Tuscan-Style Grilled Spatchcock Chicken

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Tuscan-Style Grilled Spatchcock Chicken is the perfect grilled whole chicken recipe for summer! Spatchcock chicken (butterflied whole chicken) turns tender & flavorful after soaking in garlic & rosemary-infused buttermilk brine & finishing with a rub of Tuscan-inspired marinade made with loads of lemon, garlic, & aromatic herbs. Gently grill the chicken with indirect heat until totally juicy, then finish over direct heat to get a gloriously browned & charred exterior. Serve this Tuscan grilled chicken with a glass of wine & Italian-inspired sides for the best backyard Sunday supper with family & friends!

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A finished grilled spatchcock chicken rests atop a peach colored serving platter with fresh sprigs of rosemary and charred lemons surrounding the chicken. The platter sits atop a light gray and white linen table runner. Two glasses of wine, a white wine bottle, slices of fresh bread, a platter of grilled asparagus, and place settings surround the chicken at center.

A New Favorite Chicken Dinner, with an Italian Twist!

I’m thrilled to kick off the 2022 PWWB Annual Grilling Series with a delicious seasonal twist on a classic chicken dinner. Grilled spatchcock chicken is perfect for easy summertime entertaining or weekend grilling, & it’s a whole lot easier to make than you’d ever guess – I promise! Our tried & true grilling tips will help you make the perfect grilled chicken every time!

The flavors of this grilled spatchcock chicken recipe are inspired by Tuscany, one of central Italy’s more well-known regions. While wine & pasta probably come to mind first when you think of Tuscany, it’s also a famously meat-loving & grill-loving region. This particular recipe takes classic Italian ingredients like garlic, fresh rosemary, & olive oil, & adds them to the grill to create an epic Tuscan-style chicken dinner.

This Tuscan grilled chicken recipe consists of 4 simple steps: spatchcocking the chicken, brining it in buttermilk, rubbing it with a Tuscan-inspired marinade, & cooking it to perfection on the grill. While it might sound like a lot, each step is mostly hands-off & plays a key role in seasoning the chicken to ensure the meat is nice & tender. It’s the perfect way to kick off grilling season!

Tuscan Grilled Chicken Recipe Highlights

I have a feeling you’ll make this Tuscan grilled spatchcock chicken recipe all summer long. It’s…

  • JUICY & TENDER. A buttermilk brine infuses the chicken with extra moisture right from the start. From there, the 2-zone grilling method uses indirect heat to gently cook the chicken & preserve all of its juices. No bland or dry chicken here! 🙌🏼
  • PERFECTLY CHARRED. Grilled spatchcock chicken has the kind of deliciously charred & crispy chicken skin you can only achieve on a grill. It’s seriously the best!
  • SIMPLE & EASY. Tuscan grilled chicken requires a little bit of planning in advance but nearly ALL the prep time is completely inactive. Prep each component, open a bottle of wine, & let the grill do all the work. 🙌🏼

The best flavors of Tuscany, right in your backyard! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make Tuscan-Style Grilled Spatchcock Chicken, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!

Recipe Overview: 3 Essentials for a Tuscan-Inspired Grilled Chicken

There are 3 essential components of this Tuscan grilled chicken recipe (click for shortcuts within this post!):

  1. Whole spatchcock chicken – I’ve been in love with spatchcocking ever since it saved our first-ever Thanksgiving dinner back in 2014! Learning how to spatchcock a chicken is a game-changing skill that you’ll nail in no time, guaranteed!
  2. Buttermilk brine – Brining the chicken in buttermilk with garlic & fresh rosemary makes the meat extra tender & flavorful throughout.
  3. Grilled Tuscan chicken marinade – Rubbing a marinade of olive oil, lemon, garlic, fresh rosemary, dried oregano, & red pepper flakes all over the chicken creates another layer of amazing flavor with loads of delicious Tuscan flare!

How to Spatchcock a Chicken for the Grill

If you’ve been around PWWB for a while, then this probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard me hype up spatchcock chicken. Spatchcocking is one of my favorite ways to prepare poultry because it yields the absolute best results. It just so happens to be the secret to an absolutely perfect grilled whole chicken!

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

What is spatchcock chicken?

Spatchcocking is a simple technique for butchering poultry that removes the backbone of the bird, allowing it to lay completely flat as it grills. You may also know of a spatchcock chicken as a butterfly chicken – they are the same thing!

