Grilled Greek Chicken

What gives this grilled Greek chicken its voraciously vibrant flavor is a lemon marinade full of garlic, parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and basil. It brings a Mediterranean mojo to a simple summer supper.

This grilled Greek chicken recipe relies on gobs of fresh herbs and a squeeze of vibrant lemon for authenticity and superlativeness. Everyday chicken turns into something truly Mediterranean with an effusive Greek accent.–Renee Schettler


The foolproofness of this recipe lies not just in its perky marinade but in a technique known as butterflying. It basically means taking the backbone out, which enables you to flatten the bird which, in turn, ensures it cooks far more evenly on the grill than if it was in it usual form. It’s also called spatchcocking (check out the link for an in-depth instructable on the process). Whatever you call this nifty trick, after you try it once, you’re going to want to do it again. And again. And again. It’s so easy and all it takes it a decent pair of kitchen shears. Your fave kitchen knife will work but it will be slow going.

Grilled Greek Chicken

A wooden cutting board with a carved grilled Greek chicken and a knife resting beside it.
What gives this grilled Greek chicken its voraciously vibrant flavor is a lemon marinade full of garlic, parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and basil. It brings a Mediterranean mojo to a simple summer supper.
Fred Thompson

Prep 15 mins
Cook 40 mins
Total 1 d 55 mins
4 to 6 servings
471 kcal
5 / 3 votes
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  • 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.
  • 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 turning the chicken to coat. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours—the longer the more flavorful. Be sure to turn the bag or chicken several times during marinating.
  • 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.
  • Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling over medium heat. If using charcoal, pile the lit coals on one side of the grill 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.
  • Place the chicken, skin side down, over direct heat. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes. Turn and continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh registers 170ºF (77ºC) or the juices run clear when a thigh joint is pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, usually 15 to 25 minutes more, depending on the size of your chicken. If at any point the chicken begins to burn, move the chicken to the indirect heat area of the grill and give it a few extra minutes.
  • Transfer the grilled chicken to a cutting board, tent it loosely with aluminum foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes. Cut the chicken into serving pieces and serve at once.
Print RecipeBuy the Williams-Sonoma Grill Master cookbook

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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 471kcal (24%)Protein: 35g (70%)Fat: 36g (55%)Saturated Fat: 9g (56%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 7gMonounsaturated Fat: 17gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 143mg (48%)Sodium: 133mg (6%)Potassium: 360mg (10%)Vitamin A: 267IU (5%)Vitamin C: 3mg (4%)Calcium: 21mg (2%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

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 the flavors of a Mediterranean sunset. I was lucky enough to have fresh oregano, parsley, rosemary, and thyme from my garden. I had to buy only the basil. The recipe calls for 24 to 48 hours of marinating time and I split the difference, giving my bird about 36 hours in the lovely lemon and 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.

The 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.

This grilled Greek chicken was gorgeously browned 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'll marinate it next time for the full 48 hours. This recipe will be around for years to come.

Originally published July 10, 2011


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  1. 5 stars
    Unfortunately I was too busy scrambling to finish the side dishes to take a picture when my husband brought this in off the grill, but it certainly was delicious. Instead of spatchcocking, he grilled it on the rotisserie attachment of his Weber kettle so it was self-basting. I cooked down the marinade after pulling the chicken out of it and it made quite a zingy sauce. Next time I might add more olive oil after I cook the marinade.

    1. Mary, we wish we could have seen that hen! It sounds terrific—including your lovely sauce idea! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience and your trick…

  2. 5 stars
    This was a beautiful and delicious dinner. 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.

    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?

    1. Perfect, K Gramlow! Love that you tried something new. Odd, though, in that usually we have success with even cooking for butterflied chicken since it’s flat on the grill. Yes, individual pieces would work well here as you can turn them individually and the pieces can come off when they’re done while the other pieces stay on longer. So absolutely feel free to try that approach with this recipe.

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

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

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