Santa Maria Style BBQ Spatchcock Chicken

Here’s a great way to cook a whole chicken on the BBQ that takes a fraction of the time of roasting in the kitchen oven. It also overcomes the problem of the chicken being such an irregular shape often meaning the breast meat is overcooked by the time the leg and thigh meat is done, giving you moist and succulent meat throughout.

First step is to spatchcock the chicken – you can find plenty of good video guides here. It looks a little fiddly, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really just a 5 minute job. I just take the backbone and wishbone out, open up the bird and then flatten down with my palm.

Now very lightly coat the bird in oil. The best way is just to drizzle over and the rub all over with your hands.

Next step is a tablespoon of your favourite BBQ rub or seasoning over each side. I keep spice shakers filled with my most used rubs. Pat the rub down to make sure it sticks to the surface of the meat.

Preferably, you’ll do this the day before you cook the chicken and you can seal it in a large freezer bag and put it in the fridge overnight for the rub to really season and marinate the meat. If you are pushed for time though, it’s perfectly fine to season just before you cook.

Set your grill up for medium direct heat on one side and indirect on the other. Today I’ve cooked this on my log-burning Santa Maria grill – the heat ferocity is adjusted by raising and lowering the grill over the burning oak logs. Lay the bird down skin-side facing up, place a heavy, oven-proof cast -iron pan on top  and then leave for 5-10 mins. If you don;t have a suitable heat proof heavy pan, then wrap a house brick in tin foil and use that instead.

Carefully flip over so skin side is down and grill over the medium heat for a further 5-10 mins.

Next move the bird over to cook indirectly for 20 mins or so. If your BBQ has a lid, then close it for this stage to roast the bird through. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temp (away from the bone) has reached 75 degrees C or cut into the flesh, ensure the juices run clear and the meat is white and opaque.

This is my favourite way to cook whole chicken. Especially when cooked over wood.