A great way to have a barbecue feast on a budget is to cook a whole chicken on your Traeger grill. The easiest way I have found to tackle a whole bird is to spatchcock it which results in more even cooking and a nicer presentation.
I pulled up the Traeger app and followed their instructions for a spatchcock chicken including with of their rubs and sauces to use and I was not disappointed!
While the chicken turned out amazing there is at least one thing that I will change the next time I try this recipe.
Prepare the Chicken for the Traeger
Getting the chicken ready for the grill is pretty simple and only requires two steps:
- Spatchcocking the Bird
- Seasoning with a Dry Rub
I was glad to see that this recipe did not call for an overnight brine or injecting the chicken. I was really in the mood for something simple and this recipe delivered!
Spatchcock the Chicken
Use a pair of kitchen shears and cut the backbone out of the chicken. This is much easier to do than it sounds as the backbone does a pretty nice job of guiding the shears in a straight line.
Simply cut down one side of the backbone and then the other.
Once the backbone has been removed, flip the chicken over so the breast side is up. Use your hand to press down on the breast and flatten the bird.
Season the Spatchcock Chicken with Traeger’s Chicken Rub
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.
Rub both sides of the bird with olive oil and then liberally coat with Traeger’s Citrus Black Pepper Chicken Rub. If you don’t have this rub on hand then here is the ingredient list so you can whip up a batch of something similar:
Traeger Chicken Rub Ingredients
- Cane Sugar
- “Spices (Including Black Pepper)”
- Orange Peel
- Lemon Peel
- Citric Acid
- Chili Pepper
- Sunflower Oil
This rub has a strong orange flavor followed by a twang of citric acid. After the citrus plays out you get a little salty sweet and a spicy heat note that lingers for a while.
The rub was pretty clumpy so it was tricky to work with but take your time and it will turn out fine.
Choosing Wood Pellets
I was burning Traeger Signature Blend pellets that I got the other day at Home Depot. These pellets are a blend of cherry, hickory and other hardwoods.
I bought these pellets because I had a Home Depot gift card and wanted to see if they were really the exact same as the the “Gourmet” pellets that are sold at Costco for half the cost (I think they are).
Set Your Traeger to 375F for Grilling
Start your grill and set the temperature to 375F. Let the grill pre-heat at 375F for at least 15 minutes.
Place the chicken breast side UP on the grate. The chicken is cooked breast side up for the entire cook which helps the legs and thighs cook to a higher temperature than the breast as they are closer to the heat the whole time.
You want to cook the chicken until the breast meat reaches an internal temperature of 160F. How long this will take depends upon how big of a bird you are cooking.
I was cooking a four pound chicken and it took an hour for the breast to reach 160F.
When the chicken is almost done cooking, around the 45 minute mark, brush the top of the bird with Traeger’s Sweet & Heat barbecue sauce.
Once the breast reaches 160F remove the chicken from the grill and let it rest on a platter for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Slice and Serve the Spatchcock Chicken
I cut the bird into
- 2 leg quarters
- 2 wings
- Breast slices
I think this makes for a wonderful presentation and lets everyone easily grab their favorite parts.
How Did the Traeger Whole Chicken Turn Out?
I was surprised by how well this chicken turned out. The Traeger chicken rub has a massive citrus flavor profile that I thought would overwhelm the chicken but it mellowed while cooking and paired amazingly well with the Sweet & Heat barbecue sauce.
The color of the bird was beautiful and the breast meat was extremely juicy even without using a brine or injection.
The skin had an acceptable texture and while it certainly wasn’t rubbery it wasn’t crisp either.
The leg quarters were hot and juicy but were a little tough. The toughness came from the fact that when the breast reached 160F the quarters were at 175F. I like to take chicken leg quarters to about 185F to get the to “fall apart tender” when I cook them by themselves but this is one of the tradeoffs you make when you cook a whole bird.
My only complaint was that the chicken did not have much smoke flavor.
I checked the “Community” section within the recipe and the top member suggestion addressed the smoke flavor by cooking the chicken in SuperSmoke mode for an hour and then cranking the grill to 500F to finish cooking.
I think the next time I make this recipe I will keep the time and temperature the same but will add a smoke tube of smoldering pellets to the cooking grate to get more smoke flavor.
Traeger Spatchcock Chicken
- 1 Whole Chicken
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 3 tbsp Traeger Citrus and Black Pepper Chicken Rub
- 3 tbsp Traeger Sweet & Heat barbecue sauce
- Use a pair of kitchen shears to remove the backbone from the chicken.
- Turn the chicken breast side up and press down on the breast to flatten the bird.
- Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.
- Rub both sides of the chicken with olive oil.
- Season the chicken on both sides with the Citrus and Black Pepper Chicken Dry Rub.
- Set your pellet grill to 375F.
- Place the chicken on the grill breast side up.
- Grill the chicken for 45 minutes.
- Baste the skin side of the chicken with Sweet Heat Barbecue sauce.
- Grill for another 15 minutes or until the breast meat reaches an internal temperature of 160F.
- Remove the chicken from the grill, rest for 5 minutes and then slice and serve.