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Have you ever wondered what the secret is to achieving the juiciest and most flavorful chicken? The kind with crispy skin that leaves everyone begging for the recipe? Look no further than this smoked spatchcock chicken.

This recipe uses a cooking method that makes the most delicious whole chicken. This comprehensive recipe will take you through the steps of preparing this tasty meal and highlight why it’s the best way to cook chicken on your pellet grill or Traeger smoker.

spatchcock smoked chicken
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Why You Should Make This Recipe

Promotes Even Cooking

Ever make a whole chicken and have the breast meat get over cooked and all dried out while the dark meet still needs more time?

Spatchcocking, also known as butterflying, is the ingenious method of using a good pair of kitchen scissors to remove the backbone from a whole chicken. This will allow the chicken to lay flat, resembling a butterfly. 

This technique allows for even cooking and reduces the overall cooking time. 

This cutting technique works great for baking, roasting, and grilling.

Flavor-Enhancing Dry Rub

My homemade dry rub is a flavorful blend that will elevate your smoked spatchcock chicken to new heights. 

It’s super easy to make. This simple combination of garlic, ground black pepper, salt, mustard powder, chili powder, cumin, thyme, brown sugar, and paprika is mixed together and ready to use. 

This magical concoction brings out the natural flavors of the chicken while adding a smoky and slightly sweet taste. By generously coating all sides of the chicken with the dry rub, you ensure that every inch is covered in deliciousness.

Unbeatable Taste and Smoky Flavor

Smoked spatchcock chicken is the easiest way to achieve a juicy and flavorful whole bird with crispy skin. The spatchcock method and lower temperatures ensure even cooking and an incredible smoky essence throughout the chicken. 

Whether you’re using a pellet smoker, charcoal grill, or electric smoker, the results will be nothing short of spectacular. 

Plus, with leftovers, you can create an array of delicious dishes, making it a great option for meal planning.

So, why not grab your poultry shears, some wood chips, and your favorite dry rub, and try this funny-named but incredibly satisfying recipe? 

close up of chicken breast with seasoned crispy skin

Ingredients Needed 

ingredients needed to make spatchcock smoked chicken

How to Spatchcock Chicken

To begin, grab a whole chicken and lay it breast-side down on a large cutting board.

Using a pair of sharp kitchen shears or poultry shears, carefully cut along both sides of the backbone to remove it. You can also use a sharp knife, but shears give you more control.

Remove the entire spine as well as any internal organs that make have been packaged with the chicken. These can be discarded or used to make chicken broth.

Flip the chicken breast-side up and firmly press on the breastbone to flatten it. This creates an even thickness throughout the chicken, ensuring that the breast and thigh meat cook to perfection.

Make Spatchcock Smoked Chicken

Season and Wrap 

Lay out two pieces of plastic wrap long enough to wrap chicken and lay them on the counter perpendicular to one another. Set the chicken on the intersection of plastic wrap.

Coat both sides of the entire chicken with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

In a separate bowl, mix the dry rub. Generously coat all sides of the chicken with dry rub, then wrap it tightly with plastic wrap.

Refrigerate the prepared chicken for at least an hour or up to overnight.

Smoke the Chicken

With your spatchcocked chicken ready and seasoned to perfection, it’s time to prepare your grill. If using a pellet grill or electric smoker, set it to 250°F. 

Place the seasoned chicken on the grill grates, skin-side up, and insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, making sure not to touch the bone. 

Smoking at lower temperatures allows the chicken to absorb that great smoke flavor slowly, resulting in a tender and juicy chicken with a gorgeous crispy skin. 

Depending on the size of your chicken and the cooking temperature, the cooking time will vary, but using an instant-read thermometer ensures you cook the chicken to perfection.

As the chicken cooks, resist the temptation to peek too often, as this will release heat and prolong the cooking time.

Optional: Add BBQ Sauce

If making homemade BBQ sauce, prepare it before or while chicken is smoking. 

Plan on smoking the internal temperature of the breast reads 145°F. At this point, smother the chicken in BBQ sauce and continue to cook until the internal temperature of the thigh reads 165°F.

Rest and Serve

Once the internal temperature of the chicken breast reaches 165°F, your smoked spatchcock chicken is ready to shine.

As tempting as it may be to dig in right away, allow your chicken to rest for a few minutes after smoking. This resting period allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a perfectly moist and tender chicken. 

Once rested, carve the chicken into succulent pieces and serve it alongside your favorite BBQ sides.

spatchcock smoked chicken

FAQs

Why smoke spatchcock chicken?

Smoking spatchcock chicken infuses it with a rich, smoky flavor while maintaining its moistness and tenderness.

How do you make spatchcock chicken on a charcoal or gas grill?

This recipe is for a smoker or pellet grill. 
For a charcoal grill, set up an indirect cooking zone by placing the hot coals on one side and the chicken on the other. 
You can smoke spatchcock chicken on a gas grill by using indirect heat and placing soaked wood chips in a smoker box or foil packet.

What wood chips are best for smoking chicken?

Fruitwoods like apple, cherry, or maple are great choices for smoking spatchcock chicken, as they impart a mild and slightly sweet flavor.

What’s the ideal smoking temperature for spatchcock chicken?

