Spatchcock Smoked Chicken with Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce

July 4, 2017

A Spatchcock Smoked Chicken is my favorite way to get maximum favor from my smoker while also achieving a perfectly and evenly cooked whole chicken. The Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce is just the magical icing on an already delicious cake. However, if you want to use a different sauce or skip the sauce entirely that is completely doable!

Spatchcock Smoked Chicken

To make a spatchcock smoked chicken, you need three things. A grill or smoker set up for indirect heat with a light flavored wood smoke (I like using cherry, apple, or maple wood for this chicken), a chicken, and some super sharp kitchen shears. Your smoker is going to provide the low and slow heat and flavorful wood smoke that you need to create a gorgeous chicken that just melts in your mouth. The sharp kitchen shears are there to cut out that pesky backbone that keep your chicken from laying flat on the grill and cooking evenly.

Spatchcock Smoked Chicken

If you have never spatchcocked a chicken before, never fear! It’s super simple (and definitely easier than spatchcocking a turkey). Make sure you have quality, sharp kitchen shears. If you don’t, you may be able to muscle your way through the bones, but the skin will prove challenging. Simply flip the bird onto it’s breast with the bottom cavity facing toward you on a large cutting board. Use your shears to cut a straight line up the right side of the backbone, from the tail end to the neck. You may have to double hand the scissors when you are cutting through a couple of parts, but if your shears are sharp you can do it, no problem! Then repeat on the other side, tail to neck up the backbone. Discard the backbone (or better yet, save for stock!!) and flip the chicken back over. Separate the back and press the breast down until the chicken is laying nice and flat on your cutting board. Tuck the tips of the wings behind the shoulder so they don’t burn and turn out the legs so they are even. You did it!!

Our next step to the perfect spatchcock smoked chicken is the seasoning. I like to rub my birds down with a little olive oil to help the seasoning stick and then layer on my famous Sweet Rub. I think it’s the perfect complement to smoked chicken, however you can use whatever BBQ seasoning you like. I do recommend something with a little brown sugar in it, because that helps develop a nice color on the chicken as it smokes.

Spatchcock Smoked Chicken with Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce

You can’t have a spatchcock smoked chicken without the smoker, so get that bird on and let it roll. My 3-4 pound chicken took almost 5 hours at 225 degrees F, so be prepared to spend some time waiting. Like all good BBQ though, low and slow is the way and you learn to enjoy waiting. If you haven’t yet, invest in a good internal thermometer (I like my Thermoworks MK4 for quick readings) so you can keep an eye on the temperature. It’s always better to cook your meats to temperature instead of time. The beauty of a spatchcock smoked chicken is the even cooking you’re going to get from removing that backbone. Often, when the birds were kept whole and roasted, the breasts had a tendency to dry out but not with a spatchcocked smoked chicken! The whole thing will cook evenly and be the juiciest, most melt in your mouth chicken you’ve ever had!

Spatchcock smoked chicken

Once your chicken is cooked to the right internal temperature, it’s time to hit it with the Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce! I make this stuff weekly, because my kids just can’t seem to get enough. To be honest, neither can I. We put it on everything from chickens to pulled pork to ribs and it complements all of them. I wrote out the full recipe in a separate post, so you can grab that and print it out HERE. If that sauce isn’t calling to you, feel free to substitute with another sauce of your choice. Either way, I hope you love your Spatchcock Smoked Chicken!


spatchcock smoked chicken with cherry chipotle bbq sauce

Spatchcock Smoked Chicken with Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce

5 from 5 votes
Prep Time : 15 mins
Cook Time : 4 hrs
Total Time : 4 hrs 15 mins
Servings : 3 people


  • 1 3-4 pound whole fryer chicken
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Homemade Sweet BBQ Rub (Link in recipe notes)
  • 1/2 cup Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce (Link in recipe notes)


  • Place your chicken breast side down on a large cutting board. Using sharp kitchen shears, cut up both sides of the back bone, from tail to neck. Remove the backbone completely and turn the chicken over to the breast side. Carefully spread apart the back and press down gently on the breast until the bird lays nice and flat on your cutting board. Tuck the wing tips behind the back and adjust the legs until they are fairly symmetrical.
  • Pat down your chicken with a paper towel and then drizzle with the olive oil. Rub all across the skin. Season your chicken all over with the sweet rub (even the back side!)
  • Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F for indirect cooking with a light wood smoke. Place your chicken on the smoker and cook for 4-5 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F in both the breast and thigh meat.
  • Brush the chicken with the Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce (or sauce of your choice) and cook for an additional 25-30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving,
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21 thoughts on “Spatchcock Smoked Chicken with Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce

  1. Is the skin of the chicken rubbery? When ever I smoke chicken the skin is rubbery and often discarded. Is the only what to crisp it up is to throw it on the grill for a few minutes?

    1. Hey Brad! Smoked chicken skin can definitely get rubbery. I think this version worked out well because of the sauce at the end, it seemed to tenderize the skin. However, if you want crispy skin I would definitely recommend increasing the temperature on your grill and roasting the chicken for the last little bit. Be careful if you add the sauce before this part because it could burn with all the sugars in it.

  2. I’m sure the Thermowerks MK4 is real nice and all, but you really should get your hands on a FireBoard.

    Thanks for the recipes and advice – it has been very helpful to this Traeger noob!

  3. Chicken is on the smoker now. My first time making this recipe. But I will say this. I made the sauce last night and tried a little bit. That stuff is legit! I can see why you make it regularly. I put a little more chipotle than it called for but I live in a house full of spice heads. So we like it a little hotter. Gave this 5 stars based on the sauce alone.

    Looking forward to trying this chicken later today.

    Happy 4th

  4. 225F for 5 hours will give you the perfect juicy result.
    Last 30 minutes after brushing the sauce needs temperature increase to 300F and rest for 30 minutes.

  5. Am I doing something wrong? When I cooked this it was to proper temp in 2.5 – 3 hours. I’m cooking at 225 F and it’s a 4 lb whole chicken

    1. I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. Every piece of meat is different and will cook at different times. One thing I suggest you verify is that your smoker is actually at 225F.

  6. Would it make sense to rub baking powder on the skin before the rub for crispier skin like I do for wings?

  7. Thanks for all the tips on this. My first time doing a Spatchcock chicken…and my first chicken on the pellet smoker. Cant wait to try it for dinner tonight!

  8. THE BEST CHICKEN EVER!!! Wow! Thanks for the receipt and guidance on perfecting a great meal. All instruction very helpful. Key note, Temperature of chic. I have a couple good thermometers and recommend following guidelines on check the temp occasionally. Had most the ingredients except the cherries so I used black berries and raspberries. Spatchcock was the way to go! Thanks for changing my game! Turned out AWESOME!
    wish I could post photo.

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