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Butterflied "Spatchcocked" Chile-Lime Rubbed Chicken

Posted by Mary M. on June 25, 2013


Some of you probably read that and thought, "Spa-what?". Spatchcocked is a cool way of saying what is now more commonly known as "butterflied" chicken. In a matter of minutes you remove the backbone so that the bird lies flat on the grill, allowing the whole chicken to cook quicker and make for a pretty sweet presentation too.

This method of cooking the whole bird is particularly popular in Southern California, where patrons happily gobble up chile-lime butterflied chicken. We put a juicy Traeger spin on this spicy recipe for butterflied chicken. The rub is exploding with South American flavors and spices that would also be a great addition to the Chicken Challenge.


PREP TIME: 10 minutes plus 12 to 24 hours marinating
COOK TIME: 40 to 50 minutes
SERVES: 4 to 6
RECOMMENDED PELLETS: Hickory, Mesquite or Oak

3 tablespoons chile powder, preferably New Mexico chile, or Hungarian paprika
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1 3 1/2-to 4-pound chicken
Cilantro, lime juice or salsa for serving (optional)

Let's start by butterflying the chicken. Put the whole chicken on the cutting board so that it is breast-side down.

Using sturdy kitchen shears, cut down one side of the backbone (through the ribs).

Make an identical cut on the opposite side to remove the backbone completely; discard (or reserve it for stock).

Combine chile powder (or paprika) and oil in a small bowl with lime zest and juice, garlic, coriander, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper and cinnamon to form a wet paste. Place the chicken cut-side down and flatten with the heel of your hand to break the breastbone. (If you want the bird to lie completely flat, you can also remove the keel bone but it isn't mandatory.)


Generously smear the spice rub under and over the skin and on the interior of the bird. Place in a nonreactive baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.

When ready to cook start the Traeger on Smoke with the lid open until fire is established (4 to 5 minutes). Preheat grill to 400 degrees F with the lid closed for 10 to 15 minutes.

Place the butterflied chicken breastbone-side down on the grill grate and cook for 40 to 50 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part  without touching bone registers 165°F.


Transfer to a platter and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving. Garnish with some cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.




6/29/2013 10:57:08 AM #

Will be trying this very soon! Have seen this done with foil-wrapped bricks on it to keep it flatter but don't think I want to block any surface space which can receive the smoke.

WyoRose United States

6/29/2013 10:58:03 AM #

Excellent instructions & demo with photos, by the way!

WyoRose United States

6/29/2013 12:50:10 PM #

Whole chickens can be a pretty good deal when shopping and I really don't like cutting up whole chickens into pieces but do it like this opens up all kinds of choices for rubs, marinades etc... My favorite is the Morton Sugar Cure rubbed on the chicken and then baste it with butter when cooking, that would work great with a 'Spatchcocked' cut chicken.  

terryk United States

6/30/2013 9:29:26 AM #

Making 2 of these today, along with 1 chicken with another tyoe of rub.  Love how easy it is to butterfly.  Great pictures to show how to do this.  (I'm a better visual learner)  

ascb United States

6/30/2013 2:09:21 PM #

I am wondering (looks like breast bone is up in photos)if it is the cut side that is down on the grill-not breastbone side down as indicated in recipe?

golfercbw United States

7/2/2013 6:38:19 PM #

Bird is spatched, rubbed and in the frig ready to go tomorrow to the Traeg - can't wait!

Hershy United States

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