Why spatchcocking is the best way to prepare a chicken?

A flat chicken is amazing for grilling because it allows the chicken to cook WAY more evenly & in MUCH less time. This is especially important since grill temperatures are a little harsher & less consistent. No dry chicken…ever! 🙌🏼

How to spatchcock a chicken?

The key to a spatchcock chicken is to remove its backbone. Use sharp kitchen shears to cut out the backbone of the chicken, then stretch open the chicken cavity & apply pressure until it lies nice & flat.

Ready to get spatchcocking?

Check out our guide on How to Spatchcock a Chicken for complete details, including step-by-step photos!

The First Layer of Flavor: Buttermilk Brine

Soaking the spatchcock chicken in a buttermilk brine is an optional-yet-encouraged extra step. Trust me, it’s worth the effort! Be sure to plan ahead – your Tuscan grilled chicken will be extra amazing because of it.

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

What does it mean to brine a chicken? ⇢ Brining submerges the chicken in a salty liquid (aka brine) to season the meat throughout. Brining is also popular with other types of meat prone to drying – you’ve probably heard of it if you’ve ever prepared a Thanksgiving turkey!

What does brining chicken do? ⇢ Brining is a game-changer! Submerging the spatchcock chicken in the buttermilk brine injects a ton of flavor into the meat, just like a marinade. It also adds moisture which makes the chicken extra juicy & tender.

How to brine your Tuscan grilled chicken. ⇢ Brining your spatchcock chicken is super easy, but it does require some advanced planning. To brine the chicken, mix buttermilk, salt, smashed garlic, & fresh rosemary in a resealable bag, large bowl, or airtight container. Then add the spatchcock chicken. You can brine the chicken for up to 24 hours – the longer the better!

Quick Buttermilk Substitutes

Need buttermilk? While you can easily buy buttermilk at the grocery store, you can also make your own at home! Simply mix a few tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice into 2 scant cups of milk to create a similar creamy tanginess as the real deal. This kitchen hack is handy in a pinch or if you simply don’t need to use a whole container of buttermilk.

The Second Layer of Flavor: Tuscan Grilled Chicken Marinade

Once spatchcocked & brined, the last step of prepping the chicken is to rub it in a Tuscan chicken marinade. This Tuscan-inspired marinade is my go-to – it delivers a mega-flavorful punch despite using pretty simple & straightforward ingredients.

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

What you’ll need for this Tuscan marinade recipe. ⇢ This Tuscan-inspired marinade tastes light, bright, herbaceous, & garlicky thanks to a combination of olive oil, rosemary, oregano, garlic, & lemon. Since the ingredients list is so simple, it’s super important to use a good quality olive oil. The fruity-peppery flavor of a nice extra virgin olive oil makes a huge difference in the flavor of this marinade. This olive oil is our go-to.

How to marinate your grilled Tuscan chicken. ⇢ Remove the chicken from the buttermilk brine at least an hour before grilling & pat the bird as dry as possible. Then mix up the Tuscan marinade. Use your hands to massage the marinade on the chicken, working between the skin & the meat to season every bit. Don’t be shy – just go for it!

Suggested marinating time. ⇢ The spatchcock chicken can soak up the Tuscan marinade for up to 48 hours. The longer you let the chicken marinate, the better it’ll taste. If you’re in a rush, then 1 hour will also do the trick! (Note: Be sure to keep the chicken refrigerated if you’re marinating it for longer than 1 hour!)

How to Grill Spatchcock Chicken

The trickiest part of learning to grill a whole chicken is striking the perfect balance between juicy & crispy. The goal is to cook the chicken all the way through without drying it out & also create beautifully crispy chicken skin without burning it. It may seem like an impossible task, but it’s really a lot simpler than it seems!

The secret to a perfectly grilled whole chicken? The 2-Zone Method.

This grilled spatchcock chicken recipe uses 2-zone grilling, the secret to grilling up perfectly juicy and deliciously crispy chicken. Having 2 different heat zones allows you to cook the chicken in 2 phases. Start by cooking the chicken with gentle indirect heat before finishing over direct heat for plenty of delicious char. The grilling process is almost entirely inactive – perfect for backyard entertaining or lazy Sunday afternoons!

If you’ve never grilled with indirect heat before, don’t panic. It’s the simplest thing.

