Spatchcocked Chicken on a Pellet Grill: Easy, Simple Recipe

By Dylan Clay
Last Updated 
November 7, 2022

Spatchcocked chicken is one of the easier things to make on a pellet grill. Prepping the bird is fairly straightforward - once you know where to cut (pictured below).

With chicken I also don't like to get crazy with spices. I'm after moist, juicy meat and spices that compliment the chicken as apposed to overpowering it.

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What to Look for in Whole Chicken

In a grocery store you're apt to find whole chickens sold as:

  • Broilers/Fryers
  • Roasters
  • Cornish game hens

The main thing that separates these labels is weight.

  • A game hen is a very young chicken and typically weighs less than 2 lbs.
  • A "broiler" or "fryer" is around 7 weeks old and weighs between 2.5 - 4.5 lbs.
  • A "roaster" is between 8 - 12 weeks old and weighs 5+ lbs.

Aside from weight, not much really separates chicken. You could get super nuanced and look for things like ABF, USDA Certified Organic, Free-range, Natural, Certified Humane, etc.

Essentially all labels that refer to how the chickens were raised.

To illustrate, here's a Roaster from Perdue:

Perdue roaster chicken in package
Perdue Oven Roaster - "No Antibiotics Ever" or ABF

Here's the chicken used for this recipe, a whole chicken from Wild Fork Foods:

Wild Fork Foods whole chicken packaged
Wild Fork Foods - Whole Young Chicken - 4.9 lbs

I can't and won't really say which is "best" as to me, chicken is chicken. Determine what you value, look for labels that line up with those values, and go from there.

Typically I buy whole chickens that are ABF or Antibiotic Free - these birds may or may not be USDA Certified Organic.

For spatchcocked chicken I'd suggest buying a broiler/fryer that's of the higher-end of the spectrum 4.5+ lbs or a roaster (5+ lbs); The weight simply means that the chicken will cook more evenly.

Meaning, by the time the breast meat reaches 162F, the thighs, drums, and wings will also be done.

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

I have a more detailed article/guide on this process - found here.

However, to condense things for this recipe, you will need:

  • Plastic cutting board/disposable work surface
  • Kitchen shears
  • Sharp knife

1. Remove the giblet bag from inside the bird as well as any pop-up timers. These are common with roasters but may or may not be present.

Here's where you can find the giblet bag, inside the bird's cavity:

remove giblet bag

If there is a pop-up timer it will be on top, angled into the thickest part of the breast, like this:

pop-up thermometer

2. Pat dry the surface of the bird with paper towel. This makes the chicken surface easier to work with, especially when making cuts.

3. Use a pair of kitchen shears to remove the backbone. Start with the breast side facing down and the back side up.

removing backbone

Locate the tailbone and cut parallel to the left and right of it; Discard the backbone in the trash or save it for stock.

4. Clean the inside of the bird. Use a paper towel to remove kidney remnants (typically near the thigh) and other entrails.

remove chicken kidney

I also like to remove the thigh fat as it's not apt to render well when spatchcocked:

remove chicken thigh fat

When the kidney and thigh fat are removed, the inside of the bird will look like this:

chicken thigh fat and kidneys removed
Thigh fat and kidney remnants removed

5. In order to flatten the chicken, you need to break the clavicle - or wish bone. Use your kitchen shears to separate the clavicle on the inside of the breast. This will allow the bird to lay flatter.

breaking clavicle

Alternatively, you could simply flip the bird over and press into the breast. You will hear a crack, indicating that you've cracked the collarbone.

When the clavicle is broken, it will look like this:

clavicle broken

Personally, I find the latter method inconsistent and opt to clip it myself. Mainly because the bird is already open and it's as easy as one scissor motion.

The bird should now lay flat, like this:

spatchcocked bird is now laying flat
Spatchcocked chicken lays flat

Preparing the Pellet Grill

Usually while I'm spatchcocking the chicken I'll get the pellet grill ready. By the time I'm done, the pellet grill has likely pre-heated and I can simply put the bird in the middle.

