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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. I tried this today. We got a winner! Even the kids loved it.

    Fred Mathieu wrote on July 29th, 2010
  2. Raw backbone is good for dogs, along with veggies and whole eggs, etc

    NourishedMom wrote on September 4th, 2010
  3. This was FANTASTIC. Thanks for sharing the recipe. Dogs got the raw back and they shared the offal with the cat.

    Grace wrote on September 18th, 2010
  4. I’ve made this several times and I love it. It is my favorite way to cook chicken.


    David Grim - Get Fit Get Lean wrote on October 20th, 2010
  5. Agreed. This recipe is incredibly tasty.
    I am lazy though, so we cooked it on a rotisserie instead of spatchcocking (insert giggle here). I know, not getting to say that takes away half the fun – but it doesn’t remove any of the yumminess!

    Meredith wrote on January 6th, 2011
  6. I just made this today. it smells delicious!!!!! about to try it now. Thanks! :)

    Giftty wrote on July 18th, 2011
  7. I did this tonight. Total win!! Kids were fighting over the wings and drumsticks.

    DaveInMaine wrote on September 10th, 2011
  8. Can someone please tell me how to print a recipe like this one without getting pages and pages of comments? I am trying to find a “printable view” button or something… Thank you!

    Lora wrote on January 27th, 2012
  9. This was the best grilled whole bird we’ve done. Not to mention I learned a new prep technique with a really fun name. Thanks.

    Dawn Knowles wrote on July 7th, 2012
  10. Looks delicious, sounds like a great method for the chicken I picked up today!!

    Kevin wrote on August 11th, 2012
  11. I’m doing this right now, gonna be awesome!

    Arty wrote on August 19th, 2012
  12. Unbelievably awesome! The turmeric seasoning makes it!, I own an Italian Cafe and this has got to go on the menu. Took some willpower initially but yes I don’t do pasta or bread. Thanks Mark

    Bob wrote on August 5th, 2013
  13. wow….made one last weekend..and I’m still snacking on the leftovers…lately, I have developed a taste for “herbs de Provence” which I now make a mixture of the herbs with oil (of your choice) garlic and some caraway seeds..its a little different, I rub it on the bird and roast it up. thanks.
    Rich F.

    rik wrote on August 5th, 2013
  14. Just made this for a dinner party. It was perfectly delish and I definitely felt primal making it. Thanks for the recipe. Great times we’re had by all.

    Gabriel wrote on June 29th, 2014
  15. There used to be a restaurant in Austin called Pollo Loco that grilled chicken that way. Of course it was considered Tex-Mex and so there were tortillas to put the meat in and guacamole and salsa. The spices may not have been the same, but were similar and they always had a bunch of birds on a grill in view of the patrons.

    I’ve also used a Chinese 5 spice based recipe with good success, but it isn’t a rub as much as a marinade and best to marinade overnight. So it takes some planning. It’s called Grilled Five Spice Chicken on and can be made paleo pretty easily by replacing soy sauce with coconut aminoes and the rice vinegar with cider or white wine vinegar.

    Lou wrote on September 19th, 2014
  16. Stumbled across this today for the first time – in my (old) neck of the woods it’s just called a “flattie” and thus completely avoids “embarrassing” words!!

    Cody wrote on January 24th, 2015
  17. I’ve made this before on the grill but my bbq crapped out on me so I was going to do it in the oven. I figured temp would be the same as the bbq but what about cook time?

    My whole roast chicken takes 2 hours at 350 so should I use that a guide?

    katie wrote on June 13th, 2015

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