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

1

Light the grill with 2 zones of heat. Preheat your grill by creating one zone of direct high heat & a second zone of indirect heat (aka the 2-zone grilling method). If you have a gas grill, simply light half of its burners to the highest setting. If you have a charcoal grill, distribute the lit charcoal to one side of the grill. The half of the grill over the heat source is in the direct high heat zone, while the other half is in the indirect heat zone.

2

Grill the chicken with indirect heat. Start the chicken over the indirect heat zone so it can cook gently through as the hot air circulates. Place the chicken skin side facing up & close the lid to cook. Check the chicken every 15 minutes to rotate & promote even cooking. The goal is to get the internal temperature of the chicken up to 160 degrees F. This step can take as little as 30 minutes & as long as 1 hour depending on your grill & the size of your spatchcock chicken.

3

Finish the chicken over direct heat. Once the chicken is nearly cooked through, move it to the direct heat zone to give it crave-worthy char! Flip the chicken so the skin comes into contact with the grill grates & cook for a couple minutes, just until it’s as crispy as you like.

Still unsure about 2-zone grilling? Be sure to check out this post for more information!

Alternate Grilling Method: Tuscan Brick Grilled Chicken

While I was testing this recipe I also looked into a classic grilling method known as Tuscan brick grilling. The idea is to use a brick to press the chicken even flatter on the grill for the ultimate char. Since a spatchcock chicken lays nice & flat on its own & gets a great char with 2-zone grilling, I skip the added equipment. Feel free to give it a try if you’d like!

*More Grilling Tips & Tricks

Grilling doesn’t have to be complicated or intimidating, we’ll show you how!

We’ve created a completely FREE 5 Day Grilling Series dedicated to help you be your most confident self behind the grill this summer. We’ll guide you through Grilling 101 Tips & Tricks (& as a bonus, we’ll send you our BONUS 15 Grilling Marinades download right away!). Sign up now!

Let’s make this your best grilling season yet! 🙌🏼 🔥

Buon Appetito! Serving Your Tuscan Grilled Chicken…

Create a complete grilled spatchcock chicken dinner with a few fresh & flavorful sides that stick with the Tuscan-inspired theme. Here are some favorites that pair well with the Italian flavors of Tuscan grilled chicken:

I can’t wait for you to try this Tuscan-Style Grilled Spatchcock Chicken! It’s the perfect summer recipe, & I think you’ll love it just as much as we do. If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations!

Love a Grilled Chicken Dinner? We’ve got you covered! 🙌🏼 Be sure to try the Best-Ever Grilled BBQ Chicken, Best-Ever Grilled Chicken Wings, Grilled Bruschetta Chicken, or Quick & Easy Grilled Lemon Chicken next. ♡ Happy grilling!

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A finished grilled spatchcock chicken rests atop a peach colored serving platter with fresh sprigs of rosemary and charred lemons surrounding the chicken. The platter sits atop a light gray and white linen table runner. Two glasses of wine, and place settings surround the chicken at center.

Tuscan-Style Grilled Spatchcock Chicken

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Overnight Brine: 12 hours
  • Cook Time: 60 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4-6 1x
  • Category: Main Dishes, Chicken Recipes
  • Method: Grilling & Smoking
  • Cuisine: Tuscan, Italian, American
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

If there’s one thing you learn to grill this summer, make it grilled whole chicken. If you’re new to grilling, this may seem intimidating but trust me – it’s a lot simpler than it sounds. The grill does all the work!

There are 3 secrets to the perfect grilled whole chicken. You have to spatchcock it, soak it in a delicious brine or marinade (in this case, both!), & slowly cook it with 2-zone grilling.

This particular grilled spatchcocked chicken (butterflied chicken) is inspired by Tuscany, a region in central Italy famous for its grill-loving & meat-loving food culture. Soak the chicken in a garlic & rosemary-infused buttermilk brine to ensure the meat is super tender & seasoned all throughout, then rub it down with a Tuscan-inspired marinade made with plenty of rosemary, garlic, & bright lemon. 

The Tuscan grilled chicken cooks up perfectly thanks to 2-zone grilling. (Learn more here!) Simply let it cook gently & slowly with indirect heat until it’s just about cooked through, then finish it off over direct heat for crave-worthy char. Grilled spatchcock chicken cooks up perfectly every time – super tender & juicy throughout, with extra-delicious crispy skin. (For extra wow-factor, toss some lemons on the grill for serving!)

