Smoked Spatchcock Chicken | A Finger-licking Recipe

April 24, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

Smoked spatchcock chicken refers to the cooked chicken whose backbone has been removed and the bird is flattened out before smoking. First, this old technique ensures more even cooking. Secondly, you’re getting juicier meat with crispier skin that’s just begging to be eaten. And when you add the rich, smoky flavor of a good BBQ, you’ve got a dish that’s finger-licking good!

As a BBQ veteran who likes to experiment with new and old cooking techniques, I discovered the smoked spatchcock chicken recipe long ago while exploring the world of smoked poultry dishes. And because of the juicy and evenly cooked result, it’s right at the top of my collection of chicken recipes.

So, if you’re ready to build or hone your poultry spatchcocking game, I’ll show you my favorite spatchcock chicken smoker recipe. I’ll also share everything you need to know about this recipe, from choosing the right chicken to spatchcocking to smoking to perfection. 

smoked spatchcock chicken

The Perfect Smoked Spatchcock Chicken Recipe 


  • 1 whole chicken (4-5 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Applewood pellets (for a pellet smoker) or applewood chips (for an electric, gas, or charcoal smoker)


  • Paper towels 
  • A pair of kitchen shears
  • Meat thermometer
  • Pellet grill or a charcoal smoker 
  • Cutting board
Whole Roasted Chicken Rotisserie with Herbs


Step 1: Prepare the Chicken for Smoking 

If you’ve got frozen chicken, remove it from its packaging and pat it dry with paper towels. Next, you have to get it ready for its big debut on the smoker. 

But if you’ve just slaughtered and de-feathered a live bird for this recipe, the first step is to remove any giblets and excess fat from the cavity. 

After you’ve cleaned out the cavity, give your chicken a good rinse under cold water. 

Then pat it dry with paper towels as I mentioned in the recipe. It’s important to start with a clean and well-prepped bird to ensure that it cooks evenly and stays safe to eat. 

Once you’ve got your chicken looking and feeling fresh, it’s time to move on to the spatchcocking process.

Step 2: Spatchcock the Chicken 

Place the chicken breast side down on a clean cutting board

Using your kitchen shears, cut along each side of the backbone and remove it. Flip the chicken over and press down firmly on the breastbone to lay flat the bird.

Step 3: Season the Entire Chicken

Mix the olive oil, onion powder, smoked paprika, thyme, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper in a small bowl. Rub the seasoning mixture all over the chicken, making sure to get it into all the nooks and crannies. You may also prepare the spices as a dry rub and then apply the olive oil on the seasoned skin to kind of bind the spices.

Step 4: Preheat the Smoker

Preheat your pellet grill or charcoal smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit using applewood pellets for smoking. If using a charcoal, gas, or electric smoker, soak your wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes before using them.

Step 5: Smoke the chicken

Place the chicken on the smoker, skin-side up while allowing it to lay flat. Close the lid and smoke the chicken for 2-3 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F when you measure with a meat thermometer.

Step 6: Rest

Once the meat is fully cooked, remove the smoked chicken from the smoker and rest for 10-15 minutes before carving. This will allow the juices to redistribute and ensure a tender, juicy bird. 

Smoked Spatchcock Chicken on a Tray with Grilled Tomatoes

Serving the Chicken

After all the hard work of spatchcocking and smoking your chicken, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Here are some tips on how to serve your smoked spatchcock chicken:

Carving It Up

It’s time to work on your carving skills! Grab a sharp chef knife and get ready to slice and dice that smoked spatchcock chicken. 

Start with the legs and thighs. Then move on to the wings, and finally, the juicy chicken breast side.  

Think of it like a puzzle that needs to be carefully taken apart and arranged into a beautiful presentation on a platter or individual plates.

