Grilled Butterflied Lemon Chicken
Why this recipe works:
To cook whole chickens on the grill, we butterfly our birds, which exposes more of the skin to the fire, and flatten them out for even cooking. Starting them over the cooler side of the grill lets the fat render and the skin dry out, and just a few minutes over the hotter fire crisps the skin.… read more
To cook whole chickens on the grill, we butterfly our birds, which exposes more of the skin to the fire, and flatten them out for even cooking. Starting them over the cooler side of the grill lets the fat render and the skin dry out, and just a few minutes over the hotter fire crisps the skin. To enhance the simple lemon zest, salt, and pepper seasoning, we grill lemons alongside the chickens to use in a flavorful sauce with garlic, parsley, mustard, and olive oil.less
1. Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet. Working with 1 chicken at a time, place chicken breast side down on cutting board. Using kitchen shears, cut through bones on either side of backbone; discard backbone. Trim chicken of excess fat and skin. Flip chicken over and press on breastbone to flatten. Cover chicken with plastic wrap and pound breasts with meat pounder to even thickness.
2. Grate 2 teaspoons zest from 1 lemon (halve and reserve lemon) and mix with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in bowl. Pat chickens dry with paper towels and, using your fingers or handle of wooden spoon, gently loosen skin covering breasts and thighs. Rub zest mixture under skin, then season exterior of chicken with salt and pepper. Tuck wingtips behind breasts and transfer chickens to prepared rack. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
3A. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent completely and place disposable pan on 1 side of grill with long side of pan facing center of grill. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over other half of grill (opposite disposable pan). Scatter 20 unlit coals on top of lit coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
3B. FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and turn other burner(s) to low. (Adjust primary burner as needed to maintain grill temperature of 350 to 375 degrees.)
4. Clean and oil cooking grate. Halve remaining 4 lemons and place, along with reserved lemon halves, cut side down on hotter side of grill. Place chickens skin side down on cooler side of grill, with legs pointing toward fire; cover, placing lid vent over chickens on charcoal grill.
5. Grill lemons until deep brown and caramelized, 5 to 8 minutes; transfer to bowl. Continue to grill chickens, covered, until breasts register 160 degrees and thighs register 175 degrees, 40 to 50 minutes longer. Slide chickens to hotter side of grill and cook, uncovered, until skin is well browned, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer chickens to carving board skin side up, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 15 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, squeeze 1/3 cup juice from grilled lemons into bowl. (Cut any unsqueezed lemons into wedges for serving.) Using flat side of knife, mash garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt into paste and add to bowl with lemon juice. Whisk in parsley, mustard, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Slowly whisk in oil until emulsified.
7. Carve chickens, transfer to serving platter, and pour 1/3 cup vinaigrette over chicken. Serve, passing remaining vinaigrette and grilled lemon wedges separately.