This Smoked Spatchcock Chicken requires just two ingredients and is a simple set-and-forget recipe that is extremely simple to smoke! Mouthwatering, deliciously moist meat is the happy result when you take the time to smoke a spatchcocked chicken. Not only will it take half the time of a whole chicken, but it will also be full of flavor, evenly cooked, and become a family favorite.
🍽️ Why This Works
Fast. A spatchcock chicken will finish cooking in almost half the time that it takes a chicken in its whole form to cook. Smoking this is also fun and the presentation is beautiful and surprising.
Incredible Flavor. Opening the chicken up allows more surface area to absorb that smoky flavor we all love and it will cook more evenly. It’s all the flavor you want in a whole chicken without the extra time.
More Juice. The shorter cook time helps keep the chicken from drying out, resulting in juicier and more flavorful meat.
📝 Ingredient Notes
Whole Chicken – You will need about a half pound of meat per person you plan to serve with chicken. If you just picked up a whole chicken at the grocery store on sale and don’t know what to do with it, you’ve come to the right place. You have everything you need in your kitchen to make an amazing smoked spatchcock chicken.
⏲️ Equipment and Tools
Poultry Shears – These are an absolute must for spatchcocking a chicken. You have to cut through the chicken’s spine, and regular scissors just won’t do the job.
Pear Wood – This wood has an ever-so-slightly sweet flavor that pairs perfectly with chicken and doesn’t overpower the overall flavor profile for great smoke flavor. This wood also plays very nicely with the pineapple-flavored rub we used. Use your favorite wood chips. Hickory and mesquite might overpower the chicken flavor but that’s all up to you.
Smoker – The Big Green Egg or a Traeger smoker are two of our favorites.
How to Spatchcock a Chicken
Step One: Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and pat dry.
Step Two: If the chicken is not already butterflied open, use poultry shears, sharp knife or pair of kitchen scissors and cut along each side of the backbone of the chicken. The toughest area will be near the leg bones and surrounding cartilage. Remove the spine and toss.
Step Three: Place the chicken on a non slip large cutting board, flip chicken with the chicken breast side facing up. Use palm of your hand and press down hard on the breastbone of the chicken to make it crack and lay flat. Sometimes one press will do it, and other times we have had to repeat that several times. You can also make a single sharp cut in the breastbone so that it will break open easier. You will notice the chicken will now lay flat.
Smoking the Spatchcock Chicken
Step One: Preheat, your smoker to 300ºF with indirect heat.
Step Two: Place the chicken on the grate of the smoker using pear wood (or other fruit wood that you love) and smoke until the internal temperature reaches 165ºF in the thickest part of the thigh region, per the USDA. If you prefer, you can pull it when internal temp reaches 160º degrees f. and tent it with aluminum foil to bring it up the final five degrees. Using an internal meat thermometers with a probe that you can leave in the time you’re smoking.
Step Three: Let the chicken rest for five to fifteen minutes, so it doesn’t lose all its tasty juiciness. Serve.
❗ Recipe Tips and Tricks
Before spatchcocking the bird, remove all the extra parts and pieces (neck, heart, gizzards, etc.) and rinse in cold water inside and out, just as we did with the Spatchcock Turkey and Spatchcock Cornish Hens. You can use those extras and the backbone to make chicken stock later if you like.
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels before applying the dry rub. Be very thorough with the dry rub because it adds so much great flavor! Doing this part while the bird is on a rimmed baking sheet helps contain the raw chicken juices.
Preheat your smoker before placing the bird inside for the best results.
Smoking your spatchcock chicken at lower temperatures will result in a rubbery skin and could lead to drying out the chicken with the increased time.
If you want to rub your chicken in fat before applying the dry rub, feel free. Butter or olive oil are both recommended. Using Duck Fat yields incredible results but can be a bit pricey. We didn’t find this step necessary, but it can’t hurt.
🧑🍳 Leftover Storage and Reheating
Refrigerate leftover chicken meat as soon as possible after your meal. It should be placed in an airtight container and will last for two days after it is cooked.
