Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Grilled Butterflied Chicken

You will see random pictures of splayed chicken in this post, in various stages of doneness, so be prepared.

My parents' grill was recently resurrected from what was a horrid, rusty, filthy grave.  They should be ashamed of themselves.  The savior was my sister, who took one look at the grill, sprinted back inside, and promptly ordered new grill grates to be shipped the next day.  Thank you sister.  (I, on the other hand, had completely avoided the grill, knowing what I was likely to find. Not a savior.)

There were some plump, good-looking chickens at the farmers' market, and we picked one up with the thought of butterflying the chicken and cooking it on the born-again grill.  I searched the internet for grilled butterflied chicken recipes, and mostly based my recipe on the one in this blog, which was adapted from Cook's Illustrated.  I liked the recipe not only because it gave directions on how long to grill a butterflied chicken, but it also called for brining the chicken beforehand.

For the chicken and brine:
  • 1 whole chicken, about 4 to 4.5 pounds
  • 1 1/2 to 2 gallons of water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
I also used this dry rub recipe from Saveur, but it isn't necessary.  If you click on the link, you'll see that the rub recipe has about 15,000 ingredients.  This is something that would automatically go in my "no" pile, except that my sister made the rub, not me. I used it, but I didn't make it. 

Pour a few cups of hot water into a container large enough to hold the chicken and at least a few inches of water above it.  Pour in the salt and sugar, and mix until the granules dissolve.  I added in a couple of bay leaves, just for kicks.  Place your chicken into the container.  I also read that you should put ice in the mixture so the temp lowers and discourages bacteria. So I did that. 

Pour in enough water (start with a gallon and go from there, depending on the size of your pot and chicken) to cover.  Then I covered the whole thing and put it in the fridge for about 4 hours.

Tip 1: you can start this process with a frozen chicken.  The brining thaws out the chicken very quickly.
Tip 2: don't quote me on this, but I wouldn't brine the chicken for more than 4-5 hours.  After that, the solution breaks down the meat too much and it may become mushy.

When you're ready to move on to the next step, heat your grill to medium high (if you have a charcoal grill, I get the impression that medium high means that you can hold your hand about 5 inches from the grill for about 4-5 seconds before your hand melts--this is why I use a gas grill).  

After brining, remove the chicken and pat dry with paper towels.  Discard brining solution.  Now get to butterflying that chicken.  I previously gave vague and unhelpful directions on how to butterfly a chicken in this post, so if you'd like to be unhelped again, please click on that link. (I did link to a different site that has more specific directions on butterflying, which is more helpful.)  Basically you take poultry shears and cut along each side of the backbone, remove the backbone, and flatten out that sucker chicken.  You may need to make a vertical slit/crack along the breastbone with your knife in order to help this along.

Some recipes at this point would have you cover the chicken with plastic wrap and pound with a heavy object to achieve an even, flat layer of chicken, but that sounded like too much work and shit, I just butterflied a chicken, isn't that enough.

Season well on both sides with salt and pepper. I used the infinity ingredient dry rub, which had salt and pepper in it.

Slap the chicken, skin side down, on the grill.  It should sizzle a little.  Mine didn't. Apparently we were running out of propane, which caused all kinds of issues, like dinner taking about twice as long as it should have to cook.  C'est la vie.  Turn the heat down to medium.

Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, until the skin is nice, crispy and golden.  Flip it over.

My chicken start to try and shimmy out of its skin.  This may have had to do with some inadvertent mistargeted butchery on my part.

Cover and cook for about 12 more minutes, or until the breast meat is about 165 degrees and the thigh meat is 185 degrees.  Or, you can be like me and ruthlessly hack into it with a paring knife to see if the juices are clear (done) or still pink (not done).  Cutting into meat at this stage is typically a no-no because the juices run out but when it comes to E. coli, I choose hacking.

It was at this point that the propane, unbeknownst to me, really started to run out, and the chicken was just not cooking that well.  I severed the thighs/legs from the rest of the body to speed up cooking, but hopefully you won't have to engage in this sort of amputation.  If you do, though, just do it with love, okay?

Cook, you damn chicken, cook.

When the chicken is fully cooked, set it on a cutting board and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes before cutting into it.  This wait seemed somewhat symbolic at this point on account of the previously-referenced hacking.  See evidence below.

I spy a gouge in the leg, multiple stab wounds in the breast, and general gross dismemberment.

But it was tasty nonetheless.  The brine gave it a lot of flavor and juiciness, and the rub was excellent.



  1. Teehee. General gross dismemberment. All the better for little fingers to get at.

    I don't know what stopped you from showing pics of the chicken as it was being chewed, as well.

  2. I'm scared to grill a whole chicken, I'll leave you to it and let you invite me over. ;)

  3. that looks tasty! juicy chicken is the best :)

  4. Looks so good, now I'm craving chicken! My husband hacks into meat on the grill all the time too, and turns our glorious giant steaks into little tiny nubs of steak. So sad, but it does make it cook quicker I guess!

  5. I really like that bottom picture. Yummy. This post also made me wonder if and when I've needed to be "unhelped." I'm sure I've felt that way before, but when? I think you've identified a whole new emotion.

  6. YUM. I've seen recipes for "spatchcock" chicken but I've never tried to do it myself. It always seemed like too much work, and I'm a very lazy girl.

  7. We grill about two times a week, especially when its hot so that our house can stay cool. I'm glad you got that grill up and running again!

  8. im very intrigued by the brining! I really like fresh grilled chicken. mm!

  9. that is really the cutest pudgiest chicken ever.

  10. This looks delicious!! Thanks for posting a to-do about brining- cant wait to try it :-)