An Efficient Way To Grill Chicken On A Gas Grill, For those of you who haven’t heard of spatchcock chicken before, you are really missing out on a great way to cook a whole chicken in less than an hour.
The term Spatchcock is kind of weird. The origins may come from the phrase dispatch the cock, referring to killing a chicken. Fortunately, I didn’t need to participate in such distasteful exercise. But, I can assure you that my results were extremely tasteful!
Cooking spatchcock chicken is a method used to cook a whole chicken without having to slow roast or slow smoke it. I’ve done a bunch of beer can chicken on my grill (especially when I’m smoking ribs since the grill will be on for a while) but propane ain’t cheap, and frankly, a gas grill is an extremely inefficient means of smoking or roasting meat. Here’s why:
Most grills are designed for medium to high heat cooking (often referred to as grilling). It’s hard to maintain temperatures below 300 F.
You need to buy a grill with at least 3 burners, preferably more, if you’re going to cook with indirect heat.
They don’t seem to be designed with heat retention in mind, so they go through a lot of fuel. They do get hot, but they have a problem at the low end.
So after a few long cooks on my gas stove, and having to change a $27 propane tank a little more frequently than I was prepared to do, I was in search of a better way to cook barbecue-style chicken. I stumbled upon spatchcock chicken and it’s now one of my favorites ways to grill a whole chicken.
A Rundown of Spatchcock Chicken Preparation, The first thing you’ll need to do is buy a whole chicken (or more if you’d like). And while you’re at the store, here are a few more things you may need:
- A box of Kosher Salt for the brining process (if you plan to brine)
- Ingredients for a good chicken rub or you can try an off the shelf brand if you like.
- Garlic butter or possibly an injectable marinade
- A good pair of kitchen scissors or meat cutting scissors
- Vegetable Oil
The great thing about chicken is it can be very inexpensive if you’re buying the whole thing, and not just pre-cut chicken breasts. Besides, I love dark meat. I’ve always disliked chicken breasts due to the ease with which they dry out during cooking. But don’t worry, that’s not going to happen here!
I decided to go with two chickens. There’s just me, my wife, and a two-year-old, but I’ll get to eat leftovers for a few days. That’s how good this is going to be!
Brining the Spatchcock Chicken – Personally, I haven’t been bringing spatchcock chicken because I’ve found I just don’t need to. When I’m smoking a whole chicken, or doing a beer can type chicken, it’s on the grill long enough that there is a chance it can dry out a bit. Brining definitely helps and the one time I didn’t brine the chicken, I wish I had. Here’s what you do, it’s really simple:
- Take a cup to a cup and a half of Kosher salt to a gallon of water. You may need a little more or a little less depending on the size of your chicken
- You can add some seasoning to the mixture as well, but it’s not necessary
- Place the chicken in a large sealable plastic bag and add the brine mixture
- Seal the bag and place it in a bowl in case the bag leaks. Put in the fridge the night before you plan to cook.
- In the morning you can take it out, dry it off, and put it back in the fridge until you’re ready to prepare it for the grill.
Spatchcocking the Chicken – what this boils down to is cutting the backbone out of the chicken. Usually, cooking a whole chicken can take 3 hours or more to get it cooked all the way through. But, we’re going to take the backbone out, so we can crunch it flat. This will spread everything out so it can all cook at the same time.
Some people will use a knife to do this, but I prefer a strong pair of meat cutting scissors. Knives have a tendency to slip and cut me. Either way, you’ll want to stick your fingers at each end of the chicken to locate the exact position of the backbone and it’s the width.
Once you’ve done this, cut along one side of it from the butt to the neck. I recommend two hands. I just happened to have a camera in the other.
Once you’ve made your first cut, make a similar cut on the other side of the backbone. Then remove it and pitch or keep it for soup stock.
Removing the backbone allows us to flatten the chicken out. So, once it’s cut, you need to flip it over so the breast is on top. Place the palm of each hand, one on each breast, and push until you hear a crack. You can also gently detach the thighs if it’s not laying flat enough. I usually don’t have to do that.
Chicken RubI’ve seen some recommend that you clean the spatchcock chicken with vinegar and dry it off. The purpose is partially related to breaking down any toughness. Frankly, I don’t bother just as I don’t bother bringing a spatchcock chicken. But you can do it if you like, which is why I put it on the list.
However, there is one thing I never forget to do and that is season the chicken. I usually use something off the shelf, but I’m planning to start creating my own chicken rubs. There are a lot of wonderful recipes on the Internet, so I know I’ll find a good one.
I’ve read that some will rub the chicken with vegetable oil before putting the rub on, to help hold it. I’ve never bothered to do this, so sue me. My chicken always comes out great so I’m not going to change a thing.
But one of the things I do on occasion is to take some garlic butter and run it around underneath the skin of the breast. This is the most likely part to dry out, but I haven’t had a dry breast yet doing my chicken’s spatchcock style.
I take the chicken rub and generously sprinkle it over the chicken. Both sides! And then I pat it down so it stays in place. Now, one thing I do recommend is that you peel back as much of the skin as you can and apply chicken rub directly to the meat.
Then pull the skin back to keep the meat covered. On the chicken, I just did the other day I used a Creole butter injection to get some seasoning and juice deep into the meet. It did a pretty good job and the meat was very juicy. I should note, that it’s always pretty tasty and juicy, even without injecting marinade.
I generally do all of this seasoning right before I put the spatchcock chicken on the grill. You will see others recommend that you put it in the refrigerator for a few hours (or overnight) to let the seasoning sink in. I’ve just never noticed a difference, so I just do it all at the last minute. I recommend that you try it in different ways and then stick with the one you like best.
Firing up the Coleman 3300 is my next step since that’s the grill I own. It’s actually a pretty good 3 burner gas grills. Having said that, I’m planning to get a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker very soon. It’ll be far less wasteful and let me do some really cool long smokes. I can’t wait.
What I do with my Coleman is to light up either the left burner to about halfway or the left and right burners to their lowest setting. The latter means I don’t have to rotate the meat. But, at the end of the hour, the temperature tends to creep up to about 400 F.
The ideal temperature for this cook is 350 F. And I use indirect heat all the time, never placing the spatchcock chicken directly over the flame. I have to admit that the last time I used two burners, the skin really came out crispy and was very tasty. Yet, the breast was still juicy as ever.
So once you’ve decided and have the grill to temp, it’s time to put the chicken on. I always include a tray with hickory or maple wood chips and place it on the grill directly over one of the working burners. While this cook isn’t as long as smoke, I like the way it makes my shirt smell, so I do it.
I place the spatchcock chicken breast side up over the unlit burners. In this picture, I was using the left burner only since it is easier to control the temperature on my grill (you’ll have to experiment). I stuck a probe in one of the breasts here (got a new toy), but I have to tell you, with this method you don’t need to check the temperature. Put it in at 350, indirect cooking, and leave it there for 50 minutes, and certainly no more than 1 hour. It’ll be done. Only then are you allowed to open the lid!
If you’re not certain, check that the juices are running clear to confirm. When you do it the leg will probably fall off, it’s so tender.
So there you have it. Spatchcock chicken is probably the most efficient way to cook a whole chicken on a gas grill. Now, it’s also a great way to cook it on a charcoal grill and I’m betting it tastes even better. But this is pretty darn good!