Aim for a smoking temperature between 225°F and 250°F (107°C – 121°C) for tender and flavorful results.

Should I brine the chicken before smoking?

Brining is not necessary, but can enhance flavor and moisture. Consider a simple brine of water, salt, sugar, and aromatics for a few hours before smoking.

Can I use a marinade instead of a rub?

While marinades can add flavor, they may affect the texture and prohibit a crispy skin. I do not recommend using a marinade with this recipe.

How long does it take to smoke spatchcock chicken?

Smoking time varies, but generally, it takes about 2.5 to 3.5 hours, depending on the size of the chicken and the smoker temperature.

When is the chicken done?

The chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part of the meat. Use a meat thermometer to check.

What side dishes go well with smoked spatchcock chicken?

Grilled or roasted vegetables, coleslaw, cornbread, or a fresh salad make excellent side dishes to complement smoked spatchcock chicken.

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Spatchcock Smoked Chicken

Prep15 minutes
Cook3 hours
wrap time1 hour
Total4 hours 15 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Spatchcock Smoked Chicken is a whole chicken cut to lay flat, covered in a delicious dry rub, and smoked to tender moist perfection.

Ingredients 

  • 1 whole chicken approximately 4 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry rub highly recommend trying my recipe
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce sauce is optional; store-bought BBQ sauce of choosing or click link for homemade
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Instructions 

  • Cut chicken in half: Using sharp clean kitchen shears, start at the tail and cut all the way up both sides of the spine so that the chicken is split down the middle (breast, wing, thigh, drumstick on each side).
  • Prep chicken: Lay out two pieces of plastic wrap long enough to wrap chicken and lay them on the counter in a cross/perpendicular. Set chicken on intersection of plastic wrap. Coat the entire chicken with the olive oil.
  • Apply dry rub: In a separate bowl, mix up the dry rub. Generously coat all sides of the chicken with dry rub, then wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour or up to overnight.
  • Smoke chicken: Set the smoker to smoke at least 5 minutes with the lid open. Increase heat to 250°F and close the lid. Unwrap the chicken and place it on the grill, skin side up. Insert a meat thermometer into the thigh, avoiding contact with bone. If only using the dry rub and not BBQ sauce, continue to cook until the internal temperature of the thigh reads 165°F. My chicken took about 3 hours to fully cook, but time will vary depending on the smoker and starting temperature of the chicken.
  • Optional BBQ sauce: If making homemade BBQ sauce, prepare it while chicken is smoking. Plan on smoking the internal temperature of the breast reads 145°F. At this point, smother the chicken in BBQ sauce and continue to cook until the internal temperature of the thigh reads 165°F.
  • Rest: Allow chicken to rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Nutrition

Calories: 82kcal, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Iron: 0.1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Did you make this? Leave me a comment below

This recipe was originally published in November 2017 and has been updated with helpful information, ingredient and process photos, as well as recipe tips. Don’t worry – the recipe hasn’t changed!

Hi! I’m Krissy.

I love to create the BEST versions of your favorite recipes. If you love to cook, love to eat, or just have a deep appreciation for good food, you're in the right place! Stick around... I have hundreds of recipes for you to make.

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21 Comments

  1. Smoking two chickens as I write. One is almost 6 pounds and the other just three. Using a Char Broil electric smoker. Set it and forget it except to check the doneness of the birds. Using Apple chips and your rub. Will probable try both Betty Crocker’s mustard bbq sauce with one and BC’s best bbq sauce with the other.

  2. 5 stars
    Ok, I ended up using my IR ThermoPro and I must’ve had the probe in the wrong spot. The Chicken ended up smoking for over 5 hours at 225ºF. It was a great blend of savory, smokey, crunchy flavor and texture. My husband who is a very picky eater and who eats chicken very reluctantly ended up having seconds and insisted I make this again soon! The meat was very tender and flavorful all the way through. A few notes: There’s a membrane inside the chicken that prevents the smoke from penetrating the muscle tissue underneath. So you will want to slice some openings throughout that membrane (It’s not easily removable like pork ribs membranes are) to allow for some extra smoke flavor throughout. I would also try brining the chicken overnight as another comment mentioned. I also used Holy Gospel rub both on and under the skin. I personally don’t like eating the skin of the chicken, so I do this to get the flavor into the muscle. One additional suggestion would be to make an injection of whatever rub you’re using with some water and just inject the breasts all over to get more flavor within the thick muscle tissue. The thighs and wings didn’t need this additional step, but I would try this next time if it’s a 4+ hour long smoke. Thanks for a good recipe!

  3. I’m making this right now. I’m using my Traeger 35 Texas Elite smoker in Northern Illinois in June where it’s currently 80ºF outside and my spatchcock chicken is going on 1.5 hours now and is already at 139ºF. I lowered the temp on the grill to 225ºF to slow it down a bit. The chicken itself was at 59º starting and is over 5Lbs. I’m not sure why it’s climbing that fast. But I hope it absorbs the smokey flavor of the wood pellets. I’m going to add BBQ sauce once it gets to 145º internal with an Instant Read thermometer. I’ve been using this grill for over a year now, and this is the second time I’m making a spatchcock chicken and it cooked this fast last time too. Not sure what I’m doing wrong here.