Grilled Chicken for a Crowd

Grilled Chicken for a Crowd


My favorite way of grilling chicken for company is the "spatchcock" method of grilling chicken, which is to cut out the backbone of a whole chicken and lay the chicken out flat like you have opened up a book. Then, the chicken can be marinated or seasoned as you like. It can be cooked over indirect heat, covered, until cooked through, and then it can be moved to direct heat to cook until crispy, browned, and flavorful.

The easiest and best marinade is oil and vinegar, plus seasonings, or if you are in a pinch, bottled vinaigrette or Caesar dressing. Place the spatchcock chicken in a large plastic bag and pour in a vinaigrette or bottle of the dressing. If you have lemons, cut a lemon in half (one per bag) and squeeze the juice into the bag. Place the two lemon halves in the bag with the marinating chicken. Seal the bags and place these bags in the fridge overnight. You can chill them two nights if you like for even more flavor. And once you are ready to cook, drain the pieces and cook over medium-hot fire until seared, then turn, and cook on the second side until seared and the chicken is cooked through. This will take 4 to 5 minutes per side, depending on the heat. The flatter you pound the chicken, the faster it will cook. Transfer the cooked chicken to a clean platter and surround with slices of lemon and good olives and make room for a side of orzo or basmati rice or taboulleh, some sort of grain that mingles well with the juices from the chicken.

Serve it with cole slaw, roasted sweet potatoes, fresh cranberry sauce, and some braised kale or collards. It's delicious, foolproof, and best of all, tested many years on my own family!

Makes: 6 servings | Prep: 20 minutes | Marinate: 6 hours | Cook: 1 1/2 hours

1 whole 3- to-3 1/2-pound chicken

2 medium lemons
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 cloves minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup olive oil

  1. Rinse the chicken inside and out, and pat it dry with paper towels. Place it breast side-down on a cutting board and cut out the backbone using a sharp knife or poultry shears. To do this, cut on both sides of the backbone, and discard the bone.

  2. Turn the chicken over to breast side-up, and press down on the breastbone with your hands or a cast iron skillet until the bone cracks and the chicken flattens slightly. Place the chicken in a large zipper-lock bag or in a glass casserole dish.

  3. For the marinade, cut the lemons into halves and squeeze the juice into a medium-size mixing bowl. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme. Whisk in the olive oil until the mixture pulls together and is thickened. Pour the marinade over the chicken in the bag. Zip the bag to secure it, and massage the chicken from the outside of the bag in order to coat it well with the marinade. Place the bag in the refrigerator at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

  4. When you are ready to grill, start the gas grill to medium-high on one side of the grill and low heat on the other. Or, if using charcoal, place the coals on one side of the grill, and light and let cook down to medium-high. Clean the grates of the grill with a wire brush.

  5. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place skin-side up on the indirect or lower heat side of the grill. The grill should register 325 degrees when covered. Cover and cook until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees, about 1 hour, 15 minutes. Now, you will cook the chicken on the direct side of the grill to crisp up and brown. Distribute the coals under the chicken as needed. Place the chicken skin-side down over the direct heat, and cook about 8 to 10 minutes, or until well browned. Turn and let cook and brown on the other side. Remove from the heat, let rest 20 minutes, then cut into pieces and serve with your favorite sauce.