Tuscan grilled chicken is great for lazy summertime Sunday dinners & backyard entertaining alike. An easy, versatile, & always-satisfying grilled meal – the perfect way to kick off grilling season!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 (one) 4-5 pound whole chicken, spatchcocked
  • buttermilk brine (below)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 lemons, zested & juiced
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, destemmed & finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/21 teaspoon crushed red pepper flake (depending how spicy you like it)
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season

for the buttermilk brine:

  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Instructions

Chicken Prep: Spatchcocking is a poultry butchering technique in which the poultry’s spine is removed so the poultry lays completely flat during the cooking process, which facilitates faster & more even cooking. It’s the best way to grill whole chicken! While you can ask your butcher to spatchcock the chicken for you, it’s also very simple to do at home with a pair of sharp kitchen shears. I like to spatchcock chicken a day before I plan on grilling it, leaving the chicken to soak a buttermilk brine, which results in seriously juicy & flavorful grilled whole chicken. Here’s what you’ll do:

  1. Spatchcock the chicken: Use paper towel to pat chicken very dry. Place breast-side down on a large plastic cutting board. Using very sharp kitchen shears, carefully snip along each side of the backbone, until completely detached. With breast side of the chicken still facing down, use your hands to gently stretch open the rib cavity of the chicken. Place the heel of your knife at the center of the wishbone. Tap the spine of the knife with a rolling pin, until the wishbone snaps and the breastplate cracks. Flip the chicken so it lays flat, breast side facing up – you just spatchcocked a chicken! For grilled whole chicken, be sure to tuck the wing tips behind the breasts, as pictured, to ensure they don’t burn as the chicken cooks. For step-by-step photos & more tips & tricks, be sure to check out PWWB’s How to Spatchcock a Chicken tutorial post.Tuscan grilled chicken ingredients arranged on a creamy white textured surface: whole chicken, olive oil, lemons, garlic, fresh rosemary, dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, buttermilk, kosher salt, and ground black pepper. 
  2. Optional: Brine the chicken: Pour the buttermilk & salt in a large bowl, airtight container, or resealable bag. Whisk or mix to combine. Add in the smashed garlic & rosemary, if using. Add the spatchcocked chicken to the buttermilk mixture, submerging the chicken as much as possible. Cover or seal, then transfer to the refrigerator to brine for up to 24 hours.A whole chicken is submerged in a shallow serving dish filled with buttermilk, salt, garlic, and rosemary for brining. The dish rests atop a creamy white textured surface with two whole bulbs of garlic, a few loose garlic cloves, a small wooden pinch bowl filled with flaky salt, and a few loose sprigs of fresh rosemary surrounding.

Tuscan-Style Grilled Spatchcock Chicken:

  1. Mix the Tuscan marinade: Add the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, oregano, & red pepper flake to a small bowl or jar. Stir to combine and set aside, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  2. Marinate the chicken: At least 60 minutes before grilling, take the chicken out of the refrigerator & remove from the brine. Use paper towel to pat the chicken as dry as possible. Place the chicken breast-side up on a large plate or baking sheet. Massage the Tuscan marinade all over the chicken, using your hands to work the marinade between the skin & meat. Season the surface of the chicken liberally with kosher salt & ground black pepper. Set aside to marinate. If marinating longer than 1 hour, be sure to cover the chicken & set it in the refrigerator. The chicken can soak up the Tuscan marinade for up to 48 hours. How to make grilled spatchcock chicken, step 2: marinate the chicken. A whole chicken rests atop a small gold baking dish. The chicken has been spatchcocked to lay flat & is arranged breast-side up on the baking sheet. A Tuscan marinade has been rubbed all over the chicken to be prepped for grilling. The baking sheet sits atop a creamy white textured surface with a bulb of garlic with loose garlic cloves, a discarded half of a zested & juice lemon, a few loose sprigs of fresh rosemary, a small wooden pinch bowl filled with flaky salt, and a small ceramic pinch bowl filled with ground black pepper surround the marinated chicken at center.
  3. Preheat the grill: Prepare your grill for indirect cooking, creating a zone of direct high heat & a second zone of indirect heat. If using a gas grill, begin preheating at least 15 minutes before grilling. If using charcoal, light the charcoal at least 30 minutes prior to grilling. (To learn more about zone grilling, be sure to check out this post.)A woman's hand shown above an open Weber Genesis II, prepared for indirect heat grilling with one side of burners all the way open and the other side shut.
  4. Grill the Tuscan-style spatchcock chicken: Place the chicken on the indirect heat side of the grill, breast side up, as close to the fire as possible without being over the direct heat. Close the grill lid. Cook the chicken, stopping to rotate it 180 degrees every 15 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast (without hitting the bone) registers a temperature of 160 degrees F. Depending on the size of your chicken & the temperature of your grill, this could take as little as 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.
  5. Finish the chicken over direct heat for charred & crispy skin: Move the chicken over direct heat, carefully flipping it such that its skin side is down & comes in direct contact with the grill grates. Cook 2-3 minutes longer, until the chicken skin is crispy & charred as desired.How to grill whole chicken, Step 7: Spatchcocked/butterflied chicken on grill grates, grilling in a direct heat zone of Weber Genesis II grill.
  6. Rest the grilled spatchcock chicken: Remove the Tuscan-style chicken from the grill. Transfer to a large plate & set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes. Carryover heat will cause the internal temperature to continue to rise as it rests. The chicken is be ready to serve once an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken (without hitting the bone) registers a temperature of 165 degrees F.A finished tuscan grilled chicken rests atop a peach colored serving platter with fresh sprigs of rosemary and charred lemons surrounding the chicken. The platter sits atop a light gray linen table cloth.
  7. Serve: Carve the chicken as desired & serve immediately, along with whatever summery sides you love most – grilled veggies, a simple green salad, summery pasta salad, potato salad, etc. Enjoy!A finished and grilled spatchcock chicken rests atop a peach colored serving platter with fresh sprigs of rosemary and charred lemons surrounding the chicken. The platter sits atop a light gray and white linen table runner. Two glasses of wine, a white wine bottle, slices of fresh bread, and place settings surround the chicken at center.


