Orange Spiced Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken

A spatchcocked chicken is a chicken with the backbone removed so that it lies flat. It's always much easier to grill than a whole chicken and it's easier to carve at the end too.

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“Spatchcock” is a fun word, isn’t it? It sounds a bit pretentious, a bit risqué, and a bit elusive all at the same time. Plus, it’s full of hard consonants which just makes it enjoyable to pronounce. It usually refers to a preparation of chicken where you remove the backbone and open the chicken so that it can lie flat. This makes it much easier to cook and allows it to cook faster. You could also say “butterfly” the chicken instead of “spatchcock”, but “spatchcock” really is much more fun, no? You could ask your butcher to spatchcock your chicken for you, but why bother when you could do it yourself with a handy pair of shears. If you’re interested in learning how to spatchcock a chicken, click here for photos and a good explanation in the cooking school. 

Spice rubbed spatchcocked chicken on a grill.

The reason a spatchcocked chicken cooks faster than a whole chicken is because the breasts and legs get direct contact from the heat source when the chicken is skin-side down AND when the chicken is skin-side up. It’s easier to cook than a whole chicken (especially on the grill) because you’ve turned it into a flat piece of meat with two sides, rather than a circle with four sides. You simply flip the chicken over a couple of times on the grill, rather than rotating it around to ensure all sides get cooked evenly.

Spatchcocked chicken being basted with glaze on a grill.

Grilling a spatchcocked chicken has advantage over grilling pieces of chicken too – you only have to flip one item rather than flipping several items on the grill and you only baste one larger piece of chicken rather than basting 6 or 8 individual pieces. In this recipe, you only baste the chicken after it has cooked for 40 minutes because as with most glazes, there is a relatively high sugar content which can brown or burn quickly. So, glaze only at the end of cooking and let the glaze bake onto the skin. You can serve any remaining glaze at the table for added flavor.

Orange spiced grilled spatchcocked chicken finished on the grill.

Do be careful when turning the chicken over – metal tongs can easily tear the skin of the chicken – but rest assured that if you start with clean grill grates and don’t try to flip the chicken too soon, you will be able to flip the chicken easily without it sticking. This is, of course, assuming that you control the temperature of your grill.  In a perfect world, your grill should be between 350ºF and 450ºF when cooking the chicken and you should use indirect heat or the cooler part of your grill.

Chicken cut into 6 pieces on a wooden cutting board.

When it comes to cutting the chicken into pieces, it’s easy to slice right through a spatchcocked chicken, separating the legs from the breasts, and then the drumsticks from the thighs. You can cut it into 6 pieces as in the photo above, or slice each breast half in half again. While this recipe indicates that you can serve four people with this recipe, I really think you can squeak out six portions with a full 5-pound chicken.

Grilled Spatchcocked chicken on a platter with herbs and orange.

It’s always nice to garnish foods with ingredients from the recipe, so have a couple extra oranges on hand to slice up around the chicken. Fresh herbs or salad greens are always welcome too.

A dinner plate with chicken, zucchini and wild rice on a table with place setting.

Featured Recipe Techniques

More about the skills used in this recipe.

Cooking School
How to Spatchcock a Chicken

To spatchcock a chicken means to remove its backbone so that it can lie flat. A spatchcocked chicken is much...View Technique

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Orange Spiced Grilled Spatchcocked Chicken

  • Prep Time: 15 m
  • Cook Time: 1 h 5 m
  • Total Time: 1 h 15 m
  • Servings:


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 pound whole chicken
Orange Glaze:
  • 1 cup orange marmalade
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon sesame oil
  • ¼ teaspoon red chili flakes


  1. Remove any giblets from the inside of the chicken and pat it dry with clean kitchen towels. Spatchcock the chicken by placing the chicken on a cutting board breast side down. Use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to remove the backbone by cutting along each side of the bone through the chicken and rib bones. Open the chicken up and score the breastbone deeply, but don’t cut all the way through the chicken. Turn the chicken over and push down on the breasts and wings to flatten the chicken, turning the legs towards the center of the chicken and flattening as much as possible. Tuck the wings under the breasts of the chicken.
  2. Rub the olive oil over both sides of the chicken. Combine the cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, garlic, salt and black pepper in a small bowl and rub the spice mixture into both sides of the chicken. Let the chicken rest for 30 minutes or refrigerate up to 3 hours.
  3. Combine the orange marmalade, rice wine vinegar, dark brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil and red chili flakes in a small saucepan.
  4. Pre-heat the grill to medium heat (or create an indirect heat cooking area of your charcoal grill by moving the coals to one side). Grill the chicken breast-side up for 20 minutes (over the medium heat area of your charcoal grill). Lower the heat slightly (or move the chicken to the low heat area of your charcoal grill) and turn chicken over and grill breast side down for 20 minutes. Check a couple times to make sure the skin is not getting too dark. If so, lower the heat again.
  5. Baste the chicken with some of the glaze. (This is where you have to pay attention to not letting the chicken get too dark.) Flip the chicken over to breast-side up and baste again. Grill on medium-low heat for 20 more minutes, or until the temperature reaches 165°F with an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken breast and thigh. Brush the top with glaze once again and flip the chicken over to crisp the skin for 5 minutes or so before removing it from the grill.

  6. Let the chicken rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving it into pieces and arranging on serving platter. Pour the rest of the glaze over the chicken before serving.
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Comments (3)Post a Reply

  1. This was the most amazing chicken I have ever had. As soon as I got the recipe I had to make it. It was just a coincidence that I had taken a whole chicken out of the freezer for supper this evening. I think the smoked paprika and cumin really stepped the flavor up. Fabulous recipe !! Thanks Meredith, keep them coming !!

  2. Orange glazed spatchcock
    Chicken. Will this recipe adapt to being cooked on my cooks essential air fryer

    1. Hi Adele, You could cook this in the air fryer as long as you cut the chicken so that it fits in the basket – or use pieces of chicken. I would rub the chicken pieces with the spice rub and then spritz with oil. Cook at 380ºF according to the times in the air fryer cooking chart depending on what you are cooking (breasts, thighs, legs, and how big). Then, glaze for the last 5 to 10 minutes.

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