Gotta thank our friend Holly O’Reilly for sparking the creative flame on this one, so first off, go over to her blog and check out what she did.
I saw her post, then, as age would have it, promptly forgot I wanted to do it, until a text from Monica the next morning which read ‘Do you know how to butterfly a whole chicken?’
I responded with a ‘Yup, and it’s super easy!’ That made me wonder why it’s been so long since I’ve done it. I honestly don’t recall having prepped a bird this way in at least 20 years, which is truly a shame, because as Holly noted, it makes for a seriously juicy, crispy treat.
So, why is that? Why would this method lead to a better bird? The answer lies in volume. Chicken on the grill, barbeque, or smoker is hugely popular for good reason, but it’s also likely the top candidate for being dried out and overcooked. That, as much as any other factor, is a function of portion size. The smaller the chunk, the easier it is to over do it. Conversely, a whole chicken makes a fine vehicle for staying plump and juicy on outdoor cookers. I’ll usually advocate brining chicken before grilling, but if you’re in a hurry or planning dinner last minute, get a whole bird, butterfly it, and you’ve no need of brine.
Making a chicken relatively flat is easy as all get out, and if, like Monica, (Sorry, Babe), you have a love-hate relationship with sharp knives, it’s a perfect process for you. A pair of decent kitchen shears is all you need.
After checking your birds for giblets, neck, etc, flip it over so it’s breast side down. Take your shears and line them up just to the right or left of the spine, and cut a straight line from cavity to pope’s nose. Repeat on the other side of the spine. That’s all the cutting you’ve got to do, (told y’all it was easy). Grab the spine and pull it away from the bird; there won’t be much left holding it on. Set that aside for stock making later.
Flip the bird over, and arrange it evenly, then give it a squish with your palms. You’ll end up with a beautifully butterflied bird, ready to rub and cook. I tuck the wings in against the body, so they cook without burning before the rest is ready.
We wanted something bright and smoky for the rub; here’s what we used.
1 teaspoon black Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Grains of Paradise
1 teaspoon Alderwood Smoked Salt
1 teaspoon Smoked Sweet Paprika
1/2 teaspoon granulated Garlic
1 Tablespoon extra virgin Olive Oil
Juice of 1 Meyer Lemon
Combine all the dry ingredients in a spice grinder and give them a whirl. Add oil and lemon to dry in a small mixing bowl. Allow rub to rest for about 15 minutes, so flavors can marry. Rub evenly over the bird and allow to rest for another 15 minutes while the grill heats up.
I did this one over gas with one flip, starting breast side up, at about 325° F, for an internal temperature of 155° F. Remove it from the fire for a 10 minute rest, and your internal temp ends up right at 165° F.
We served the bird with grilled, marinated asparagus, and a lightly grilled Romaine salad, both with a Dijon vinaigrette made with Champagne vinegar, and a nice, cold Hefeweizen.
As Holly noted, there’re was very little left over, but there was went into the pot to make stock, as it should be.