How do I grill a chicken if I don’t have a rotisserie?
Friends and family ask me this all the time. They enjoy their grilling, but they’re not fanatics like me. They don’t want to spend time futzing around with a rotisserie.
When I need a quick roast chicken, I butterfly. A few snips with poultry shears and the backbone is out. Then I live out my comic book fantasies, mutter “It’s Clobbering Time” under my breath, and squash the chicken flat.2
Why butterfly, if I want to save time? Why not just throw the whole chicken on the grill? Because removing the backbone cuts fifteen minutes from the cooking time. A butterflied chicken is opened up to the heat of the grill, which cooks the breast and (more importantly) the thighs quicker.
I love a straightforward roast chicken; this one is based on a recipe from Julia Child, where she rubs the chicken with butter before roasting it. I add a clove of garlic to the butter because, well, because I love garlic butter.
Recipe: Grilled Butterflied Chicken with Garlic Butter
Inspired By: Julia Child, Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home
- Grill (I use a Weber Summit. Here is the current version of my grill.)
- Poultry shears
- Instant Read Thermometer
Grilled Butterflied Chicken with Garlic Butter recipe – tender meat, crispy skin, and a butter baste on the grill.
- 4-pound chicken
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground peppercorn mix (or black pepper)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- Butterfly, salt, and pepper the chicken: Butterfly the chicken: remove the backbone with poultry shears by cutting up one side of the backbone, then down the other side of the backbone. Flip the chicken skin side up, and flatten the breastbone by pressing down hard with the back of your hand. Fold the wing tips back under the wing to lock them in place. Sprinkle the chicken with the salt and pepper, and refrigerate for 8 hours to 24 hours. (If you don’t have time to salt early, salt the chicken right before it goes on the grill.)
- Set the grill for indirect high heat: Set up the grill to cook on indirect high heat (450°F or higher internal temperature). For my Weber Summit, I preheat the grill with all burners on high for 15 minutes. Then I brush the grates clean, leave burners #1, #2, and #6 on, and turn off the other burners.
- Melt the butter, sizzle the garlic: While the grill is heating, microwave the butter and garlic until the butter is melted and you hear the garlic sizzling, about 1 minute.
- Grill the chicken over indirect high heat Summary:
- Brush the skin side of the chicken with half the garlic butter. Put the chicken on the grill, skin side down, so it is not directly over the fire – we’re cooking with indirect heat. (If your grill setup allows it, place the chicken so the drumsticks are close to the fire, and the breasts farther away.) Brush the fleshy side of the chicken with the other half of the garlic butter, then close the lid. Grill, covered, for 30 minutes. Flip the chicken skin side up and cook, covered, until the chicken reaches 160°F in the thickest part of the breast, about 15 more minutes.
- Crisp the skin over direct heat: At this point, you should have nice, crispy skin. If you don’t, move the chicken directly over the fire and sear, turning often, until the skin is crisped up, about 4 minutes. Watch out – dripping chicken fat causes flare-ups, and you don’t want to burn the chicken at the last minute.
- Serve: Let the chicken rest for ten minutes, then cut into pieces and serve.
For butterflying instructions, see my How to Butterfly A Chicken video.
- Category: Grilling
- Cuisine: American
- Have a charcoal grill? Here’s a similar recipe using my Weber Kettle: Grilled Butterflied Chicken, Dry Brined
- I suggest pointing the chicken so the legs are towards the heat, so they cook quicker. You want the dark meat to cook more than the breast meat; the legs should register 170°F or higher when the breast reaches 160°F. Butterflying helps cook the dark meat faster by by exposing the thighs to the heat – if you leave the chicken whole, the cavity is shielding the inside of the thighs.
- Writing the phrase “exposing thighs to the heat” makes me worry I’m going to get blocked by a mature content filter. I’m cooking over here, OK? Over a live fire? Darn…I’m not helping my cause.
- Save that backbone in the freezer, you’ll want to use it with Homemade Chicken Stock
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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