Butterflied Whole Chicken with Lemony-Herb Marinade

I usually never ever follow recipe to a "T", rather I prefer to use recipes as inspiration for great culinary leaps and bounds. Well, they might not really be "leaps and bounds", but for me they can be great jumps in new directions I hadn't thought of.

So, I recently came across a yummy, "Summer-y" marinade for a whole butterflied chicken on the grill and thought, this is a must try. There is nothing better than a simple bird grilled up that has been bathing in a fantastic blend of ingredients.

And that is what I set out to do.

I love, love everything with lemons in marinades because the citric acid tends to really tenderize the meat. And when it happens to be poultry you are marinating, it REALLY works. And butterflying a chicken is a really easy way to cook a whole bird on the grill. Either do it yourself, as I demonstrate below, or ask your butcher to do it for you.

So, here is a Summer chicken marinade you must have on your list of things to BBQ. If not the whole bird, at least use this for some BBQ'ed thighs, breasts, etc. It would also be great for indoor cooking during the "off-outdoor months". I promise, you will not be disappointed.

* 1 4-5 pound chicken, rinsed, and giblets removed
* juice of 2 lemons
* 1/4 C white wine
* 1/2 C olive oil (preferably extra virgin)
* about 1/2 C fresh oregano leaves, picked from stems
* about 1/3 C fresh thyme leaves, picked from stems
* 5 cloves garlic, peeled
* 3 shallots (or 1 medium onion), quartered
* salt and pepper

Oregano and Thyme (from the garden...)

To begin the marinade, I will reveal my secret to ultimately juicing lemons (or any other citrus fruit). Well, it really isn't a "secret", but most pals who see me do this usually say, "I never thought of that!"

Place the lemons in the microwave for about 15 seconds, or until warm to the touch. Placing them in the microwave loosens the pulp and makes it easier to get more juice from the lemon when you squeeze it.

Then, I slice the lemons in half and use my tongs to squeeze the lemons and release the juice:

If you only have a few lemons (or other citrus) to juice, this is the easiest way without having to use a juicer. Also, no worries about fishing out the seeds because it is all just a marinade!

Then, continue adding the rest of the ingredients: white wine, olive oil, oregano, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper.

Blend all together - mixture will be pretty loose.

Next, butterfly the bird. All this requires is some really sharp kitchen shears. All you have to do is cut the backbone out of the chicken. It may look daunting, but honestly, it is extremely easy, but, as I mentioned before, you can ask your butcher to do it for you.

Then, turn the bird over, skin and breast side up, and "crack" the breast bone by pushing down on the chicken to "flatten" it out. This all may seem a bit odd if you have never done it before, but you can't screw it up. Remember, this bird is just going to be thrown on the grill.

Either place the chicken in an oversized plastic bag or just put in a large baking dish and cover with marinade.

Cover and pop in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours, turning over if you like (I did). I marinated my bird for 24 hours - make sure not to marinate more than 24 because the acid from the lemons may negatively "break down" the proteins and make the chicken meat mushy.

And those 24 hours were so worth the wait.

Just the aroma alone of onions, garlic, and the fresh herbs as the chicken hit the BBQ grates was enough to send me salivating. I think we BBQed this amazing bird 15 minutes a side, but I would suggest just using a meat thermometer in the breast until it reaches 160-165F. Remove from grill and (in addition to patiently waiting) allow to rest for about 10 minutes. Then, DEVOUR.

Using what was on hand, I made a salad with my simple chive/lemon "vinaigrette" (lemon juice, chives, shallots, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper), pine nuts, goat cheese, and avocado. Also added to the plate was simply grilled onions and some toasted bread, plus the welcome addition of a bright lemony-caper sauce my dining partner had in his fridge which paired with the citrus and herb essence from the chicken.

All in all, I think this is a fantastic recipe for the Summer and Fall months for those who plan to be outside "manning" a BBQ or inside with a grill pan. Plus, butterflying the chicken is a small but dramatic change from just using cut up parts of the chicken, and it cooks up quicker as well.

Keeping it simple, delicious, and crowd pleasing is always a good thing, and this chicken does the trick. Oh, and of course the meal always tastes better with a crisp glass of Chardonnay. Cheers and Enjoy!


  1. Looks delicious and you made butterflying the chicken look easy...

  2. Thanks Marna! And yes butterflying the chicken is a lot easier than you think. Let me know if you try this recipe and how it turns out!

  3. I'm a lemon addict too... There isn't anything that doesn't taste better with a squirt of citurs...

  4. What kind of wine do you recomend