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.

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70 thoughts on “Aromatic Whole Grilled Chicken”

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  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. 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.

  6. 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 🙂

  7. I wonder if removing my backbone would make me more flexible…Naw, I think my problem is in the hip bone…

    1. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. You should try having a brick wrapped in foil on top of the chicken while grilling,it makes it even better.

  10. 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…

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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 ^_^

  15. 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.

  16. 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!!

  17. 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.

  18. Spatchcocking! Those last 2 pictures look awesome. That bird really looks tasty. Thank you for the elaborate write-up.

  19. 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!

  20. 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!

  21. 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?

  22. 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!

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. Raw backbone is good for dogs, along with veggies and whole eggs, etc

  26. This was FANTASTIC. Thanks for sharing the recipe. Dogs got the raw back and they shared the offal with the cat.

  27. 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!

  28. I just made this today. it smells delicious!!!!! about to try it now. Thanks! 🙂

  29. I did this tonight. Total win!! Kids were fighting over the wings and drumsticks.

  30. 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!

  31. 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.

  32. 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

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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!!

  37. 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?

  38. You might want to replace the first photo as it shows cutting the breast not the backbone. A little confusing.

  39. ocked 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 shall

  40. hat nicely browned and crispy skin, too, and the presentation is quite nice on a large platter. It’s also easy to quickly cut th

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  45. ustin called Pollo Loco that grilled chicken that way. Of course it was considered Tex-Mex and so there wer

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