Notes

  • Buttermilk brine: Brining the chicken in buttermilk not only helps tenderize the chicken, it also ensures the chicken is super flavorful + well-seasoned throughout & stays really moist & juicy once cooked. Whenever the chicken is going to be the star of a meal, I always like to take the extra time to brine it. It makes an especially big difference when you cook the chicken whole, like grilled spatchcock chicken. A few things to consider: 
    • Homemade buttermilk: If you do not have buttermilk on hand, you can make a quick substitute for this buttermilk brine by adding 2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice to 2 scant cups of milk. Stir to combine & let the mixture sit for a minute to thicken slightly.
    • Brining liquid alternative: If you don’t want to use buttermilk to brine the chicken, beer is an awesome substitute. Beer brined chicken is simply the best! Even if you don’t love the flavor of beer or you’re not typically a beer drinker, a beer brine adds rich, earthy flavor to chicken that’s pretty hard to beat. For the best flavor, use a big, hoppy beer such as an IPA.
  • Storage & Reheating: Leftover Tuscan grilled chicken will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave until warmed through. Once you’ve enjoyed all of the chicken, sure to hang on to the grilled chicken carcass to make homemade chicken stock or broth!
  • 25-Minute Meal Prep: While grilled spatchcock chicken makes for a great kitchen project over the weekend, there are a couple of things you can prep ahead of time to eliminate almost all active prep at dinnertime:
    • Spatchcock the chicken & brine in buttermilk according to Chicken Prep Steps 1-2, above, up to 3 days ahead of time. Store, covered in a large airtight container, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. (15 minutes active prep)
    • Prepare the Tuscan marinade according to Step 1 of Recipe Directions, above. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (10 minutes active prep)

Keywords: whole grilled chicken, lemon herb grilled chicken recipe, grilled spatchcock chicken

Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by KJ & Company, Kate Poskochil

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, Facebook, & Pinterest for more easy, modern recipes & fun!

Ready to Hit the Grill?

If this all still feels new to you, I encourage you to head over to Grilling 101, a compilation of tips & tricks for all of the grilling basics – everything from how to light your grill to how to clean your grill.

All this talk about grilling have you feelin’ ready to hit the grill? Me too! Be sure to check out this post for my 15 go-to marinades you need this grilling season. At our house, a good marinade is at the heart of grilling season. I’m positive these marinades will be on repeat at your house this summer! For even more grilled goodness, be sure to check out all of our Grilling & Smoking recipes.

& lastly! Be sure to give @playswellwithbutter a follow on Instagram – I’ll be teaching you how to grill up some goodness all summer long, & we have so much fun on Instagram!

Want more grilling tips & recipes?

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Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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Jess of Plays Well With Butter stands on a deck behind a stainless steel Weber Genesis II propane grill. In the background, a blossoming tree & a house with beige siding.