I’m a big fan of grilling (No pots and pans to clean! Big flavor!) and a big fan of chicken (Delicious! Affordable!) but typically uninterested when the two get together. Either the bird gets dried out, or a too-sweet barbecue sauce chars to death in the heat, and I wish we’d just settled on kabobs or burgers instead.
Until, dear reader, I got the hang of it. The trick (and maybe this is old hat to you, but I’m terribly excited) is to butterfly the chicken so it lays flat on the grill, a technique called “spatchcocking”. (Go ahead and giggle. I’ll wait.) The chicken cooks more evenly, and over indirect heat you’re less apt to suffer burnt spots. Crispy-browned chicken skin is a beautiful thing, and it is a shame to let it go to waste.
I added an herb butter rub for a little extra fat and flavor, which you can skip or fuss with to your particular taste; just make sure to salt the bird well (and preferably well ahead of time). And since grills vary even more wildly than ovens, better to rely on a meat thermometer than my cook times below. (I’ve said it before, but a thermometer is one of the few truly essential kitchen gadgets.) Let the chicken rest, sprinkle with more fresh herbs and tuck in. Finger lickin’ good!
Grilled Herbed Chicken
- 3 lb best-quality chicken
- 5 Tbsp butter, room temperature
- 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced, plus more for garnish
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced, plus more for garnish
- 1 tsp kosher salt (plus more, to taste)
- 1/2 tsp pepper (plus more, to taste)
- 1 tsp lemon zest (reserve the lemon)
Let the chicken come to cool room temperature, about one hour. Mix the butter, herbs, salt, pepper and lemon zest to make an herb butter.
Remove any giblets or loose quills from the chicken. Rinse and pat dry. With kitchen shears, spatchcock the chicken: make two parallel cuts on either side of the backbone down the entire length of the chicken. Discard the backbone. Flip over, breast side up, and flatten the bird with your palm.
Season the underside of the bird generously with salt and pepper. Flip over and with your fingers, gently separate the skin from the bird. Rub the herb butter under the skin, concentrating most of it on the breast. (The butter rub may seize up if the bird’s too cold.) Season the outside of the skin generously with salt and pepper.
Preheat the grill, covered. Lower to medium indirect heat (registering about 425 degrees) and grill the chicken (skin side up) for about 15 minutes, covered. With tongs, flip over and grill (skin side down) for about 15 minutes, covered. Check the internal temperature in several places and continue to grill until the chicken reaches 165 degrees and the juices run clear. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving; sprinkle with more fresh herbs and grilled lemon slices for garnish, if desired.
Note: if you have the time, prep the chicken in the morning and let the bird marinate in the fridge. Place extra sprigs of herbs (save some for garnish) and slices of lemon under and on top of the chicken; wrap loosely in plastic wrap. Let the chicken warm to room temperature before grilling.