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How to: spatchcock chicken on a pellet grill

Here’s all you need to know how to spatchcock and pellet smoke a whole chicken.

  • 1 medium-sized roasting chicken, about 5 pounds
  • 4 tablespoons oil (divided)
  • 1/3 cup BBQ chicken rub or seasoning (divided)
  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours
  • Servings: 6

Smoked spatchcock chicken is a dish that everyone will want to gather for. When you cook a whole chicken, your guests can have the white and dark pieces they prefer, making it perfect for a sit-down meal.

Never heard of spatchcock chicken? It’s a method of preparing the chicken for smoking that allows it to cook faster and more evenly than a fully intact chicken. Spatchcocking, or splitting open a bird for grilling, involves removing the mostly meatless backbone and flattening the breasts before cooking.

Because this chicken is laid flat to cook, it allows smoke to flavor more surface area. It also cooks a bit faster than a regular chicken, which helps to keep the meat nice and juicy.

Smoking a spatchcock chicken is simple to do. Season the bird on both sides with your favorite chicken rub or seasoning and it’s ready for cooking. We prefer to use a pellet grill to get a delicious smoked chicken flavor because it keeps the meat juicy and adds a wonderful smoked flavor to your dish.

A spatchcock chicken can be cooked directly on the grate of your pellet grill. At roasting temperature, the chicken juices and rendered fats will drip onto the pellet grill’s heat deflector before they turn into steam that sizzles away and evaporates. That steam from the chicken adds additional flavor but can make a mess. Putting the spatchcock chicken on a wire rack atop a foil-lined baking sheet creates a similar effect but makes cleanup a bit simpler.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. 1

    Preheat and prep the grill.

  2. Preheat your pellet grill to 225°F. Remove the chicken from its packaging, check the cavity and remove any giblets.
  3. 2

    How to spatchcock a chicken.

  4. Use kitchen shears, sturdy scissors or a chef’s knife to cut all along each side of the backbone, and remove the spine. Place the chicken cut-side down on a cutting board and press down firmly along the top of the breastbone to flatten it out. Wash the bird and pat dry.
  5. 3

    Season generously.

  6. Paint the cut or bone side of the bird with half of the oil, then season. Flip the bird over, repeat on the skin side. Tuck the wings in along the thighs to avoid burning the wing tips.
  7. 4

    Cooking instructions for smoking.

  8. Insert a digital probe thermometer into the thickest part of the breast meat without touching any bones. Place the bird in the center part of the grill and begin smoking. For a rich, smoky chicken flavor, smoke the bird until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.

How long to smoke spatchcock chicken?

Spatchcocking will help you get maximum smoke flavor on a chicken. It takes about four hours at 225°F to safely cook a five-pound bird, and regardless of cooking method you should cook to an internal temperature of 165°F. Cooking times can vary depending on the size of the bird and other variables, so it’s important to use a digital probe thermometer to monitor doneness.

Chef’s note: The light and dark meat will be delicious for sandwiches or a salad when smoked this way, but the chicken skin may turn out pliable and less appealing.

If you prefer crispier, golden brown skin, smoke the chicken for one hour at 225°F, then increase the temperature of your pellet grill to 375°F. Continue to cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, and the skin has browned to your liking. Allow your chicken to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Why pellet smoke spatchcock chicken?

One of the advantages of cooking smoked spatchcock chicken in a pellet smoker is ease of operation.

Not long ago, smokers were cheaply designed and cumbersome. They were poorly built and temperature regulation was challenging. An especially hot or cool day could influence the smoking temperature enough to make cooking food safely a real challenge. Fortunately, pellet grills are designed better. They are thermostatically controlled just like your oven and have better ergonomics than clunky cabinet smokers. All you have to do is set the pellet grill to your desired temperature and you’ll be cooking in no time flat.

Because pellet grills operate like a smoky, flavorful oven, we know that the temperature will remain constant throughout the cook. This peace of mind means you’ll be free to do things other than worry about tending to the smoke and fire while the chicken cooks.

Another advantage of the pellet smoker is the various types of wood flavors available for cooking. Any Kingsford® Hardwood Pellets work well with this dish, and with five different flavor profiles to choose from, you’ll have no trouble finding one that fits your tastes.

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