How to Cook a Spatchcock Chicken on a Traeger - One Cut at a Time

August 30, 2022

I learned how to spatchcock a chicken in culinary school and have been doing it ever since when grilling or smoking a bird. This helps the meat to cook more evenly and allows the smoke to permeate throughout.

In this post, I am going to show you how to cook a spatchcock chicken on a Traeger grill - I am providing a recipe for grilled and smoked spatchcock chicken. Let's begin!

How to Cook a Spatchcock Chicken on a Traeger

How to Spatchcock Chicken?

First things first, you need to know how to spatchcock a chicken. Here is your guide to doing this:

You will require a whole chicken for this process as well as a pair of poultry shears or kitchen scissors.

  1. Start by removing the neck and the gizzard from the whole chicken. Pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Place the chicken on a cutting board, with the bird breast side down.
  3. Find the back bone of the chicken. Then, using your kitchen scissors cut along the right side of the backbone. Do this from tail to neck, moving through the length of the chicken.
  4. Repeat this action for the left side of the backbone.
  5. Pull out the back bone and set aside. Spread the legs apart and flip the chicken over.
  6. Place one hand on the chicken breast and the other one on top of the first hand. Then, push down firmly until you hear the breast bone crack.
  7. As wing tips are quite thin they can burn easily. To avoid this you can either cut them off or tuck them behind the breasts.

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Smoking vs. Grilling Spatchcock Chicken on a Traeger Grill

As you continue to read through this post, you will find that I have included recipes for both smoked spatchcock chicken as well as grilled spatchcock chicken. You are probably aware that the Traeger pellet grill can easily be turned into a Traeger smoker.

Now, what is the difference between these two recipes?

Well, with smoked spatchcock chicken, the bird is cooked at a lower temperature over a longer period of time. As the name suggests, more smoke is produced during this process creating a great smoke flavor.

Grilling the whole chicken, on the other hand, involves cooking the meat at a much higher temperature. Not only does it cook faster but the resulting dish is crispier and doesn't have as much of a smoke flavor.

Should You Brine Chicken Before Smoking?

Brining is the key to moist chicken - it also enhances the flavor of the breast meat. I would suggest using the dry method rather than the wet, however. This is a fuss-free option that ensures you don't take up too much space in your refrigerator.

To dry brine your chicken, take a pinch of kosher salt between three fingers and raise your hand until it is about 8 inches above the chicken. Then sprinkle the salt, ensuring to get it into every nook and cranny. Repeat this action until the whole chicken is brined.

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Traeger Smoked Spatchcock Chicken Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 spatchcocked chicken
  • 4 tbs. of olive oil
Juiciest Grilled Whole Chicken

Dry Rub

  • 3 tsp. of kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. of brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. of paprika
  • 1.5 tsp. of black pepper
  • 1 tsp. of onion powder
  • 1 tsp. of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. of dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. of cayenne pepper

Method

Step 1

Preheat the pellet grill to 225 degrees F.

Step 2

In a small bowl, combine the ingredients of the rub.

Liberally rub the olive oil over your spatchcock chicken. Then, sprinkle the rub over the whole chicken and press into the skin.

Step 3

Place the whole chicken in the grill and smoke until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. This should take about 3 to 4 hours.

Take it off the heat and let the smoked chicken rest for up to 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

Traeger Grilled Spatchcock Chicken Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 spatchcock chicken
  • 4 tbs. of oil or melted butter

Dry Rub

  • 2 tbs. of brown sugar
  • 2 tbs. of paprika
  • 3/4 tsp. of black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. of kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp. of garlic powder
  • 3/4 tsp. of onion powder
  • 3/4 tsp. of chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper

Method

Step 1

Preheat the Traeger grill to 450 degrees F.

Step 2

Combine the ingredients of the dry rub in a small bowl and set aside.

Apply the oil onto the entire chicken and then sprinkle the rub on top and press into the skin.

Step 3

Place the chicken skin side up on the grill and cook on high heat for 30 minutes.

Turn the temperature down to 325 degrees F and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. This may take another 15 minutes or so.

Take off the heat and let the spatchcock chicken rest for up to 20 minutes.

Whole Chicken on Grill

Setting Up Your Traeger Grill Temperature

When preparing smoked spatchcock chicken, I prefer to work on a lower temperature. However, I know that there are some that smoke the meat at 300 degrees F or even higher.

Personally, though, I feel like it is best to stick to between 225 and 275 degrees. This is because smoked spatchcock chicken has the tendency to dry out rather easily. Yes, it does take longer but you are rewarded with evenly cooked, perfectly moist meat.

For BBQ chicken, you can crank the heat up a little higher. However, make sure to turn it down at the right point. Also, monitor the internal temperature carefully throughout to ensure that you don't overcook the bird.

Choosing Your Wood Pellets

Always choose something on the milder side for this kind of smoked meat. Your best option is applewood, although cherry can be an interesting choice. If you don't want any additional flavors interrupting the meat flavor, then opt for oak.

The Chicken Rub

I have found several recipes for smoked spatchcock chicken and the grilled version too that use the Traeger chicken rub. I have to say that I was pretty impressed by it - it has some nice citrus notes to it.

Of course, the Traeger chicken rub is a bit pricey, though. It is a lot cheaper for you to buy and combine the dried herbs and spices, particularly if you like to smoke and grill a lot. I also prefer fresh rubs as you can alter them in any way that you like and they simply taste better.

How to Avoid Rubbery Chicken Skin?

One thing that I do find a lot of people complaining about when making smoked spatchcock chicken is the rubbery skin. This happens because the meat is cooked at a lower temperature, over a longer period of time.

To avoid this, I would suggest using paper towels to dry off the skin. Then, place it in the refrigerator, uncovered, for several hours. This dries off the skin further, allowing it to get crispy when smoked.

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Hand brushing roasted chicken

Checking the Internal Temperature

As I mentioned, chicken has a tendency to get dry rather easily. This is why it is so important to track the internal temp using a meat thermometer. You should do this regardless of whether you are smoking or grilling the bird but it is particularly key when grilling at a higher temp.

Paying attention to the internal temp is also the only way to know that your chicken has cooked to perfection. You should be aware that due to carryover cooking that the temp can get up to 10 degrees higher after it is removed from the heat.

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BBQ Sauce - Yay or Nay?

Smoking and grilling chicken is so quintessentially barbecue that many people are surprised that I don't add any sauce to my grilled or smoked chicken.

While you are certainly free to add your favorite BBQ sauce, I am not a fan of doing so for these kinds of recipes. This is simply because the rub and the smoking and grilling process add so much of flavor that I would hate to take away from it with the sauce.

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Wrapping It Up

Now, how about that! Not only do you know how to spatchcock chicken, you have a step-by-step guide to grilling and smoking this bird too. All that is left for you to do is to test out this method and once you see how it makes cooking whole chickens much easier you will never go back to your old ways!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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