Pull the chicken meat and it can be made into chicken salad, used in sandwiches, added to a green salad, or reheated as is. If you aren’t sure you will eat it all before two days have passed, we recommend dicing it up and freezing it for use in future soups or sandwiches.
To reheat your smoked chicken, place the amount you need on a plate and place it in the microwave for thirty seconds at a time until it is hot. You can also reheat it in a skillet.
Plan ahead for future chipotle bowls, fast soups, enchiladas, quesadillas, tacos, stir-fries, or sandwiches. Make two or more smoked chickens when you find a great deal, and stock your freezer with pulled and diced chicken.
If you want to shred your leftover chicken for pulled chicken sandwiches, place it in a mixing bowl and use a hand mixer to separate the meat. It works beautifully.
Additions and Substitutions
If you can’t find pear wood, apple, cherry, apricot, peach, or pecan wood are all great substitutes and find all your options on the Wood Smoking Cheat Sheet.
Use any dry rub you enjoy! We love the fruity flavor of this Dizzy Pig rub, so if you want to try something new, we highly recommend it. But any good dry rub will work for smoking a chicken.
This basic recipe will also work with a Cornish Hen in even less time.
Sometimes we like to brine the chicken as we did for our Whole Smoked Chicken, for a variety of flavors. If you like, you can salt the chicken and wrap it in plastic wrap one or two days before you smoke it for a simple dry brine and then prepare it as described.
Smoking your chicken keeps the kitchen and grill open for making amazing and delicious sides. Serve this with a fresh salad, baked sweet potatoes, or yummy fries. It will go beautifully with almost any side dish you can think of. If you’ve never tried our Amazing Smoked Potato Salad, you should! Biscuits or crusty bread are always a welcome addition to your chicken meal.
❓ Recipe FAQ
It takes about two hours at 300ºF indirect heat for an average chicken. The size of the chicken and the constancy of the temperature will both play a role. Your goal is 165ºF, and a meat thermometer is essential.
300ºF is our preference. If you want crispy skin, you will need to turn up the heat at the end for two or three minutes.
It’s a chicken with its spine (backbone) removed so it can be cooked flat more quickly than a whole chicken in its natural state. This is sometimes called butterflied chicken. The most significant benefit of taking the time to spatchcock the chicken is that it cooks much faster. As a result, the breast meat doesn’t dry out, while the internal meat is slowly coming up to temperature.
While it is not a perfect science if you love good crispy chicken skin, here are a few things you can try.
One) Dry out the skin of the chicken either by letting it sit in the fridge for a few days, patting it dry, or using a hair dryer on cold.
Two) Up the temperature of the smoker significantly for the last ten minutes. Do this before it comes up to temperature, not after, because you don’t want dry meat.
Three) Pull the bird early and throw it in a hot oven on broil for ten minutes. Again, do this before the chicken is finished cooking and not after.
Four) Throw the chicken halves in a hot skillet with hot oil for a few minutes to crisp up the skin.
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Smoked Spatchcock Chicken
- Poultry Shears
- Fruit Wood we used Pear
- 1 Whole Chicken
- 3-4 tbsp Dry Rub
Spatchcock the Chicken
- Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and pat dry.
- If the chicken is not already butterflied open, Use kitchen shears (or poultry shears if you have them) and cut along both sides of the spine of the chicken. The toughest area will be near the leg bones. Remove the spine and toss.
- Place the chicken on a solid surface with the breast facing up. Use both palms and press down hard on the breastbone of the chicken to make it crack and lay flat. Sometimes one press will do it and other times we have had to repeat that several times. You will notice the chicken will now lay flat.
Smoking Spatchcock Chicken
- Set up the smoker to 300ºF on indirect heat.
- Using your favorite BBQ rub, sprinkle the rub on the chicken and use your hands to help get it in all the grooves.
- Place the chicken on the grate of the smoker using pear wood (or other fruit wood that you love) and smoke until the internal temperature is 165ºF in the thigh region. You can pull it at 160ºF degrees and tent it to bring it up the final 5 degrees as well.
- This should take about 75-90 minutes but remember to base the cooking time on internal temperature, not time for poultry.