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.
In a grocery store you're apt to find whole chickens sold as:
The main thing that separates these labels is weight.
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:
Here's the chicken used for this recipe, a whole chicken from Wild Fork Foods:
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.
I have a more detailed article/guide on this process - found here.
However, to condense things for this recipe, you will need:
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:
If there is a pop-up timer it will be on top, angled into the thickest part of the breast, like this:
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.
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.
I also like to remove the thigh fat as it's not apt to render well when spatchcocked:
When the kidney and thigh fat are removed, the inside of the bird will look like this:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
I tend to stick to the basics:
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.
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:
Once combined, apply to surface of the spatchcocked chicken. The above quantities worked well for a 4.9 lb bird.
Once you've seasoned the bird, place the spatchcocked chicken so that it lays flat in the center of the 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.
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:
At the time of checking, the breast meat was reading 96.1F:
It then took 42 more minutes for the chicken to reach 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:
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.
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:
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:
It's pretty hard to take photos of "juiciness" of meat, but the breast were incredibly juicy.