Side Dishes and Accompaniments

Smoked spatchcock chicken pairs well with a variety of sides and accompaniments. Some of my favorites are:

  • Roasted vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts
  • Creamy mashed potatoes or cauliflower puree
  • Crusty bread or dinner rolls
  • Tangy coleslaw or a fresh green salad
  • Grilled corn on the cob or other seasonal vegetables

Leftover Ideas

If you have leftover smoked spatchcock chicken, here are some creative ways to use up those tasty leftovers:

  • Make a chicken salad: Shred the chicken with a fork, stand or hand mixer, or a food processor. Then mix it with celery, mayonnaise, and seasonings for a quick and easy chicken salad.
  • Add it to soups or stews: The smoky flavor of the chicken will add depth to your favorite soup or stew recipes.
  • Use it in tacos or enchiladas: You can also shred the leftover chicken and use it to fill your tacos or enchiladas. Top with your favorite toppings, such as salsa, avocado, or sour cream.
  • Make a sandwich: You can also layer the chicken with your favorite bread, cheese, and toppings for a delicious sandwich.
  • Add it to pasta dishes: Shred the chicken and toss it with pasta, vegetables, and a creamy sauce for a balanced, tasty and satisfying meal.

Reheating Smoked Spatchcock Chicken

Reheating your leftover smoked spatchcock chicken is an excellent way to relish it all over again. But doing this can be a bit of a challenge, as you don’t want to dry it out. Luckily, here are some tips for reheating your smoked chicken without sacrificing its moistness:

  • Oven: Heat your oven to 350 degrees F (175°C) and put the smoked chicken in an oven-safe dish, covering it with foil. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until it reaches the recommended internal temperature of 165 degrees F (74°C).
  • Microwave: Place the smoked chicken on a microwave-safe dish and cover it with a damp paper towel. Zap it on high for 1-2 minutes or until it reaches 165 degrees F internal temperature. 
  • Grill: You can also set your grill to medium-high heat, brush the chicken with olive oil, and put it on the grill, skin-side down for crispy chicken skin. Grill for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until it reaches the recommended internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
Spatchcock Chicken in Cast Iron Pan

Tips for Choosing the Chicken for Spatchcocking 

Spatchcocking a chicken is all about getting the most out of your bird. So it’s essential to start with the right one. When it comes to choosing the perfect chicken for spatchcocking, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Types of Chicken to Choose 

There are two breeds of chicken I often recommend for the spatchcock recipe. 

1. Cornish Hens 

I like to go for a smaller bird, such as a Cornish hen, which tends to have more tender and juicy meat. 

Note that Cornish hens can be both male and female. They are typically a breed of small chickens that are often crossbred with other breeds to create a hybrid bird with desirable meat qualities. Cornish hens can usually be found at most grocery stores, either fresh or frozen.  

2. Broiler or Fryer Chickens 

If you’re looking for a classic chicken flavor for your spatchcock recipe, go for a standard broiler or fryer chicken.

A fryer chicken is a type of chicken that is typically less than 10 weeks old and weighs between 2.5 to 4.5 pounds.

Selecting the Right Size for Spatchcocking

Choosing the right size for your spatchcock chicken is like picking the perfect slice of pizza. You don’t want it to be too big that it flops around and falls apart. 

But you also don’t want it to be so small that you’re left hungry and unsatisfied. Aim for a chicken that’s just right, weighing in at 3 to 4 pounds. This size is easy to handle, gives you plenty of meat to work with, and also provides plenty of succulent meat to satisfy your cravings.

How to Find Ethically-raised Chicken for Spatchcocking? 

In general, you’ll want to choose a chicken that’s been raised in a healthy, humane environment, free of antibiotics and hormones. 

One way to ensure that the chicken you are purchasing has been raised in a healthy and humane environment, free of antibiotics and hormones, is to look for labels such as “organic”, “certified humane”, or “pasture-raised”. 

These labels indicate that the chicken has been raised in a way that meets certain standards for animal welfare and food production.

