Greek-Style Butterflied Chicken

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Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6

This method of grilling a whole chicken is foolproof. It’s 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.


For the Greek marinade:

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 chicken, 3 to 4 lb., neck and giblets removed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


To make the Greek marinade, in a bowl, stir together the lemon juice, garlic, parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme and basil, then whisk in the olive oil. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day before using.

Place the chicken, breast side down, on a cutting board. Using kitchen shears or a large knife, cut along one side of the backbone from the tail to the neck. Pull open the bird, then cut down the other side of the backbone to free it. (Discard the backbone or save it for stock.) Turn the chicken, breast side up, and open it as flat as possible, like a book. Press down firmly on the breast to break the breastbone—you will hear popping noises—and flatten the bird.

Season the chicken generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a large sealable plastic bag in which it lies flat and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag, squish the marinade around the chicken and refrigerate the bag flat for at least 24 hours, or 48 hours is better. Turn the bag over several times while the chicken is marinating.

About 30 minutes before you are ready to begin grilling, remove the chicken from the refrigerator. Discard the marinade and pat the chicken dry with paper towels.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling over medium heat; the temperature inside the grill should be 350º to 375ºF. 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. Brush and oil the grill grate.

Place the chicken, skin side down, over the direct-heat area of the grill and cook for 12 to 15 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh, away from bone registers, 170ºF, or the juices run clear when a thigh joint is pierced with a knife tip, about 15 minutes more. If the chicken begins to burn, move it to the indirect-heat area of the grill and add a few minutes more to the cooking time.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut into serving pieces and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Grill Master, by Fred Thompson (Weldon Owen, 2011).

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