingly fun to say) chicken can be seasoned or marinated any way you like, but you’re definitely going to want to give Rich’s dry rub a try. More aromatic than spicy, his blend of salt, pepper, sweet paprika, chili powder, garlic and turmeric brings deep color and flavor to the bird. The skin on this grilled chicken, layered with flavors from all the spices and cooked to crispy perfection, just might be our favorite part. Although the incredibly moist meat was a revelation, too. Who knew grilled chicken – even the breast meat –  could be so moist?

Spatchcocking the bird (we couldn’t resist saying it one last time) is largely responsible for this, but keeping the grill at a steady heat without any flare-ups is important too. Most grills have a temperature gauge, and you’ll want to keep it between 325-375 degrees Fahrenheit. Rich cooks his chicken over white-hot lump charcoal on the barbecue (sometimes with smoke chips) and roasts the bird near the fire, not right on top of it.  We cook our chicken on a gas grill, lowering the heat when needed and moving the chicken away from direct flames, with equal success. The last thing to remember is that the bird should be turned every 15 minutes until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.  Flipping the bird will help the chicken cook evenly and prevent burning. As Rich says, “the challenge is to get the outside nice and crispy!”

A 3-4 pound chicken should take just over an hour, which gives you plenty of time to relax outside with friends in the great outdoors while your chicken roasts to juicy perfection on the grill.

Rich’s Whole Grilled Chicken (submitted for the Primal Blueprint Reader-Created Cookbook Contest)


  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground pepper (try a mix of white and black)
  • 1-2 tablespoons smoked sweet paprika (or just sweet paprika if you can’t find the smoked variety)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder or dried minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric


Get the grill started first, so it comes up to at least 325 degrees Fahrenheit before you put the bird on.

Mix the dry ingredients together and set the rub aside.

Set the chicken breast-side down and remove anything that’s inside the cavity. Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut down each side of the backbone to remove it.

The backbone runs right down the middle of the chicken. When the backbone is removed, the chicken will fold open.

Rub the bird with olive oil then rub the spice mix generously all over the bird.

Cook the chicken with the grill lid on, checking and turning the bird every 15 minutes. Watch out for flare-ups and try to avoid letting the chicken comes in direct contact with flames. Cook until an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit is reached.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. That looks delicious!

    Organic Gabe wrote on May 29th, 2010
  2. This sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing. I had never heard of “spatchcocking”. Now I feel so smart, having learning a new big word today! Have a nice weekend Mark!

    Willow wrote on May 29th, 2010
  3. I love to make spatchcocked chicken (& other birds) on the grill or in the oven. If roasting in an oven, place the bird on a flat cooking rack set in a shallow sheet pan. I don’t bother turning it when roasting in the oven.

    Spatchcocked chicken provides more of that nicely browned and crispy skin, too, and the presentation is quite nice on a large platter. It’s also easy to quickly cut the bird into serving pieces, right at the table, without mangling the bird. All-on-all, it’s a great technique!

    Anna wrote on May 29th, 2010
    • what oven/internal chicken temp and for how long?

      j b wrote on February 12th, 2013
  4. This post kills two birds with one stone, so to speak. Getting rid of that pesky backbone greatly improves joint mobility and leads to a nice cooking technique.

    Aaron Blaisdell wrote on May 29th, 2010
    • THREE birds — the removed back makes a great foundation for stock.

      PJ wrote on May 30th, 2010
  5. I use tin snips as kitchen sheers — thank you Alton Brown.

    Grol wrote on May 29th, 2010
  6. This is a good one… i will have to give it a whirl sometime : )

    Rich Huntley RH Martial Fitness wrote on May 29th, 2010
  7. We spatchcocked our last Thanksgiving turkey … made for the best turkey I’ve ever had. My wife has been doing almost every whole bird the same way ever since, makes for a nice, evenly cooked bird, with LOTS of deliciously crispy skin.

    Scott wrote on May 29th, 2010
  8. Yum! I’m buying a gas grill in order to make this…

    Pootzen wrote on May 29th, 2010
  9. This looks awesome. I’m going to make this tonight.

    Carl Dyer wrote on May 29th, 2010
  10. Great looking recipe and chicken backs make amazing broth so you might wanna freeze it for later. Unless I guess you don’t want your freezer to turn into the unlabeled horror show mine looks like at the moment.

    Wakka wrote on May 29th, 2010
    • the way to avoid lost chicken parts in the freezer is to take a quart sized freezer bag, label it chicken parts for broth, then start adding the parts. when full, you can start a new bag and use the old one.

      Kitty wrote on June 14th, 2010
  11. I have never heard of spatchooking before but it is for sure a term I will be using quite often this summer. Thanks for the recipe! About to print and will use next week :)

    Primal Toad wrote on May 29th, 2010
    • I meant spatchcocking! I messed that up twice on my facebook….

