Grilled Greek Chicken

Grilled Greek Chicken Recipe

This method of grilling a whole chicken is so foolproof that I don’t know why I don’t do it more often. It is simple to take out the backbone with kitchen shears and then flatten the bird. You end up with an evenly cooked, gorgeously browned chicken, here infused with the bright flavors of lemon and fresh herbs.–Fred Thompson

LC Learn to Spatchcock! Note

The foolproofness–not to mention the brilliance–of this recipe lies not just in its perky marinade, but in the aforementioned technique of taking the backbone out, which enables you to flattening the bird and which, in turn, ensures the bird cooks evenly on the grill. This is known as “butterflying” the bird, presumably because the spread-out hen resembles a butterfly (well, sort of, a little, um, maybe after a few beers…). If you’re in Great Britain or the Land Down Under, you’ll also hear this technique referred to as “spatchcocking” (we won’t delve into the etymology of this term, although we will divulge that we do like to say it!). Whatever you call this nifty trick, after you try it once, you’re going to want to do it again. And again. And again. A word to the wise (and the spatchcock-obsessed): a pair of sturdy kitchen shears will make much quicker work of the task than even your trustiest chef’s knife, though the latter comes in handy after you pull the chicken from the grill and need to divvy up the chicken parts.

Grilled Greek Chicken Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 55 M
  • Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pounds), neck and giblets removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Greek Marinade
  • Oil for the grill rack

Directions

  • 1. To make the grilled Greek chicken, place the bird, breast side down, on a cutting board. Using kitchen shears or a large knife, cut along one side of the backbone from tail to neck. Pull open the bird, then cut along the other side of the backbone and discard the backbone or save it for stock. Turn the chicken breast side up and open it as flat as possible, as you would a book. Press down firmly on the breast to break the breastbone—you will hear and feel popping—and flatten the chicken
  • 2. Season the chicken generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a large resealable plastic bag so that it lies flat or place it in a baking dish or other large container. Add the marinade and seal the bag, squishing the marinade around the chicken, or turn the chicken to coat. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours. (The longer the better.) Be sure to turn the bag or chicken several times while the chicken is marinating.
  • 3. At least 30 minutes before you’re ready to grill, remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Drain and discard the marinade. Pat the chicken dry.
  • 4. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling over medium heat. If using charcoal, bank the lit coals on one side of the grill bed, and place a drip pan in the area without coals. If using gas, preheat the burners, then turn off 1 or more of the burners to create a cooler zone. The temperature inside the grill should be 350º to 375ºF (180º to 190ºC). Brush and oil the grill grate.
  • 5. Place the chicken, skin side down, over the direct-heat area of the grill. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes. Turn and continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh, away from the bone, registers 170ºF (77ºC) or the juices run clear when a thigh joint is pierced with a knife tip, 15 to 25 minutes more, depending on the size. If the chicken begins to burn, move it to the indirect-heat area of the grill for a little more time.
  • 6. Transfer the grilled Greek chicken to a cutting board, tent it loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut into serving pieces and serve at once.
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Lynne Brenner

Jul 10, 2011

The marinade was simple to put together and the ingredients readily available. Removing the backbone of the chicken was also easy. I grilled my chicken on a gas grill over direct medium heat (350 degrees) with the lid closed. I had to extend the cooking time to 40 minutes total to achieve the required thigh temperature (170 degrees), but didn’t have any problem with burning. The resulting chicken was moist and had lemony notes, but I was hoping for more robust flavor from the marinade (I did 24 hours, but can see that 48 would be better). My biggest problem with the recipe is that I don’t really like cutting up and serving a whole cooked chicken. I will try the marinade on boneless breasts, however, since I think the flavor would be great in a salad.

Testers Choice
Gabriella K.

