Grilled Butterflied Chicken with Dry Brine
Why butterfly? Two reasons.
First, a butterflied chicken is a quick(er) chicken. A four pound chicken grills in about 45 minutes; left whole, they take an hour or longer.
Second, a butterflied chicken is simple to carve. Seven slices and you’re ready for the dinner table.
Nine if you cut the breast pieces in half like I do.
This is my favorite seasoning for chicken – an overnight dry brine with salt and pepper, then some smoking wood in the grill. Simple and delicious. Good chicken will shine with this recipe; cheap chicken will be bland. In other words, don’t use the $0.69/lb store chicken with this recipe. Make the effort to get a good bird, and you will be rewarded.
If you have a good local chicken store, like my local Brunty Farms or Difeo’s Poultry, great! If not, check the grocery store for a Bell and Evans bird. Or, get a Kosher bird, and skip the dry brine; kosher birds are pre-brined.
Cook time: 45 minutes
- Grill (I use a Weber kettle, like this one.)
- Kitchen shears (optional, but recommended)
- Aluminum foil drip pan (9″x12″, or whatever fits your grill)
- 2 Chickens, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds each
- 8 teaspoons Kosher salt (4 tsp per bird)
- 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper (1 tsp per bird)
- 1 fist sized chunk smoking wood (I used an oak wine barrel stave, but hickory, cherry, and apple are good alternatives)
For more butterflying details, see my How to Butterfly A Chicken Video
1. Butterfly and Dry brine the chickens: Butterfly the chickens: cut out the backbone, then flatten the breastbone by pressing down hard with the back of your hand. Fold the wing tips back under the wing. Sprinkle each chicken evenly with 4 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, concentrating a little extra on the breasts and thighs. Refrigerate for 4 to 24 hours.
2. Prepare the grill: Prepare your grill for cooking on indirect high heat, and add the wood chunk to the coals. For my Weber kettle, I light a chimney starter full of charcoal, wait for it to be covered with ash, then pour it in two equal piles on the sides of the grill, and put the drip pan in the middle, between the piles. Finally, I put the wood chunk on one of the piles.
I highly recommend the Weber Chimney Starter, because it is larger than most chimney starters. It holds 5 quarts of charcoal, which exactly the right size for cooking this recipe.
3. Grill the chicken: Put the chicken on the grill over the drip pan, skin side down. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Flip the chicken skin side up and cook, covered, until the chicken is done, about another 15 minutes. The chicken should be 160 to 170*F in the thickest part of the breast, and 170*F to 180*F in the deepest part of the thigh.
*At this point, you should have nice, crispy skin. If you don’t, put the chicken skin side down over the coals and sear for 1-3 minutes, or until the skin is crisped to your liking. Watch out – dripping chicken fat causes flare-ups. You don’t want to burn the chicken at the last minute.
4. Serve: Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes, then carve into serving pieces. Cut the legs from the body, then cut the drumsticks from the thighs. Cut the wings from the breasts, then split the breast right down the middle.
*Herbs: I like to keep this recipe simple. But… I will occasionally stuff a couple sprigs of thyme under the skin of the chicken breast as part of the dry brining step.
*I cooked two chickens. One four pounder, that took about 50 minutes. The other one was a monster, that I’ve been saving in the freezer. I’m guessing it was about 5.5 pounds, but I’m not sure. That one took 1 hour and 10 minutes to cook. Based on those numbers, I would say it’s about 12.5 minutes a pound for butterflied chicken.
*My kids demolished this chicken. No picky eating this time around – everyone came back for seconds and thirds. “Dad! This smells like bacon!” It’s amazing what a little wood smoke does for flavor.
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
Grilled Butterflied Chicken with Thai Brinerade
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