Butterflied Whole Chicken on the Grill

Butterflied, and Blackened, Whole Chicken on the Grill

Butterflied Whole Chicken on the Grill

One of the earliest food memories I have is of Nonna Vincenzina slaughtering a young chicken on Via Nazionale in Calabria.  Nonna simply walked into the chicken coup, grabbed one of my feathery friends, and snapped it’s fragile head (the bird ran around for a few minutes and thereafter dropped to the dirt floor).
The image above was, at the time, traumatic, but like the similar pig and goat incident of my youth (same scenarios as above but it included a few of my brawny uncles and grandfather) it gave me an appreciation of where food comes from and the work involved to actually get it to the dinner table.  So, no, I don’t have an aversion to chicken and it’s actually one of my favorite foods.  More specifically, I’m obsessed with whole roasted chicken (Bell and Evans tastes great if you can’t raise and slaughter your own in your backyard).  My latest technique has been to remove the breast bone and backbone and butterfly a whole chicken (here’s a good video and description on how to do this or you can ask your butcher to do it for you.)  Because the whole bird becomes flat it’s quite easy to grill, which I look to do on my trusty Weber One Touch grill (oh, before I forget, don’t overspend on a fancy grill as it will not make your food taste better).
a freshly butterflied whole chicken with lemon zest, Kosher salt, and ground black pepper
prior to butterflying the chicken
Here’s the recipe for Butterflied Whole Chicken on the Grill, starting with the ingredients:
Butterflied Whole Chicken on the Grill
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4
  • one 3.5 - 4 pound whole chicken, butterflied
  • zest of one lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of freshly picked Rosemary - finely minced (optional)
  1. Rub the entire chicken with olive oil and thereafter add your lemon zest, kosher salt, and freshly ground coarse pepper (make sure to coat both sides of the chicken). Rub the ingredients into the chicken well and move to a large plate.
  2. When I set up my grill fire I like to push the coals/embers to one side of the grill so I have an area for searing and an area for roasting that's not over direct heat.
  3. I start by putting the chicken (skin side down) over the direct fire. I leave the chicken skin side down for about 2-3 minutes (you simply want to brown and crunch up the skin). Thereafter turn the chicken and let sit for another 2-3 minutes. Once you have good color on the bird move it to the area of the grill that is not over a direct flame and put the lid on your grill. Let the chicken cook for 15 minutes and turn it thereafter. Let the other side cook for an additional 15 minutes. At this point, and depending on the size of your chicken, your close to finishing up. Ultimately, you want the darker meat on the bird to be fully cooked (specifically the thickest part of thigh should reach about 150 degrees).
  4. Once the chicken has reached this temperature let the bird sit for about 10 minutes. I usually cut the wings, legs and thighs off the bird and then cut the breast into 4 pieces. You can serve roasted, BBQ, whole chicken with oven fried French fries and a tomato salad with tons of basil. Try an American Zinfandel or a French Burgundy with the dish.
I don't like propane fueled grills, so I always use a chimney starter and wood charcoal briquettes. Under no circumstances should you use lighter fluid to start your fire (the smell is nasty so just imagine what's in the fluid itself and what will go into your body). Update: I've recently invested in a natural gas grill and the results have been acceptable.
fresh lemon zest


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  2. Butterflied chicken grilled over charcoal is a must-do. I lean towards Marcella Hazan’s chicken diavolo, basically just heavily covered in coarsely ground black pepper.
    Air chilled is important, otherwise you’re paying for — and eating — non-potable water. The midwestern air chilled product to look for is Smart Chicken, packed in Nebraska and available through Hy Vee markets in Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois.

  3. Interesting post. I have never tried to grill a whole chicken before. I am bookmarking this post, so I can make this for my family.

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