Grilled Butterflied Lemon Chicken

11:43 AM

Move over hot dog. Here comes a new 4th of July staple.

Summer, so it feels, really only just began. The kids finally started day camp this week. We've already had two heat waves in the northeast. And I've already eaten many, many hot dogs and burgers. And it isn't even the 4th yet. Is it unpatriotic of me to just say "no" to hot dogs, burgers, and potato salad this Forth of July? Because I don't think my stomach (or waistline) could have another for a while.

So instead of the usual Independence Day fare (because we know our Forefathers chowed on dogs and sliders while drafting the declaration), we are going to grill some... wait for it... chicken. Gasp! All kidding aside, we found a fantastic recipe for butterflying and grilling a whole chicken. With some sharp kitchen shears and a little patience, it is probably the tastiest, juiciest chicken you will make this summer.

Butterflied Lemon Chicken
Adapted from Cook's Country Backyard Barbecue: 
The Absolute Best Recipes For all Your Summer Favorites


  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 (3.5-4 lb) whole chicken
  • 3 lemons
  • 1 tablepsoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, mashed to a paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil


1. Combine lemon zest, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a small bowl.

How to butterfly a chicken

2. Butterfly chicken: Start with the breast-side down, cut along both sides of the backbone, beginning at the tail end. You can freeze the backbone for making chicken stock later. Flip the chicken over and with the heel of your hand, flatten the breastbone by pushing down firmly until you hear a crack.

3. Loosen chicken skin covering breasts and thighs by sliding your fingers between skin and meat, then carefully rub zest mixture evenly under loosened skin.

Transfer chicken to rack set over a baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to 24 hours. 
4. (For a gas grill) Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot about 15 minutes. Leave the primary burner on high and turn off other burner(s).

5. Clean and oil grates. Place chicken, skin side down, on cooler part of grill, with legs closer to hotter side. Cover and cook until skin is well browned (45-55 minutes). Meanwhile, place lemon halves (cut side down) on hotter part of grill and cook until caramelized (5-8 minutes) and transfer to a bowl. 

6. Carefully slide chicken to hotter part of grill and cook for about 5 minutes longer (until deeply browned and breasts register 160-165 degrees and thighs register 175 degrees). Transfer chicken to carving board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. 

 7. While chicken cooks, squeeze about 3 tablespoons lemon juice into a bowl. Stir in parsley, mustard, garlic, sugar, and season with salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in oil until emulsified. 

Carved chicken chinese style - chop bone-in

8. Carve chickens and transfer to a platter. Pour vinaigrette over chicken and serve. You will see fireworks once you take a bite!

What are some favorite summer barbecue recipes? 

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