  • The “organic” label: indicates that the chicken was raised on 100% organic feed without the use of antibiotics, GMOs, or hormones, and had access to outdoor space.
  • The “certified humane” label: tells you that the chicken was raised in a manner that meets the humane standards set by Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC). This is an independent non-profit organization that certifies animal welfare practices.
  • Pasture-raised“: tells you that the chickens were raised outside on pasture similar to your backyard hens. They were allowed to graze on grass and insects. However, they are given supplemental feed that is free of antibiotics and hormones.

What Wood or Pellet is Best for Smoking a Spatchcock Chicken?

Generally, mild to medium woods work best for me. You don’t want to overpower the delicate flavor of the chicken. 

Some popular options include apple, cherry, hickory, and mesquite. 

  • Applewood adds a subtle sweetness perfect for making spatchcock chicken. 
  • Cherry wood brings some fruitiness to the smoke flavor. 
  • Hickory wood is a classic choice that imparts a smoky, bacon-like flavor. 
  • Mesquite wood offers a strong, bold flavor that can be a bit overwhelming if used in excess. 
Smoked Spatchcock Chicken with Lemon Wedges and Potatoes

Additional Tips for a Successful Spatchcocking

Here are some additional tips for successful spatchcocking:

  • Use sharp kitchen shears: A good pair of kitchen shears is essential for spatchcocking. But make sure your shears are sharp to make the process easier and cleaner. Look for a pair like the Silver Armadillo Heavy Duty Poultry Shears that is specifically designed for poultry, as these will have strong blades that can easily cut through bones and cartilage.
  • Use the right technique: When cutting through the chicken, make sure to use a fluid motion.  Avoid twisting or bending the shears, as this can cause the blades to get stuck in the chicken and make a mess of your spatchcocking efforts. 
  • Flatten the chicken evenly: When pressing down on the chicken breast to flatten the bird, make sure to apply even pressure. This will help the bird cook evenly and prevent one side from cooking faster than the other.
  • Save the backbone: Don’t throw away the backbone! I like to use this to make chicken stock or broth.
  • Brine the chicken: Consider brining your chicken beforehand for added flavor and moisture. Brining involves soaking the chicken in a saltwater solution for around 12 hours before cooking. This helps to infuse the chicken with flavor and keep it moist during the cooking process.
  • Baste with BBQ sauce: You may also baste the chicken with some BBQ sauce towards the end of the smoking session. What the BBQ sauce does is get the body to caramelize and turn to crispy skin. But if you don’t like this idea, just the dry rub and olive oil is enough.


1. How Long Does It Take to Smoke a Spatchcock Chicken at 225 Degrees?

Spatchcock chicken, smoked at 225°F until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, typically takes around 2-3 hours. But this can vary depending on the weight of the chicken. 

2. How Long Does It Take to Smoke a Spatchcock Chicken at 275 Degrees?

At a temperature of 275 degrees F, it typically takes around 2 to 2.5 hours to smoke a spatchcock chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t worry, 275 degrees is not too high and relatively within the range as far as smoking temperature goes.  

3. What Smoking Temperature Is Too High for Spatchcock Chicken?

Smoking temperatures above 325°F (163°C) are generally considered too high for spatchcock chicken. Higher temperatures can cause the chicken to cook too quickly on the outside while still being undercooked on the inside. This can result in an unpleasant texture and an increased risk of foodborne illness. I’ll advise you to stick to lower smoking temperatures between 225°F (107°C) and 300°F (149°C) for the best results.


Spatchcocking a chicken is a great way to help you focus on the meat and less on the bones when dining. This technique also gives you more evenly cooked poultry and more meaty chicken, especially if you’ve got the right bird.

Smoking a spatchcock chicken is also a great way to infuse it with a rich, smoky flavor. By selecting the right wood or pellet, prepping the chicken properly, and monitoring the smoking temperature, you can create a mouthwatering dish everyone will smack their lips for. 

Whether you’re serving it fresh off the smoker or reheating leftovers, a smoked spatchcock chicken is a delicious and versatile meal that can be enjoyed anytime.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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