Butterflying and flattening a chicken before roasting (or grilling or braising) means it will cook a bit more evenly and be a little easier to carve after cooking. (Find tips for butterflying a chicken in Going Dutch.) The flatter shape makes this bird a prime candidate for a simple rub, like a store-bought barbecue rub or one you make yourself quickly out of the spice cabinet. I'm particularly fond of the spice rub in this recipe for chicken brochettes. (You may also hear a butterflied chicken referred to as spatchcocked.)

Susie Middleton

To improvise a spice rub, combine 1 tablespoon (sweet) paprika with 1 tablespoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons coriander, 2 teaspoons brown sugar and 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika, if you’ve got it. You could also add a bit of onion powder or garlic powder. You can go ahead and put 2 teaspoons of kosher salt in the rub, or leave the rub without salt.

I think the spice-rubbed roasted chicken is delicious on its own, but to mimic a “barbecued” chicken, you can brush barbecue sauce on the bird in the last 10 minutes of cooking, or serve sauce (heated) on the side. You could serve the chicken with lime wedges or limey dipping sauce.

I've included directions here for both roasting and grilling the butterflied chicken.

Serves 3

  • 1 3 ½ to 4 pound whole chicken, butterflied, backbone removed, and flattened
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons spice rub (preferably a barbecue spice rub)
  • Barbecue sauce, warmed if serving on side (optional), Limey Drizzling Sauce or Salsa Fresca

 

To roast:


1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Arrange a rack (or racks) over a foil-lined rimmed sheet pan. Arrange the flattened chicken over the racks. Rub the chicken all over with salt first, and then with spice rub (if your spice rub has a lot of salt in it, skip the added salt, but if your rub has no or little salt, be generous with the salt when seasoning the chicken.)

2. Roast the chicken for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh is at least 160 degrees. (I like the flip the sheet pan back to front once during cooking since my oven is hotter in the back.)

3. Towards the end of cooking (after about 40 to 45 minutes), brush the bird with barbecue sauce if you like. Or serve sauce on the side. Or no sauce at all.

4. Let chicken rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving. While the chicken is resting, you can de-fat pan drippings and loosen them with hot water to make a little drizzling sauce.

 

To Grill:

1. Heat a gas grill on high for ten minutes. Then turn off the middle burner (if your grill has three burners) or one of the burners (if your grill just has two burners).

2. Rub the chicken all over with salt first and with spice rub (if your spice rub has a lot of salt  in it, skip the added salt, but if your rub has little or no salt, be generous with the salt when seasoning the chicken.)

3. Arrange the flattened chicken (bone side down) on the grill grate over the burner that is turned off. Reduce the other burners to medium high.

4. Cover the grill and cook the chicken, rotating a bit every 20 minutes or so (but keeping it skin side up), until an instant read thermometer in the thigh reaches at least 160 degrees, about 50 to 60 minutes. (The legs will wiggle a bit when fully cooked.)

5. Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving with your favorite sauce.