What’s better than a sizzling plate of chicken fajitas? It's always so exciting to order…
Grilled Citrus Spatchcock Chicken
Fire up your grill RIGHT NOW! This easy, yet, impressive grilled chicken is super juicy and packs a whole lot of bold summer flavors like citrus and spices. It’s the perfect excuse to grill and give your table an incredible centerpiece that everyone will love!
If you’re not a meat eater, turn away now! This is for those of us who LOVE our lean meats paired with a good vegetable side. I might also add, after making this recipe, I felt like a bad-a$$ butcher learning new techniques as well as the anatomy of the chicken. I’m happy I took the time to learn what “spatchcock” meant, with a few giggles, and proud to say that this form of cooking has become second nature to me.
For this recipe alone, I made this chicken at least four to five times. One, to master the recipe while getting decent photos (still didn’t get them right) as well as mastering the char. The real reason I kept making spatchcock chickens on the grill was because I couldn’t get enough of them.
Ironically I turned on the TV the other day to see one of my idols, Ina, making spatchcock cornish hens. Here I am writing about a cheap piece of meat that I finally mastered and she’s making cornish hens for a crowd so effortlessly. That’s Ina for you.
So what does “spatchcock” mean? It literally means to ‘split open and cook’ in my own terms…(more traditionally on the grill I thought, but don’t quote me on that). It looks intimidating but it’s actually super simple when you figure out where everything is. Butterflying an entire bird is simply removing the backbone and then ever so slightly cracking the breast bone from the inside and then pressing the whole bird flat. I warned you, this is not a luxurious process and not for those with a weak stomach, however, doing it once and getting it right is like a life accomplishment in itself. You are also required to do a little extra cleaning for the chicken as well depending on how its packaged. For safety, I suggest always cleaning your chickens inside and out.
Now here’s the other cool thing…I made this recipe many times and I have different ways you can season this so pick one that’s best for you. You can simply do a dry rub or use the same dry rub seasoning and add soy sauce and orange juice for a wet rub. My learnings:
- Both work great but the wet rub somehow charred really fast and became super dark – I preferred that but I can imagine people saying “it’s burnt!”.
- The dry rub sticks better, obviously, and it’s easier to get a more controlled sear on the chicken
- The wet rub has intense flavor and moves more freely in all the crevices.
- Whatever method you use, just make sure you get under the skin, in all the nooks and crannies and don’t forget to coat both sides!
That’s really it! It’s so simple and it’s actually pretty hard to mess up! The one problem I had were some gas fires because of poor cleaning and you do keep the skin on so the fat renders down. Just make sure your grill is ready for this.
One last reminder as we’re talking about being prepared. Make sure your knives and cooking shears are sharp! Depending on how big the chicken is, it can be a bit difficult so please be careful and plan out your cuts in advance. If you don’t want to take the risk, ask your local butcher and they’ll do it for you.
- 1 (4-6 pounds) whole chicken cleaned
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- 2 tablespoons salt divided
- 2 tablespoons black pepper divided
- ¼ cup brown sugar packed
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce for wet rub (optional)
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice for wet rub (optional)
- 3-4 large oranges, lemons, limes or grapefruit
- To prep chicken, remove any inside giblets or organs and make sure the bird is completely emptied from the inside. Wash the inside as well as the outside with luke warm water and pat dry.
- To remove the back bone, use a sharp knife or sharp kitchen shears and go down one side of the backbone from top to bottom and then about 1-2 inches over cut down the other side of the backbone from top to bottom. Spread the chicken open once the bone is completely removed and find the thickest part of the breast bone. Take a sharp butcher's knife and place it in the center of the breast bone and gently break and crack the bone. Turn the chicken over and press gently down on the bird until it's flat. Pat dry.
- Drizzle olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper on both sides of the chicken.
- Prepare seasoning mix with remaining salt and pepper as well as brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin and paprika. (If making this a wet rub, add the soy sauce and orange juice to form a paste.) Let rest for about 10 minutes. Cut citrus in half and place to the side.
- Preheat the grill to medium high heat. Once heated, place the chicken skin side down on the grates, as well as the citrus, and let cook for 4-5 minutes on medium-high heat. Turn to low and then flip the chicken. Remove the citrus at this time.
- Allow chicken to cook for about 45 minutes on low heat, or indirect heat until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat (probably the breast) reaches 165°.
- Remove from grill and let rest, skin side up for at least 10 minutes. Squeeze grilled citrus on chicken at this time.