Although cooking chicken wings, legs, drumsticks and thighs on the grill is very popular, there will be occasions when you want to cook a whole bird. Unless you are using a rotating spit or making beer-can chicken, the shape of a chicken makes it tricky to cook whole when the heat is only coming from one direction (from underneath, in the case of a BBQ).
The solution to this is butterflying your chicken. You can flatten a whole chicken simply by cutting along the spine, picking out the small ribs and pressing it firmly flat. The reduced thickness of the bird means it will cook much faster and you can cook it in about half an hour, which is ideal if you want to feed a family of four and you are in the mood for juicy, smoky chicken.
Preparing the bird for the barbecue is not difficult but it is perhaps not the most pleasant kitchen task, since you have to cut along the spine (or either side of it, if that is simpler) and then pick out the ribs. This is not the time to be squeamish though, because this is one of the absolute best ways to cook a chicken and you will definitely make this more than once. The garlic, lemon and thyme taste beautiful and if you want a more intense flavor, you can allow the chicken to marinate in this mixture overnight. Whether you have the garlic, lemon and thyme subtle or more intense the result is going to be great. If you do wish to marinate, butterfly the bird before adding the marinade.
The chicken is cooked when the juices run clear. To test for this, use a thin-bladed knife to stab the bird in the thickest part, probably the breast or a leg. Any pinkness in the juices means the chicken is not yet done. Also make sure the internal temperature of the breast is 170 degrees F. To promote even cooking you can slash the breasts and thighs during the final 10 minutes of cooking. This is optional though.
Serve this fantastic feast with your preferred side dishes. Since the chicken should rest for an absolute minimum of 10 minutes before you serve it, this gives you time to make a tasty salad. Some baby leaves would make a great salad, served with a healthy extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. Another nice idea is homemade potato salad. Start the potatoes boiling when you put the chicken on the grill. Then you can drain them after you flip the chicken over and let them cool. Toss them with a few tablespoons of mayonnaise, add salt and black pepper to taste, and serve with the chicken.
- 1 whole chicken, about 6 lbs
- ⅓ cup softened butter
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Handful of fresh thyme
- Olive oil, as needed
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- Prepare a charcoal grill for a medium-low heat.
- Put the chicken breast side down on a cutting board and cut through the backbone using kitchen shears.
- Pull out the small ribs on either side using your fingers.
- Flip the chicken over and press down hard until it snaps.
- The bird should now be flat.
- Combine the butter, garlic, lemon juice and thyme.
- Separate the skin from the flesh of the chicken and insert the thyme mixture into the pocket at the breast.
- Insert some into the pocket at the thigh too, if you can.
- Drizzle oil over the chicken and sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
- Barbecue the bird breast side up over medium-low heat coals for 20 minutes.
- Turn it over and cook for about 15 more minutes or until done.
- The bird is done when the juices run clear and the internal breast temperature is 170 degrees F.
- Rest the cooked bird under aluminum foil for 10 to 15 minutes for maximum juiciness.
- This gives you some time to prepare a tasty salad to serve with the chicken.
Butterflying is a great technique if you want to speed up the cooking time of your chicken because the heat has a larger surface area to gently char-grill to perfection. This recipe is very simple and you will find the chicken comes out juicy and richly flavored. If you usually roast your chicken in the oven or slow-cook it in the crockpot, try this whole butterflied chicken recipe next time. Choose a large enough bird to feed the whole family and team it with your favorite side dishes for a tasty, fuss-free meal which everyone is going to rave about.
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