I've tested a variety of temperature ranges for spatchcocked chicken and 375F is a healthy medium.

Set your pellet grill to 375F in PID mode (non-smoke) mode. This way there is less temperature deviation.

I'm personally not a huge fan of smoke with chicken but if you are, apple hardwood pellets are a safe bet.

Seasoning the Chicken

With chicken I tend to keep things super simple; I'm not a huge fan of typical barbecue rubs nor do I care for smoked chicken.

spatchcocked chicken ingredients

I tend to stick to the basics:

  • Olive oil as a binder
  • Morton's Kosher salt
  • 16 Mesh black pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder

In my opinion, the above ingredients compliment chicken really well.

You also get to actually taste the chicken rather than just tasting a chicken rub, which tend to be largely comprised of salts, paprika, and sugars.

How to Season the Chicken

1. First start by applying olive oil to the surface of the chicken. The olive oil is being used as a binder to help keep the rub on the chicken skin.

The olive oil will also help with browning the skin.

2. For a broiler or roaster chicken you also don't really need a lot of rub.

Combine the following ingredients:

  • 1/2 Tbsp 16 Mesh black pepper
  • 1/3 Tbsp Morton's kosher salt
  • 1/4 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1/4 Tbsp garlic powder

Once combined, apply to surface of the spatchcocked chicken. The above quantities worked well for a 4.9 lb bird.

Place the Chicken on the Pellet Grill

Once you've seasoned the bird, place the spatchcocked chicken so that it lays flat in the center of the pellet grill.

spatchcocked chicken on pellet grill

If you're someone who uses meat probes to track internal temperatures, now is a good time to do so. Insert the probe so that the probe is reading the thermal center or the thickest part of the breast meat.

Be sure to read your thermometer's requirements for minimum insertion depth; Some can be up to 4 inches.

You want the breast side facing up. Typically, I'll place the breast side in first so that I can control the hot zones easier.

Every pellet grill/smoker is different so your hot zones will vary. In most cases though, the hot zones are at the front and back of the grill - the gap between the heat deflector/drip pan and the grill grates.

This is actually to your benefit as you can orient the bird so that the drumsticks/thighs are closer to the front of the grill and the breast is dead-center.

Wait for the Breast Meat to Hit 162F

At this point all you're waiting for is the breast meat to hit 162F.

Here's the bird at 30 minutes into the cooking process:

spatchcocked chicken 30 minutes later

At the time of checking, the breast meat was reading 96.1F:

internal temperature after 30 minutes

It then took 42 more minutes for the chicken to reach 162F:

chicken finished at 162F

The reason we pulled the chicken at 162F is because we don't want to overcook the breast meat. By pulling early, we're allowing the outer surface temperature to carry-over to the internal temperature when we rest.

I allowed the chicken to rest for 5-7 minutes and the temperature at the thickest part of the breast reached 165F:

chicken finished resting at 165F

The chicken is now considered safe to eat as per the USDA recommended finishing temperature - 165F internal.

Unlike the rest of the chicken, the breast will only become drier after 165F. If you were to pull at 165F, the temperature would continue to climb as you rest, which causes the meat to dry out.

If you opt not to rest before slicing, you risk the juices running out of the bird. This is because the relative viscosity of the juices is still rather high.

Rather, pull early at around 160-162F and allow the meat to rest for 5-10 minutes which allows the juices to set-up.

Slice the Chicken

Once you've rested the chicken for 10 minutes, you can slice it up by separating the parts.

The wings should pull cleanly away from the rest of the bird at the shoulder joint where the humerus (drumette) attaches at the scapula.

With your knife, you can separate the thighs from the bird at the thigh joint. You can use your knife to make a small slice into the natural crevice that gets formed when cooking the chicken.

