Grilling season is upon us!!
Make this smoked spatchcock chicken recipe on your pellet grill for a juicy entree in a fraction of the time of whole smoked chicken. More surface area exposed means more of that delicious smoke flavour all around your meat.
Get your grill ready for a smoked entree that can easily be prepared on the busiest of nights.
This pellet grill spatchcock chicken recipe is a favorite way to make a whole chicken, filling it with smokey flavour, crispy skin, and is just a great excuse to get outside and fire up your Traeger, Pitboss, or other grill.
What Is Spatchcock Chicken?
Spatchcock chicken is a fancy name for a flattened chicken. It looks complicated and intimidating to use the spatchcock method to prepare a chicken but the cooking process is actually very easy. Shhh… Don’t tell anyone my secret! Simply remove the neck and backbone, slice into the chest bone, lay flat, season, and smoke chicken using your desired method.
Not only will your chicken be evenly cooked, it will have more surface area to catch the smoke flavor from your pellet grill. Spatchcocked chicken is flattened in a way that exposes all of the skin, allowing it to evenly crisp in your smoker without risking ripping it or having soggy pieces.
Time is precious! Spatchcock smoked chicken is ready in a fraction of the time that it would take to cook a whole intact chicken. The meat is evenly spread, covering a larger surface area and ensuring more even heat distribution…avoiding dry/leathery bits.
Why Is Spatchcock Chicken The Best?
Smoked spatchcocked chicken might just become your favourite way to smoke poultry. The end result is a gorgeous chicken, full of amazing smoke flavour that you can be proud of serving up to your guests. Cooked in a fraction of the time, smoked spatchcock chicken is the perfect way to prepare a whole chicken- leaving you with a tender bird to enjoy fresh or as leftovers. Leftover chicken can be used in your favourite dill pickle soup, on fresh sourdough for the ultimate smoked chicken sandwich, or in your favourite chicken pasta. The backbone can be used to make homemade chicken stock along with the carcass.
Equipment + Key Ingredients
Pellet Grill: We love our Traeger Ironwood 885. This spatchcock chicken can be smoked on any smoker including a Pitboss, Green Mountain Grill, Weber, etc…
Barbecue Grilling Mat/ Jerky Mat: Laying the raw chicken on the grilling mat helped to ensure that it didn’t stick to my Traeger grates. It is not 100% necessary but definitely saved on cleanup and ensured that no crispy skin was left behind. I got a pack of five Big Chief Grilling Screens off of amazon for $40.
Kitchen Shears: If you don’t have a good pair of kitchen scissors, you need to put it on your wish list! We have the Cutco shears and they work awesome. A more economical option would be these Acelone premium shears– they have awesome reviews.
Brine: Optional! For an easy recipe, check out my Simple Chicken Brine.
4-5 pound Roaster Chicken: I like to use a large chicken when using the smoked spatchcock method. The bigger the bird, the longer the cooking time. If time is not on your side, adjust the size of the chicken you use…a smaller 2-3 pound chicken will take less times- simply alter the cooking times. The most important thing to remember is that the internal temperature of the chicken is at least 165 degrees F. Determine the internal temperature by placing the probe in the thickest part of the breast.
Poultry Rub: Use what you have on hand! This homemade smoked chicken rub is SO good… I also love to use “Poultry Powder.” Another great option is the “Chicken Rub” from Traeger. In a pinch, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar mixed with a little bit of kosher salt, black pepper, chili, and cumin will work!
Olive Oil: I use olive oil because it has a high smoke point, making it suitable for all of your meat endeavours on your pellet grill.
Garnish: Optional- lemons + your favourite fresh herbs.
Step By Step Instructions
Optional Step: If you have preplanned and have about 12 hours, you may choose to brine your chicken! Brining chicken before cooking it will give it great flavour, texture, and will result in crispier skin. Check out my Simple Chicken Brine for a quick recipe and tutorial.
Step 1. Preheat your Traeger, Pit Boss, or other pellet grill to 300°F. Remove any organs or giblets left in the chicken and rinse it. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. If you don’t pat dry, the olive oil and dry rub will have a hard time sticking.
Step 2. Cut down each side of the backbone of the chicken with sharp kitchen shears, poultry shears or a really sharp knife. Smaller chickens will be easier to cut through whereas larger chickens will have larger rib and pelvic bones to cut through. Remove the backbone piece and either discard it or save it for soup.
Step 3. Open up the chicken and locate the breast bone. Make a small cut in it and carefully pull it open.
Step 4. Turn the chicken over and push your palm gently in to the center of the chest cavity to push the chicken flat. The legs should be butterflied out and your chicken should be laying flat. You did it!! You may choose to tuck the wings in to make sure that they don’t get overcooked but this step is completely optional.
Step 5. Lightly oil your entire chicken with olive oil. Rub with your favourite poultry dry rub. I like Poultry Powder because I can get it at my local grocery store and it is packed with chili and cumin flavour without being too spicy. For an extra crispy skin, add 1 tbsp of brown sugar to your rub. The sugar will caramelize on the chicken skin and ensure that it is extra crispy.
