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How to Spatchcock and BBQ a Chicken

This is Wikipedia’s definition:

spatchcock, otherwise known as “spattlecock”, is poultry or game that is prepared for roasting or grilling by removing the backbone and sternum of the bird and flattening it out before cooking.

This is how it’s done:

I’m starting here with a 7-1/2 pound roaster.

The first thing I do is brine the bird.  This time, my brine consisted of:

  • 6 cups water
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 TBS Simply Marvelous Season All (you can substitute you favorite seasoning)
  • 1 onion quartered
  • 6 garlic cloves

Ice cubes are added to cool the brine down.

Then the chicken goes in breast side down.  The pot gets covered and goes into the refrigerator for a minimum of four hours, but up to overnight.

After the chicken comes out of the brine and is rinsed and patted dry, lay the chicken breast side down on a cutting board.  With poultry shears, cut on both sides of the backbone and remove it.

Turn it over and with a pairing knife cut out the breast bone.

Now season it well on the inside.  I’m using Simply Marvelous Sweet and Spicy rub.

For really moist and succulent chicken, I tuck some pads of butter under the skin of the breast and thighs.

Finally, season the skin side.  I cook on a rack inside a pan that’s been covered with foil to make cleanup easier.

Into the smoker running steady at 275 degrees.  I chose the Stumps Baby this time because it’s so easy to maintain accurate temperature especially when using the BBQ Guru.

2 hours and 20 minutes later, the temperature in the breast was 159 degrees.  Covered and resting on the cutting board, carry over cooking brought the temp up to 165.

Cooked to perfection!

9 Responses to “How to Spatchcock and BBQ a Chicken”

  • js-tx:

    Wow looks good! That’s what we have to turn in for comps around here. I need a paring knife..thanks for reminding me :) Is the breast bone the same as the keel bone? Also how do you get the butter way inside the skin? Do you have to peel it back and use toothpicks to hold the skin in place? Thanks!

  • Mister Bob:

    Yes, the breast bone is the same as the keel bone. For the butter, just slide your finger in to separate the skin from the breast and thighs, just be careful not to tear the skin. No need to use toothpick, the skin will stay put.

  • Great post, Mister Bob. I only have issues with getting the keel bone out cleanly sometimes. You seemed to do it perfectly

  • Rob:

    Do you have to cook the bird on a pan? i get the cleanup ease but can you just place it directly on the grate away from the coals?

  • Mister Bob:

    Sure you can Rob, but the pan isn’t only for making cleanup easier. Depending on the type of cooker I’m using, like the UDS for instance, it might also act as a heat deflector. Sometimes I use a pan to collect the drippings for making a gravy too. On a kettle type grill, cooking directly on the grate on the side away from the coals will work just fine. There are lots of ways to skin a cat or cook a yardbird. Do what works for you and your cooker.

    Mister Bob

  • Todd:

    I’m relatively new to smoking chickens. I have smoked them very close to your directions but the skin is always rubbery. Chicken is excellent! Any tips, for crisping up the skin?

  • Mister Bob:

    Todd,
    Smoked chicken doesn’t have skin as crisp as grilled chicken, it should be tender but not rubbery. I find that 275 to 325 degrees is the best temp for smoking chicken, anything lower could give you that rubbery texture you’re talking about. You could also smoke the chicken, then crisp the skin on direct heat if that’s your preference. This works particularly well on a spatchcocked bird. Another interesting method is smoking then frying the chicken. You’ll get that smokey flavor and crisp skin too, the best of both worlds! I’ll try to do a post on that soon.
    Mister Bob

  • Carl:

    Did two six pounders in the smoker on Sunday. I also used cherry wood for some smoke. They were a hit.

  • Mister Bob:

    Nice work Carl, smoke on!