      Primal Toad wrote on May 29th, 2010
  12. Two spatchcocked birds on the grill now…

    Andrew wrote on May 29th, 2010
  13. Looks delicious! I’ll add this to my menu for next week =D

    Tiffany wrote on May 29th, 2010
  14. I wonder if removing my backbone would make me more flexible…Naw, I think my problem is in the hip bone…

    Dusty wrote on May 29th, 2010
    • Oh wow! Just made this for the family exactly as described. My wife commented that it was better than any type of gourmet BBQ chicken she has bought from a specialty store. Kudos to the submitter!

      wocko wrote on May 30th, 2010
  15. That’s funny. I have made chicken like that twice in the last two weeks. I cut out the spine with shears and then rip the breastbone out with my teeth, or a knife. I use a Turkish Grilled Chicken recipe of cinnamon, tumeric, salt, and paprika.

    You can use a George Foreman grill too, it is actually better if grease fires are a problem on your BBQ.

    nathan wrote on May 30th, 2010
  16. You should try having a brick wrapped in foil on top of the chicken while grilling,it makes it even better.

    Silviu wrote on May 30th, 2010
  17. Ok, I have to say it because I’m still mentally thirteen- something is really quite amusing in a Beevis & Butthead kind of way about dry rubbing a spatchcock…

    Michelle wrote on May 30th, 2010
  18. I have been looking for a good tutorial on spatchcocking for a while. Thanks for the awesome link Mark!

    This came just in time. We are doing a impromptu pre-Memorial Day grill-n-smoke and my contribution is last season’s harvested ducks with the rub from this recipe. Smoking of hickory now!

    Charlie Golf wrote on May 30th, 2010
  19. Fixed a 1/2 dozen chicken thighs this way last nite. They were great! Cooked them for 40 minutes 10 minutes a side (twice) and they are a keeper. Thanks for this one.

    Jeff H.

    Jeff wrote on May 30th, 2010
  20. Butterflying a whole bird (of any sort) is really the only way to go if you enjoy moist breast AND dark meat. Otherwise the dark stays moist and the breast turns to sawdust….But this is fabulous! Cheers!

    Julie Aguiar wrote on May 30th, 2010
  21. Spatchcocking?!? Haha! Who knew? We’ve been cooking our birds this way for years, over indirect heat on a charcoal Weber. Delicious! Thanks for the new word of the day ^_^

    Buzz Chop wrote on May 31st, 2010
  22. Made this tonight for the first time. It was easy and the taste was incredible. Can’t believe that I used to cook/eat chicken without the skin!

    You have to try it.

    Karl MacPhee wrote on June 1st, 2010
  23. This was the absolute best chicken I have ever made. Definitely among the top 5 chicken I have ever eaten. I didn’t have any turmeric, so I made up a spice rub. It turned out so good that I couldn’t believe I had cooked it. This technique is simple yet incredibly effective. Go try it!!

    Kristin J wrote on June 1st, 2010
  24. Making it tonight! Can’t wait.

    Lars1000 wrote on June 2nd, 2010
  25. and no one commented about you saying “flipping the bird!”

    Have to try spatchcocking…I think that flipping a turkey(hey, a new cuss phrase??) would be difficult though. oven would be much easier.

    melissa crosby wrote on June 3rd, 2010
  26. Spatchcocking! Those last 2 pictures look awesome. That bird really looks tasty. Thank you for the elaborate write-up.

    Paramjit wrote on June 3rd, 2010
  27. I am lazy….I had the butcher do it. I used the same rub I use for pork (I make up a lot of it at a time and keep it in the freezer). The chicken is awesome!

    Cherie wrote on June 3rd, 2010
  28. My local butcher, Carlo’s in East Lyme CT, prepares these chickens and I have been loving them for months!

    We grill them and serve with a big salad!

    NB wrote on June 4th, 2010
  29. wow, i made these for company yesterday partly (ok, mainly) because i really liked the word “spatchcocking.” we got our first distribution from a poultry csa and invited over 6 friends. i did two chickens. the first one didn’t come out looking quite right, but the 2nd one looked just like the pictures. fun, easy, and delicious. what’s not to like?

    susteph wrote on June 5th, 2010
  30. Cooked this yesterday, AWESOME!!!

    Danny wrote on June 6th, 2010
  31. Just made this – is incredibly good! Will be making this at least weekly! My only recommended change, is to decrease the salt, and do it w/a bigger chicken – this one went way too fast!

    CarolineK wrote on June 13th, 2010
  32. Superb and delicious. I made one addition to the dry rub – some corriander powder.

    Kate wrote on June 18th, 2010
  33. This chicken was succulent and delicious, I’ve now made it impromptu on two occasions at BBQ’s and its been the star of the table. You can really improvise with whatever dry spices you have available. at the last one I didn’t have turmeric but substituted tandoori spice.
    For a Sth American feel use (cumin, oregano, garlic, paprika, chilli, salt and pepper) these are the stables of any Chilean BBQ rub. Enjoy your tasty birds!

    Claudia wrote on June 20th, 2010
  34. Do a search on “brick chicken” for instructions on how to cook a spatchcocked chicken using a foil-wrapped brick as a weight to really get the skin crispy.

    Maura wrote on July 13th, 2010

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