BBQ Flat Chicken

The best way to get an even cook on a barbecued chicken without a rotisserie is to remove the spine, open it up and flatten it.  I have filmed a video of my husband flattening a chicken so you can see how easy it is, but if you’re at all squeamish, make sure the sound is turned off because you do hear the bones.  It actually sounds louder in the video than it does in real life, though. (Technical difficulties–okay, it’s all User-related–loading the video.  Please bear with me.  It’s coming.)  Opening up the chicken allows you to season and flavour the inside of the chicken as well as the outside and creates a “rack” (ie, the rib cage) for you to cook the chicken on so it doesn’t stick to the grill. You will end up with a juicy, succulent chicken with nice, crispy skin, in just about an hour.  This recipe is the directions for a very basic chicken, but the Tips section below includes flavour variations and how to apply them.


Prep: 15 min

Cook Time: 60-75 min


Ingredients for a basic BBQ chicken

  • 1.5-2kg whole chicken
  • 1 Tbsp Grapeseed oil
  • Salt and Pepper



  1. Preheat grill.
  2. Remove spine from chicken using a boning knife or kitchen shears.  Open chicken up and press on breastbone to flatten.  
  3. Pour grapeseed oil into the palm of your hand and massage into chicken, all over, inside and out.  Season inside and out with salt and pepper.
  4. Oil grill. Place chicken on the center of the grill over direct heat, skin side down, for about 5 minutes, until grill marks appear and chicken peels away easily.  If chicken sticks to the grill, wait a few more minutes until it comes away easily. Turn chicken over, meat side up, and arrange it so it is flat on the grill with legs and wings tucked in.  Turn off heat under the chicken, but leave outside burners on. Close the lid. Grill temperature needs to reach 350-375F. If it is too hot turn heat down accordingly. If it is a lower temperature, that is fine, low and slow is always good, but extend cooking time accordingly.  Chicken will take approximately 60-75 minutes to cook depending on size of chicken and grill temp.
  5. After 30 minutes check chicken to see how it is cooking.  You may want to rotate it 180 degrees if it is not cooking evenly.  If you are basting your chicken with some kind of sauce, this is a good time to start layering on the baste.  To best build the flavours of the baste, baste the inside and outside of the chicken, let it cook for an additional 10 minutes, then repeat every 10-15 minutes until chicken is cooked.  Chicken is cooked when internal temperature reaches 165F when tested with a meat thermometer and juices run clear.




  • As always, if you have room on your grill, cook two chickens.  It doesn’t take any longer or require any extra gas or propane, and you can use the extra for lunches or other meals during the week, like salads or quesadillas.  Or you can freeze a whole cooked chicken so you can have a meal ready-to-go for nights when you’re short on time.
  • Make sure you use grapeseed oil or some other flavour-neutral oil with a high smoke point.  While olive oil is a popular favourite, for many good reasons, it does not lend itself to this type of application.  It has a low-smoke point which means it is going to blacken quickly and add an unpleasant burnt flavour to your food.  
  • The oil and salt are a very important part of getting the skin nice and crispy. Use in combination they help render out the fat layer between the skin and the meat.  The fat then bastes the chicken, making it extra juicy and succulent.
  • Try to resist opening the grill unnecessarily.  As soon as you open the lid, all the heat you have built up will whoosh away, worse than when you open your oven door.  This inconsistency in temperature will make it take longer to cook and can cause it to cook unevenly. When you need to open the lid to baste have everything you need to hand and work quickly and efficiently.  
  • These directions also apply to chicken pieces.  Use bone-in, skin-on chicken, and reduce cooking time to about 25-30 minutes for drums and thighs, and 30-35 minutes for breasts.


Flavour suggestions

  • Barbeque Chicken:  Use about ¼ cup of BBQ Seasoning mix, rub the seasonings all over the chicken, inside and out, making sure you get into the creases between the legs and the wings.  Drizzle a bit of oil over the chicken and rub it in so there is a thin layer all over. Follow directions as above. You can either leave it as a dry rub, or you can start basting using your favourite BBQ sauce after 30 minutes.  Layering the sauce will add layers of flavour and will create a sticky, gooey finish on your chicken.
  • Chimichurri Chicken: Follow recipe as above.  When is comes time to start basting, use Chimichurri sauce liberally, all over, inside and out.  If you like a bit of spice, buy some PiriPiri sauce from the International aisle of your grocery store and use that as your base layer of basting.  Make sure to reserve some of the sauce so it doesn’t get contaminated with uncooked chicken justice from the basting brush.
  • Mexican Chicken: Same as for BBQ Chicken, but use about ¼ cup of Mexican Seasonings and Enchilada sauce to baste.
  • Lemon Pepper Chicken: Follow recipe as above.  Make a baste using ¼ cup Soy sauce, juice of ½ a lemon, 1 Tbsp Lemon Pepper (preferably a no-salt blend, since soy sauce is very salty), 1 Tbsp of honey, and 2 Tbsp oil.  Mix well to emulsify, then baste over chicken for the last 10 minutes of cooking only. It will create a glaze over the cooked meat.

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