Herbed Butterflied Grilled Chicken
Now and then you come across a recipe so brilliant you know that it will forever change the way you prepare a dish. When this method for an herbed butterflied chicken crossed Mr. B’s path, he printed it out and put in a request that I make it soon. As always, his recipe intuition was spot on.
The recipe calls for a spatchcocked (butterflied) chicken that is marinated in a herb laced brine and then grilled to golden perfection while basted with a glaze of honey, lemon, and garlic. Together Mr. B and I watched a few youtube videos to learn how to spatchcock a chicken. Once you understand the methodology, it is actually a simple technique that turns a whole chicken into one flat layer which cooks evenly on the grill. It is the perfect solution to the age-old problem of dry breast meat and undercooked thighs; with a flattened chicken you end up with an incredibly moist, perfectly cooked bird. To spatchcock a chicken, you begin by using heavy duty kitchen shears and cutting out the backbone of the chicken. Once the backbone is removed, you flip the chicken over so the breast side is up. Then you use the heels of your hands to press downward and crack the breastbone, pressing the chicken into a single layer. After that you are ready to marinate and grill the chicken. It is a simple technique- great to have in your back pocket for grilling chicken.
A few chunks of sugar maple or fruit wood thrown into the coals perfumes each bite of chicken with an intoxicating smoky sweetness. We have prepared this recipe twice in the last two weeks, and on each occasion our dinner guests declared with awestruck reverence that it was the best chicken they have ever eaten. With the summer grilling season still in full swing, I urge you to follow Mr. B’s lead and print out this recipe to make soon. It may just change the way you look at grilled chicken forever.
Herbed Butterflied Grilled Chicken (Printable Recipe)
Adapted from: BBQ 25: The World’s Most Flavorful Recipes Now Made Foolproof, Via Tasting Table
2 Tablespoons coarse sea salt or kosher salt
5 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3 cups cold water
One 3½-pound chicken, butterflied, thighs and legs scored
1 Tablespoon canola oil
2 chunks of sugar maple wood, or 1 cup of fruit wood chips (apple, pear, etc.)
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Juice of half a lemon
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon water
In a very large bowl, mix together the salt, garlic, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, black pepper, and water. Use your hands to mix the ingredients, crushing them between your fingers to release the oils and extract the most flavor. Place the butterflied chicken into the bowl, and turn it to coat all sides with the brine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.
An hour before you plan to cook the chicken, soak the wood chunks or chips in a bowl filled with water.
Set up your grill for indirect cooking, meaning that the heat source or pile of coals is not directly below the chicken. If you have indirect ceramic plates for use on your grill, set those in place below the grill grates. Heat the grill until it reaches a steady temperature of 300°. Pull the chicken out of the brine and pat it dry with dry paper towels. Discard the brine. Brush the chicken all over with the canola oil
Oil the grill grates well. Drain the wood chunks or chips, and add them to the coals. Place the chicken, skin side up, on the grill and close the lid. Cook the chicken for 45 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, make the glaze. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, honey, vinegar and water, whisking the ingredients together until they are well combined.
After the chicken has cooked for 45 minutes, baste the chicken with the glaze and continue to cook the chicken, covered, basting it with glaze every 15 minutes for another 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked all the way through. The chicken is done when a thermometer stuck in the thickest part (usually the thigh) reaches 165 degrees, and the juices run clear.
When the chicken is cooked through, transfer it from the grill to a cutting board, skin side up, and let it rest, covered with foil, for 10 minutes. Carve the chicken into big pieces (breasts, wings, thighs and drumsticks) and serve immediately.