Pictured below on the thighs/drums:

slicing spatchcocked chicken

As you slice into the skin/meat and pull the leg quarter away you'll easily find the thigh joint - cut to the left of this joint and remove the leg quarter.

You can then repeat this process of slicing into the ball joint of the drumstick that connects to the thigh.

You can then slice into the breast meat by either creating slices on the bird itself or by cutting close to keel (breastbone) and following the ribcage. I personally prefer to slice on the bird itself, however for this recipe, I removed from the keel bone into portions of breast meat.

Here's the parts fully separated:

spatchcocked chicken parts separated
You might notice one wing missing - we'll call that Dylan's Pitmaster tax.

It's pretty hard to take photos of "juiciness" of meat, but the breast were incredibly juicy.

juicy chicken breast from a spatchcocked chicken
spatchcocked chicken on a pellet grill

Spatchcocked Chicken on a Pellet Grill

Simple, easy spatchcocked chicken
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: spatchcocked chicken
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 12 minutes
Resting Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 32 minutes
Author: Dylan Clay

Equipment

  • Pellet Grill
  • Hardwood Pellets Applewood smoke tends to go well with chicken
  • Kitchen Shears or a sharp knife
  • Plastic cutting board
  • Paper towels

Ingredients

  • Olive Oil As a binder, use as needed
  • 4.9 lb Whole Chicken

Chicken Rub

  • 1/2 Tbsp 16 Mesh Black Pepper
  • 1/4 Tbsp Morton's Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 Tbsp Onion Powder
  • 1/4 Tbsp Garlic Powder

Instructions

  • Before prepping the bird, pre-heat your pellet grill to 375F. By the time the prep is done, you can simply place the bird on the grill.

Prepping the Chicken

  • Remove the chicken from the packaging and pat dry with a paper towel.
  • If the chicken was sold with the giblets, remove the bag from the bird's cavity. Similarly, if it has a pop-up timer in it, remove it.

Spatchcocking the Chicken

  • Lay the bird breast side down on your cutting board.
  • Locate the tail and cut parallel to the left and right of it, all the way up through the ribs and to the neck, removing the backbone. Discard the backbone in the trash or save it for stock.
  • Locate the clavicle in the middle of the breast. Use your kitchen shears to clip the clavicle.
  • Flip the bird over and the bird should now lay flat; It's now considered spatchcocked.

Season the Chicken

  • Put olive oil on the surface of the skin. The olive oil functions as a binder to hold onto the dry rub ingredients. It will also help with browning and crisping the skin.
    Olive Oil
  • Combine the dry rub ingredients in the specified quantities.
    1/2 Tbsp 16 Mesh Black Pepper, 1/4 Tbsp Onion Powder, 1/4 Tbsp Garlic Powder, 1/4 Tbsp Morton's Kosher Salt
  • Season the surface of the skin with the dry rub.

Put the Spatchcocked Chicken on the Pellet Grill

  • If you're a fan of meat probes, put the probe in the thickest part of the breast to track internal temperature as the breast will finish last.
  • Place the chicken on the grill so that the breast is in the middle of the grates and so the the thighs and drums are oriented towards the hot zones (typically at the front and back of a pellet grill).

Pull When the Temperature Reaches 160-162F

  • All you're waiting for is the thickest part of the breast to reach 160-162F. The reason for pulling early is because you don't want to overcook the chicken. When you rest for 5-10 minutes the temperature will continue to climb by about 5F.
  • I pulled at 162F and rested for 5-7 minutes until the internal reached 165F.
  • Then slice and enjoy.
    Remove the leg quarters at the joints, the wings should pull cleanly away from the scapula, and then slice the breast along the keel bone to remove it.
Dylan Clay
I've grilled and smoked meat for roughly half my life. While i'm not a professional Pitmaster, I've worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands on guide to teach them BBQ. It's my hope that Barbecue FAQ can be that helping hand.

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