If you want an evenly cooked juicy and tender bird, smoking a spatchcock chicken is the ONLY way to go. It cooks faster and comes out perfect every time!
Video - Step by step
Why smoked spatchcock chicken is the best
By removing the backbone of the chicken it makes it possible to lay the bird flat on the smoker rack where it can cook evenly, no more dry chicken! The process of removing the backbone is what is referred to as spatchcock.
Hitting the bird with some smoke for the first part of cook gives it a great smoke flavor, then crisping the skin up at high temp gives this chicken the perfect crispy skin.
Once you smoke a spatchcock chicken, you will never make a whole chicken a different way. Trust me, this is amazing and super easy to prepare.
How to prep the bird
A spatchcock chicken is a way to prepare the bird that lays the bird flat while cooking. This let's all parts of the chicken to cook evenly together so you don't have any dry meat, only juicy.
The trick is to remove the backbone from a whole roaster chicken with a pair of kitchen scissors, poultry shears, or kitchen shears as they are commonly known. After removing the giblets from inside the chicken, simply lay the chicken breast side down and cut on each side of the backbone removing it from the chicken.
Flip the chicken over so the breast side is facing up and spread the bird out flat. Put the palm of your hand on the breast of the chicken and push down firmly. This will break the breastbone and allowing the chicken to lay even more flat.
Rinsing the bird
Using cold fresh water, rinse the chicken under the kitchen faucet removing any small bits left over from cutting the backbone out. Hold the chicken up allowing most of the water to drain off the chicken.
Lay the chicken on a cutting board and pat dry with clean kitchen or paper towels until the entire bird and skin are very dry.
Rub the entire chicken with olive oil, outside and inside. Using your fingers, separate the skin from the breast meat and cover inside with olive oil. The oil will help the skin crisp up, the BEST part of the chicken!
Using your favorite dry rub, season both sides of the bird to taste. Season in between the skin and breast meat as well. A good rule of thumb is to cover in seasoning everywhere you rubbed olive oil.
I used Meat Church's Holy Voodoo seasoning rub when making this smoked spatchcock chicken. I LOVE this seasoning and all it's spices. It goes great on chicken! Definitely check it out if you have never had it before. If you don't have a rub, I've included a great tasting homemade rub you can make with ingredients you should already have in the kitchen.
Smokers and grills
Let's start by choosing a smoker or barbecue grill for making this spatchcock chicken.
These smokers and grills will churn out a nice crisp bird, you really can't go wrong with either method you choose to use.
I'm smoking this chicken on my wood pellet grill, just like the Camp Chef 36 smoker or Traeger 780. Wood pellet smokers are an easy and great way to impart fantastic smoke flavor and are extremely easy to use.
They operate on wood pellets and hold a very steady temperature just like an oven. No worrying about temp spikes or dips with one of these bad boys.
A traditional offset smoker is another great smoker to use. These can get very hot (which is great for cooking chicken) and are normally less expensive than a pellet smoker.
A traditional offset smoker, like this Oklahoma Joe's Smoker is a great option to use. Though it takes a little more attention than a pellet smoker, this produces amazing flavored meat.
Using a charcoal grill or propane grill are also great ways to cook chicken. These are another great option when needing to achieve a very high heat and most people already own one in most cases.
I'm a Weber fan and love grilling over charcoal on the Weber Kettle grills. These are very inexpensive and are great for cooking all types of meats, especially chicken.
Best wood to use
My favorite wood to use when it comes to chicken is hickory, pecan, mesquite, and fruit woods such as apple & cherry. Using competition or trophy blend pellets are also a great choice when smoking chicken.
Smoking the bird
The trick to smoked chicken is to NOT smoke it too long. Cooking chicken at low temperatures will make the skin rubbery and it won't have that nice crisp that you NEED to make a perfect chicken.
Pre-heat your smoker, I'm using my pellet smoker, to 225°F and lay the chicken breast side up directly on the grill. Make sure the chicken is spread out as much as possible. Smoke for 45 minutes to give it a great smoke flavor.
After 45 minutes, increase the temperature of the smoker to 425°F. No need to remove the bird from the smoker while the temperature increases, just leave it on there. Continue to cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F with an instant read thermometer in the breast and thigh of the bird.
This was another 45 minutes for me when cooking this chicken. So the total cooking time was 1hr 30 minutes.
Remove the smoked chicken from the smoker and rest for 10-15 minutes. I do NOT tent in aluminum foil, this tends to soften that nice crispy skin and makes it soggy and wet. Cut the bird into pieces with a sharp knife and plate.
Saucing the bird
If you want to add barbecue sauce to your chicken, the best time to do that is bout 15°F before it's finished cooking. So when the chicken's internal temperature reaches 150°F, brush on your favorite bbq sauce. It will adhere to the bird nicely while it finishes cooking.
This is not necessary however and this step can be left out. I actually prefer my chicken without bbq sauce and only the dry rub I put on at the beginning of cooking. But do what floats your boat.
Perfect side dishes
Here are some of my favorite side dishes that accompany smoked spatchcock chicken perfectly and elevate the dishes flavor and taste to the next level.
Not normally. Most store bought chickens are already injected with a salt water mixture to keep it moist. If you are buying an organic bird that is not injected, than brining will help keep it moist.
Always cook to temperature, not time. However, it takes about 1.5 hours to smoke a spatchcock chicken to perfection.
My favorite wood for chicken is hickory or applewood.
Yes! Spatchcock chicken turns out great on a grill.
Try smoking these dishes
- 5 lb roaster chicken (giblets removed)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Pre-heat smoker to 225°F.
- Remove giblets from inside of roaster chicken and rinse bird with fresh water.
- With breast side down, cut on each side of backbone with poultry shears to remove the backbone.
- Turn chicken over, breast side up, and push down on the breasts with the palm of your hand firmly. This should break the breast bone allowing chicken to lay flat. Using your fingers, loosen the skin from the breast meat.
- Dry chicken with paper towels and then coat with olive oil. Make sure to get both sides of the bird and in between the skin and breast meat.
- Season bird with rub seasoning everywhere you put olive oil.
- Lay chicken directly on grill rack breast side up and smoke for 45 minutes. Turn up temperature to 425°F and cook until the internal temperature is 165°F when checked with an instant read thermometer, about another 45 minutes.
- Let rest 10-15 minutes and serve.
- If using meat for sandwiches, tear the meat off the bones when the chicken is still warm. The meat comes off better when it's warm.
Off the hook! I used alder chips and it was awesome!
How big was the chicken? That matters for timing a meal. Many recipes don't mention that. I have a 7 pound chicken, yours might be 4. Would help to estimate time.
5lb chicken. It's stated in the recipe card along with all the ingredients.
This is a fantastic recipe! My family just loves the taste and how juicy the bird is when finished!
Rob Black says
This was great! I decided to smoke at 220 for 2 hours and then up to 350 to cover the last 20 degrees or so. It still came out great! I did include a waterbath in the back of the smoker to keep it as humid as possible.
Great flavor, crispy skin. This is now my favorite way to cook a whole chicken!
Thanks! I LOVE this chicken too.
Russ Norris says
I've used this method about a dozen times on my Oklahoma Joe's pellet smoker. Smoke to internal temps of your chicken indicated in the recipe and it will turn out great!
Mary Nourse says
I followed the instructions and the chicken turned out perfectly. Thanks for sharing.
Paul Leslie says
Absolutely cooked perfectly. Timing is right on
Great instructions, it was thorough and worked perfect, thanks!
This was amazing!
Perfect. This my “go to” recipe for smoked spatchcock chicken.