Nothing tastes better over an open wood fire than sealing in the natural juices of a whole chicken with a great dry rub and letting the fire do the work. Dry rubs not only impart fantastic bold flavors from the many spices used, but they also help seal in the juices when the sugars in them caramelize on the outside of the meat you’re grilling.
Spatchcocked Grilled Chicken
Selecting an all-natural whole chicken is preferred for this type of dish, rather than a commodity bird plumped up on a factory farm. The reasoning behind proper selection here is that factory-farmed birds tend to be larger (which will take longer to cook) and they have a higher layer of fat under the skin (which, when rendered, can cause nasty flare-ups and burn your meal). All natural or free-range chickens are leaner and simply better for you to begin with, and their usually smaller size make them a breeze to work with over the fire.
1. Begin by spatchcocking the chicken. The term spatchcock refers to method of removing the backbone of the bird and butterflying it by laying it out flat with the breast meat up. The backbone is easily removed with a cut through each side of the bone or with a couple of snips with a scissors (you may also need to break the sternum with a little force of the hand or cut of a knife to make it lay flat).
This method allows more surface area of the chicken to come in contact with the surface of your cooking grates, promotes even browning of the skin all around the bird, and actually protects the meat from drying out, as the heat is hitting the ribcage and transferring through the bird, rather than simply hitting the skin and burning. A spatchcocked bird is also juicier, as the skin side of the bird is upright throughout the cook, allowing the fat to baste the meat as it renders and flows down.
2. Your bird is now ready to be rubbed. A good commercial dry rub can be used, or any combination of spices you find pleasing to your palate. For a quick and flavorful dry rub, consider the following:
- 6 Tbsp. Granulated Garlic
- 3 Tbsp. Granulated Onion
- 3 Tbsp. Salt
- 2 Tbsp. Raw Sugar
- ½ tsp. Black Pepper
- ½ tsp. Paprika
- Cayenne Pepper to taste
3. To rub the chicken, lightly coat the entire bird in oil. The oil will aid in crisping the skin and will make the dry rub adhere better. Our favorite method for this is to do a quick application with spray cooking oil. Once oiled, evenly coat the chicken with your rub, working it into all of the nooks and crannies of the meat. Do this work while you prepare your fire, allowing time for the meat to reach room temperature and for the flavors of the spices and salt to begin to penetrate the skin.
NOTE: As a general rule of thumb, always allow your grilled meats to reach room temperature before grilling. Grilling cold meat promotes uneven cooking, where the outside of the meat can cook faster and become dry while the center remains undercooked or raw.
4. Heat grill to 350°. Place chicken, skin side down on bottom grate and cook until skin begins to brown (appx. 5-10 minutes). Move chicken to top grate, skin side up and continue to cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 165° (appx. 45 minutes, depending on the size of your bird).