Step 6. Place the chicken on your pellet grill and insert your meat thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken breast. Smoke until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
Check the chicken after 30 minutes. Once the temperature has reached 150°F, turn the grill up to 400°F until you have reached at least 165°F. The initial 300°F will allow the smoke flavour to get into your chicken and the higher temperatures in the final cooking stage will ensure that the fats in the chicken skin are properly rendered and crisped up.
This is referred to as reverse searing. This method is also used for Ultimate Traeger Wings, Grilled Chicken Leg Quarters, Crispy Smoked Chicken Thighs, and Lollipop Chicken Drumsticks. If ever you want crispy skin, reverse searing is a great option!
Cooking time depends on a few variables including the size of your chicken, the temperature of your bird before it goes in, and even the temperature outside. You may have to adjust the amount of time you will need to let the spatchcock chicken smoke.
For a 4-5 lb chicken, budget yourself an hour for the initial 300°F cook and at least 15 minutes for the final high heat cook. Internal temperature must be 165°F when measured with a meat probe or other instant read thermometer.
For a smaller 2-3 lb chicken, check the internal temperature after 35-40 minutes and 10-15 minutes for final high heat cook. Chicken is safe to consume once the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
Step 7. Allow your chicken to rest uncovered for ten minutes before carving to keep the juices from flowing out. Carve as usual. Jamie Oliver has an awesome tutorial on how to carve a chicken, separating the white meat and dark meat. Smoked spatchcock chickens can be carved in the same way as a whole chicken, isolating the breast meat, chicken legs, and other parts.
Smoked Spatchcock Chicken FAQs
It is suggested that you use fruit woods like apple, maple, cherry, or pecan wood pellets when smoking chicken. I personally use whatever pellets I have on hand (I don’t find the wood smoke alters the flavour of my chicken very much either way.) We usually keep a good stock of pecan pellets on hand.
The time needed when smoking spatchcock chicken depends on the size of the chicken to begin with, as well as the temperature of your chicken. Usually anywhere from 1-1.5 hours is enough time to budget for cooking a spatchcocked chicken at an average temperature of 350°F.
They key to getting that crispy chicken skin and avoiding the rubbery texture is a high heat blast right at the end of your cooking cycle (10-15 min at 400°F) to help render the fat in the skin.
No! The screens or grilling mats are completely optional. They ensure that no chicken skin is left behind on your traeger grates, make the chicken easier to handle, and allow for fast cleanup.
NO! I don’t suggest flipping your spatchcock chicken partway through smoking because you run the risk of ripping up your crispy chicken skin.
Smoked Spatchcock Chicken can easily be customized with your favourite flavour profiles. Simply use your favourite rub or sauce before smoking it.
Garlic + Parmesan: If you love garlic as much as I do, you will love my Garlic and Parmesan sauce. Skip to the recipe card to find out exactly how to make this sauce for your smoked spatchcock chicken.
Spanish: For a mix of smoked paprika, fennel seeds, herbs and lemon zest check out Abel and Cole’s recipe.
Jerk: If you love jerk flavours, you will love this marinade by Will Cook for Smiles.
Buffalo Lime: Full of spicy buffalo flavours with a hint of lime, this Buffalo Lime Marinade recipe by layers of happiness is delicious and will pair perfectly with your smoked spatchcock chicken.
Printable Recipe Card
- 5 lb roasting chicken
- 2 tablespoons poultry rub
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- Optional Step: If you have preplanned and have about 12 hours, you may choose to brine your chicken! Check out my Simple Chicken Brine for a quick recipe and tutorial.
- Preheat your Traeger, Pit Boss, or other pellet grill to 300°F. Remove any organs or giblets left in the chicken and rinse it. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel.
- Cut down each side of the backbone of the chicken with sharp kitchen shears, poultry shears or a really sharp knife. Remove the backbone piece and either discard it or save it for soup.
- Open up the chicken and locate the breast bone. Make a small cut in it and carefully pull it open.
- Turn the chicken over and push your palm gently in to the center of the chest cavity to push the chicken flat. The legs should be butterflied out and your chicken should be laying flat.
- Lightly oil your entire chicken with olive oil. Rub with your favourite poultry dry rub. For an extra crispy skin, add 1 tbsp of brown sugar to your rub.
- Place the chicken on your pellet grill. Check the chicken after 30 minutes. Once the temperature has reached 150°F, turn the grill up to 400°F until your chicken has reached at least 165°F. See Notes.
- Allow your chicken to rest uncovered for ten minutes before carving to keep the juices from flowing out.
- Garnish with lemons and your favourite herbs. Serve with roasted veggies, fresh pickles, greens, or smoked corn!
Cooking time depends on a few variables including the size of your chicken, the temperature of your bird before it goes in, and even the temperature outside.
For a 4-5 lb chicken, budget yourself an hour for the initial 300°F cook and at least 15 minutes for the final high heat cook. Internal temperature must be 165°F.
For a smaller 2-3 lb chicken, check the internal temperature after 35-40 minutes and 10-15 minutes for final high heat cook. Internal temp must be 165°F.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 570Total Fat: 34gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 21gCholesterol: 200mgSodium: 186mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 62g