This smoked spatchcock chicken recipe is the perfect way to master your barbecue platter presentation. Prepared with a beautiful dry rub and smoked over applewood, this butterflied whole chicken is guaranteed to steal the show.
Spatchcocking chicken is one of the best ways to smoke your prized chicken, giving it an incredible amount of flavor throughout. It’ll be cooked evenly while locking in a delicious amount of moisture and taste.
In this post, I’ll walk you through how to prepare your bird for cooking on your grill or smoker, and how to spatchcock it the right way. With some tricks and tips along the way, here’s the way to get the best possible results.
How to Spatchcock a Chicken
Smoking a whole chicken isn’t always easy, requiring a balancing act between locking in flavor without allowing the meat to turn dry. On top of that, you have the challenge of developing crispy brown skin on the outside, while ensuring it’s cooked perfectly on the inside.
Spatchcocking your chicken is the best way to combat this. It’s an easy way to ensure your smoked chicken is fully cooked, and is a lot easier to do than it might seem. Thankfully, it’s much easier than spatchcocking a turkey.
The cooking method involves splitting a chicken down the middle using poultry shears. You then cook it with the skin on one side, and the inside meat on the other. It’s often done for roasting whole birds inside, but we’re going to take things outside and do it on our barbecue smoker!
- First make sure that you remove the feet, neck, and insides of the chicken
- Rinse the chicken thoroughly inside and outside and pat it dry
- Using kitchen scissors, cut along the backbone’s right side, down the chicken’s length from the tailbone to the neck hole
- Then cut along the left side, and remove the backbone
- Press down on the chicken, to break the bird’s breast bones until it is flat
- Remove the tips of the wings
- Now the chicken is laying flat and ready to be cooked in whatever way you need to
Times & Temperatures
Smoke your chicken at 225°F/107°C until the internal temperature has reached 165°F/74°C (source). This usually takes about 60 minutes per pound of bird, so will need about 4 hours for this recipe. This low and slow approach to cooking will ensure that the meat has had long enough to soak in the flavors of the smoke.
Your chicken will only be ready once it has reached a safe internal temperature, so use a smoker thermometer and meat probe for the best results.
Mild and sweet hardwoods pair best with smoked chicken. All types of poultry have a delicate taste that can’t withstand long exposure to the robust flavors of strong woods like hickory or mesquite.
Instead, fruit woods like apple, pecan, or maple go wonderfully with chicken. They have a soft and sweet aroma that allows the natural flavors of the meat to still stand out. You can find out more and find some useful recommendations with our guide to the best woods for smoking chicken.
For this recipe, we’ll be using applewood. It’s mild and fruity while unimposing on our chicken.
How to Smoke Spatchcock Chicken
With our chicken butterflied, we’re now good to go. Start by firing up your smoker to 225°F. This is our usual smoking temperature for most meats, and chicken is no different.
If you are using a charcoal grill, make sure you set it up for 2-zone cooking with the burning coals at one end and your food at the other. I recommend using a charcoal chimney (also called a chimney starter) to make lighting the coals easier.
While your smoker warms up, let’s get onto the BBQ dry rub. This rub is what I use for a lot of my favorite smoked chicken recipes. It has a perfect blend of ingredients like paprika, chili powder, and thyme to give us a nicely rounded seasoning mix. With a herby flavor and a touch of spice, it complements barbecue chicken perfectly. The full ingredients are in the recipe below, but you can find out more about our BBQ chicken rub here.
With the chicken now fully prepared, we can move it to the smoker grates. Once in place, close the chamber door and adjust your vents as needed. A four-pound chicken should take somewhere between three and five hours to cook, but you should always go by internal temperature. Use a meat probe to measure the thickest part of the bird. Once we’re at 165°F, your chicken should be ready.
Smoked Spatchcock Chicken
- 4 lb whole chicken
- olive oil
- 2 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp thyme
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tbsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp ground black pepper
- Heat up your smoker to 225°F (107°C)
- Combine all dry rub ingredients in a small bowl. Rub olive oil over the chicken, on both sides. Apply dry rub to chicken all over.
- Once the smoker has reached our target smoking temperature, transfer chicken to the smoker or grill grates. Place the chicken breast-side up with the legs spread so it can lie flat.
- Close chamber door and smoke for 4 hours, or until internal temperature has reached 165°F (74°C)
- Remove from smoker and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Carve and serve.