Jul 10, 2011

The Greek marinade makes for a delicious and tender meat. All of the fresh herbs make such an impact on the flavor and the lemon juice adds an extra punch of acidity, rounding out the earthy tones and smokiness from the grill. I added onions that I also marinated and cooked alongside the chicken for some sweetness and found it to be a great addition to the meal.

Testers Choice
Caroline Chang

Jul 10, 2011

I’ve always wanted to grill a whole chicken and this recipe was a great intro. The 24- to 48 hour marinating time ensures that the chicken stays moist and all the prep work is done well in advance.

Testers Choice
Sandy Hill

Jul 10, 2011

As described, this was a “gorgeously browned chicken” and perfectly delicious! Add grilled corn on the cob and sliced tomatoes from the garden with Feta cheese and dinner is finished. The instructions were easy to follow about removing the backbone. The Greek Marinade gave a subtle, herby, tangy flavor to the chicken. I will marinate it next time for the full 48 hours This recipe will be around for years to come!

Testers Choice
Steve Subera

Jul 10, 2011

I want to kiss Fred Thompson. That’s how good his “Greek Grilled Chicken” is……really, I’m not kidding. From the first line of his recipe to the last, his instructions are crystal clear and easy to follow. Some may wince a bit at the prospect of cutting out the chicken’s backbone, but it’s a technique that, once mastered—it’s not difficult—pays huge dividends by allowing you to uniformly cook an entire bird in one fell swoop. It makes for a pretty cool platter presentation as well. The marinade is vibrant and fresh, and infuses the bird with flavors of a Mediterranean sunset. I was lucky enough to have fresh oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme from my garden, the basil I had to buy. The recipe calls for 24-48 hours of marinating time, and I split the difference for my bird, giving it about 36 hours in the lovely lemon-herb soak. This amount of time was sufficient to season the meat through to the bone, and sprinkling the meat with salt and pepper prior to marinating meant that no additional seasoning was required at the table. This bird was perfectly seasoned, tender, juicy, and flavorful right from the grill. The only challenge to cooking this recipe was regulating the heat on my four-burner Weber gas grill. My bird was slightly larger than called for at about 4 1/2 pounds and took just shy of 40 minutes to cook to juicy perfection. Ten minutes of resting time while I put the finishing touches on the balance of our meal was just enough to allow the juices in the flesh to redistribute. The bird looked so beautiful on the cutting board, all splayed out and lightly charred, that I decided to carve it at the table for all to see…..the lip-smacking was audible. This recipe was loved by all and will certainly become a staple in our summer grilling rotation.

Testers Choice
Sue Epstein

Jul 10, 2011

A perfect way to cook chicken on the grill for a delightful dinner. I used a gas grill and found this recipe to be quick, easy, and delicious—one that I will certainly make many times over the summer. The marinade was simple to make and one that could be used on all sorts of grilled meats.

Testers Choice
Jackie G.

Jul 10, 2011

Most folks have at least one tried-and-true recipe for a roasted-style chicken. They think, “Why should I ever try anything new, I already make a good chicken?” This recipe is why. The marinade was very easy to throw together. We did the suggested 48 hours of marinating. I like using one particular brand of free-range chicken. The smallest one I could find was 5 pounds, and it only took a few minutes more than the suggested cooking time for the thigh meat to register 170 degrees. The result was a very moist, juicy, succulent bird, with great, yet subtle, flavor. Ooh. The skin was also really wonderful. Too good to resist.

Testers Choice
Jo Ann Brown

Jul 10, 2011

This grilled chicken recipe is a wonderfully bright, juicy and flavorful preparation. Grilling chicken on the bone always creates a richness that cannot be duplicated in boneless skewed pieces. I also love that buying a whole chicken is so much more economical than buying an already separated chicken.

Testers Choice
Terri D.

