By Christie Vanover | Published November 8, 2022 | Last Updated February 22, 2023
What Is Whole Chicken
Whole chickens come in various sizes and may be referred to as a roaster, a broiler or fryer chicken, a Cornish hen or a poussin.
Roaster and broiler or fryer chickens are usually anywhere between 4-7 pounds. That’s the type of chicken that’s used for this recipe. Cornish game hens and Poussins are much smaller and are usually only found in the freezer section.
The advantage of buying and grilling a whole chicken is that the price per pound is less because you’re not paying a butcher to piece it out. Plus, the bones and chicken skin add more flavor to the meat as it is cooking.
Whole chickens usually come with giblets inside the cavity. Giblets can include organ meats like the gizzard, heart and liver. Sometimes, they’re in a bag inside between the legs and sometimes they’re loose inside. You many also find a chicken neck inside.
These should all be removed before grilling. They can be cooked down for making gravy or broth, or you can discard them.
Substitutions: In place of butter, you can also use olive oil or any other vegetable oil. You can also season simply with kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Lemon pepper also tastes great on chicken.
Setup your grill with indirect heat
You can cook this recipe on a gas grill, charcoal grill or pellet grill. The key is to cook the whole chicken over indirect heat, so you don’t burn the skin. Set your grill up with a temperature of 375-400F degrees with an indirect heat zone.
Gas Grill: If you’re using a gas grill, leave one burner off and turn at least one burner on. Adjust the burner temperature, until the grill temperature gauge registers between 375-400F degrees. You’ll cook the chicken over the grill grate that has the burner turned off.
If you want to add smoke flavor, fill a smoke box with wood chips and add it to the hotter side of the grill.
Charcoal Grill: If you’re using a kettle-style charcoal grill, push the hot coals to one side. Place the grill grate over the coals and cook the chicken over the side where there are no coals. If you’re using a drum smoker or ceramic cooker, use the diffuser to block the direct heat.
Pellet Grill: Pellet grills are automatically setup with an indirect heat zone, because they have a metal diffuser plate that rests over the fire pot. Simply, turn the grill to 375F degrees and let it heat up. Then, you can place the chicken anywhere on the grill.
How to cook a whole chicken on a grill
- STEP ONE: Remove the chicken from the packaging. Reach inside the cavity and remove and discard the neck and any organs that may be stuffed inside. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Take a stick of softened butter and smear it all over the chicken, including under the breast skin.
PRO TIP: You do not need to wash the chicken. Washing it will not only increase the risk of raw poultry juices spreading in your kitchen, but the butter will not adhere as well to wet chicken.
- STEP TWO: Sprinkle rub all over the whole bird. Be sure to lift the legs and wings to add rub in the joints. Also, sprinkle some of the dry rub seasoning inside of the chicken. For a prettier overall appearance, you can tie the legs together with butcher’s twine, but this is optional.
- STEP THREE: Place the whole seasoned chicken in the refrigerator uncovered while you heat your grill temperature to 375-400F degrees.
PRO TIP: For even more flavor, leave the seasoned chicken in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours. This will create a dry brine, which helps create juicier meat and crispy skin. Then, light the grill when you’re ready to cook the chicken.
- STEP FOUR: Place chicken on the hot grill over indirect heat with the chicken breast side facing up. Close the grill lid.
- STEP FIVE: Grill for about 15-20 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature reaches at least 165F degrees. Stick the instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh meat, without touching the bone.
PRO TIP: If your heat source is only coming from one side of the grill, it’s a good rule of thumb to rotate the chicken 1-2 times during the cook for more even cooking.
How to serve grilled whole chicken
Remove the chicken from the grill and loosely tent it with aluminum foil. Let the chicken rest for at least 15 minutes. This will help the juices settle into the meat.
Just like a rotisserie chicken that you buy at Costco or the grocery store, you can either cut the grilled whole chicken into pieces (wings, thighs, breasts and legs), or you can pull the chicken from the bones.
Shredded chicken can be used in a ton of recipes like Southwest Chicken Chili, chicken enchiladas, chicken taquitos or chicken sandwiches with barbecue sauce or Alabama white sauce.
Store pulled chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days, or freeze it for up to 6 months.
Don’t toss those bones. You can make homemade chicken broth by boiling them in a pot of water with some diced onions, carrots and celery. Strain the broth and save it in the freezer for up to 6 months.
GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips
Frequently Asked Questions
A whole chicken with giblets can range anywhere from 4-7 pounds.
The amount of pulled meat you’ll get from a whole chicken will vary, depending on the size of the chicken. Plan on getting one loosely packed cup of pulled chicken for every pound the chicken weighs.
It depends on whether you plan to serve the chicken in pieces or pulled. Each chicken has 8 pieces – 2 legs, 2 wings, 2 thighs and 2 breasts. If you serve the grilled chicken in pieces, plan on giving each person 2 pieces, which equals 4 servings.
If you pull the meat from the bones, you can plan on 1 cup of shredded meat per person. Each raw pound of chicken equals about 1 cup of cooked chicken, so a 4-pound bird will serve 4 people and a 7-pound whole chicken will serve 7 people.
When you cook a whole chicken on the grill over indirect heat at 375-400F degrees, it will take about 15-20 minutes per pound for the chicken to be fully cooked. A 6-pound whole chicken will take about 1 1/2 hours.
The chicken thighs and legs are considered dark meat and the breasts and chicken wings are white meat. According to the USDA, the muscles that are used more often (the legs and thighs) have more oxygen-storing myoglobin, which creates the darker color.
You can also cook whole bone-in chicken upright by placing the cavity over a beer can or soup can filled with liquid. Check out my recipe for Beer Can Chicken with Beer Salt.
What to Serve with Grilled Chicken
3-Ingredient Grilled Whole Chicken
- 6 lb whole chicken
- 1 stick butter softened
- 2 tbsp BBQ Rub
- Prep Chicken: Remove the chicken from the packaging. Reach inside the cavity and remove and discard the neck and any organs that may be stuffed inside. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.
- Season: Take a stick of softened butter and smear it all over the chicken, including under the breast skin. Sprinkle rub all over the inside and outside of the bird.
- Heat Grill: Place the chicken in the refrigerator while you heat your grill to 375-400F degrees with an indirect heat zone. (Read above for instructions)
- Grill: Place chicken on the grill over indirect heat with the chicken breast side facing up. Close the grill lid and grill for 15-20 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature reaches at least 165F degrees.
- Rest: Remove from the grill and let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Serve: Slice into pieces or pull the shredded meat from the bones and serve.
This estimate was created using an online nutrition calculator
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