Jul 10, 2011

Loved the Greek Grilled Chicken. The marinade was simple to make and fresh. I bought a 3.8-pound chicken, though after dinner I was wishing I’d had more. I think this would be a great dish to make for entertaining as the grilling was simple and the chicken needed very little attention once I got the grill regulated to 350°. I did cook till the temp registered 170° and let the chicken sit for 10 minutes but I didn’t think it was cooked enough for our family so I put it back on the grill for almost 10 more minutes. Maybe we like well-done chicken, but after the additional time it was perfect. I will make this again soon. We also had a Greek salad and artichoke-spinach mac & cheese and it was a great dinner.

Testers Choice
Linda B.

Jul 10, 2011

Wow! The combination of herbs is great, and the chicken was moist and delicious. I’ll definitely be making this again this summer. It took about 45 minutes for the chicken to cook through. It was a little time-consuming to split the chicken, but yielded great results.

Testers Choice
K Gramlow

Jul 10, 2011

This was a beautiful and delicious dinner. Cutting out the backbone and butterflying the chicken was a new experience for me and I was pleased with how it looked, but had a hard time getting the bird to cook evenly on the grill. It certainly wouldn’t look as impressive, but I wonder if maybe a chicken that’s already cut up would be easier to grill? I let it marinate the full 48 hours and the meat was tender and full of flavor, the skin was a beautiful golden color, and everyone was impressed. I would definitely make this again.

Comments
Comments
  1. Mike says:

    I love chicken done this way and have been doing it for some time. I especially like the Greek marinade. I found some shears at Home Depot of all places that make quick work of spatchcocking a chicken. The big ones cut anything I’ve ever thrown at them and you can’t beat the price. Way less than buying them from a knife or cookware shop. http://tinyurl.com/5u5xrx6

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Many thanks, Mike. I do love that British word—spatchcock. Sounds so sophisticated. Much better than its ordinary American counterpart, which is “butterfly,” for anyone out there who hasn’t heard the word Mike bandied about. They mean exactly the same thing, although I have to say, when I think about “spatchcocking” something I feel more James Bond and when I “butterfly” something I feel more like a frumpy Betty Crocker…

      • Allison Parker says:

        Yeah, you’d think that Bond’s gadget mastermind, Q, would have figured out how to have the Aston Martin rigged with a grill or rotisserie or something, right?

      • Rick Casner says:

        And all this time I’ve thought a Spatchcock was some sort of upland game bird.
        Sorry, couldn’t resist

        • Allison Parker says:

          Uhm, will I lose my job if I confess that I thought the same thing for years…?! Hope not. It is a most awesome word (and technique), though, isn’t it?

  2. Love spatchcocked chicken. It truly is quick. And your butcher will snip out the backbone for you if you’re not a do-it-yourselfer. For an even speedier version tuck it into an indoor griddler (aka panini press or Geo. Foreman grill). Crispy top and bottom. Of course you don’t get that outdoor grilling smokiness and ambience. But, boy-howdy is it ever an amazing post-work delish dish.

    • Dan Kraan, LC Community Moderator says:

      I have to agree, Jeanne. Spatchcocking is a great way to prepare chicken.

    • Allison Parker says:

      Now this is a better argument for getting a panini press than the actual panini, I think. Thanks for the tip, Jeanne!

  3. Thank you so much for the inclusion in the round-up! I can’t wait to try this grilling method. I haven’t done it before and it is high time I give it a shot!

    • Allison Parker says:

      Kelsey, we’re happy to include The Naptime Chef! But it’s really great to see you commenting here. We hope you do try this out and report back how it goes. Meantime, enjoy everything good about summer (on and off the grill).

  4. Martha in KS says:

    I baked a 5 1/2 lb. bird in the oven for 55 min. at 450 degrees. I only had two hours to marinate it. The skin was brown & crispy – delicious!

    Greek Chicken

  5. Josy says:

    Hi – this looks perfect. Am wondering if I can approximate this with a gas broiler. or combo of oven and broiler… Anyone know?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Josy, I’m sure that you could make an oven version. Use a thermometer to judge when the chicken is done.

  6. linda moore says:

    Just loving this, easy and looks and sound great…will try for sure.

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