Grilled chicken halves makes grilling a whole chicken is easier than you’d think. With an irresistible rub and a zesty basting sauce, this recipe teaches you how to use a grilling technique to insure even cooking for both white and dark meat.
This recipe was originally published July 2009 and republished July 2021 with new step by step photos.
Don’t you just get flat out grumpy when you’ve cooked over the hot grill, turning, moving, babying each piece of chicken only to bite into a thigh to find that pinkish, not quite done thing going on? Shudder. Or a grilled chicken breasts that are over-cooked and dry?
How to grill a whole chicken? Try grilled chicken halves. A technique for a whole grilled chicken where every piece turns out tender and juicy and evenly cooked. EVERY time.
The secret is in how you cut the chicken, how to make a flavorful rub and a bright basting sauce that elevates the flavor to fabulous. And how often to turn the chicken for even cooking results.
Just finish and a mop with your favorite bbq sauce and dig in. Let’s take a look.
How To Cut Up A Whole Chicken For Grilled Chicken Halves
- There’s no need to buy separate chicken pieces, or cut a whole chicken into individual pieces. Buy a whole fryer and with a good sharp knife cut the chicken into two pieces.
- To do that, use the tip of the knife, or kitchen shears, and cut along each side of the back bone. Once the back bone is removed, turn the chicken over and cut the chicken into two pieces. You’ll be cutting the breast bone in half. You’ll have two separate chicken halves. Each with the leg section, a wing attached.
- You’ll find this is easier to manage on the grill and the grilled chicken halves will cook more evenly.
Tip: Your butcher will gladly cut your whole chicken into two pieces for you.
Tip: How To Choose A Whole Chicken For The Grill. Look for a fryer chicken or a broiler chicken. A weight of 4 – 5 pounds is a good size for grilling.
BBQ Chicken Dry Rub
Let’s start with the bbq chicken dry rub for grilling. I like using a dry rub that doesn’t contain sugar. With a cook time of one hour for this recipe, a no sugar dry rub will keep the skin from burning.
- Seasoning Salt: Any brand of seasoning salt will work, with Lawry’s being the most well known, and is what I use.
- Paprika: Plain paprika is what is called for in this recipe. If you want, use smoked paprika for an even deeper layer of flavor.
- Onion Powder
- Garlic Powder
- Kosher Salt: Kosher salt is preferred by chefs due to the pure salty flavor it imparts to food. Sea salt is said to sit on the food rather than penetrate and season.
- Chile Powder
- Mix the ingredients for the dry rub in a small bowl, until well blended.
- Spread the dry rub in every nook and cranny and on and under the skin of the chicken halves. Do this three hours before grilling. Let the rubbed chicken sit in the refrigerator until ready to cook.
- And finally a good chicken baste sauce with vinegar, oil, turmeric for color, lemon juice and a drop of liquid smoke. Using this flavorful basting sauce eliminates the need to pre marinade the chicken.
Expert Tip: Use a neutral flavored oil with a higher smoking point. It will help the skin crisp faster. Canola oil or grape seed oil is a good choice here.
- Place the basting sauce ingredients into a small bowl and whisk until well blended.
- Bring the chicken to room temperature.
- Preheat your grill to 450 degrees. Turn the heat down to 375 degrees and place the chicken halves on the grill on those sizzling grates.
- Generously baste the chicken with the basting sauce and let it cook (lid down) for 15 minutes. Turn the chicken every 15 minutes, basting each time you turn. The total cooking time should be 1 hour.
- Finish and mop with your favorite BBQ Sauce and dig in.
FAQ’s and Tips
Using this turn and baste method for grilled chicken halves, the whole chicken will be cooked in one hour.
Cutting the chicken in half allows you to lay the chicken flat. It exposes the legs and thighs, which will cook faster than the breast. This means the dark meat will be cooked at the same time as the white meat. With each coming out juicy and tender.
Keep that grill temperature at a heat that will crisp that skin. Crispy skin means that the meat inside will stay moist and tender.
When in doubt, always use an instant read thermometer. Insert the probe between in the joint between the leg and the thigh. 165 degrees is recommended for fully cooked poultry.
I always bring my chicken out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before grilling. That doesn’t mean that the whole chicken will be at room temperature, it just takes the chill off so it will cook more evenly.
The best is your favorite brand. And if you’re looking for a homemade bbq sauce recipe, take a look at this recipe I use for bbq meatballs. We love the smoky flavor for this bbq chicken recipe.
I don’t own a charcoal grill, so I’m going to direct you to the experts, Kingsford. Take a look at this recipe for grilling a whole chicken on a charcoal grill. These instructions are for a whole, uncut chicken, but the article shows you the indirect heat method that will work for this recipe.
Tip: Let the chicken rest before serving. Remove the grilled chicken halves from the grill and let sit 10 minutes before cutting and serving. This will help the juices redistribute and keep the meat tender and moist.
Sides To Go With Grilled Chicken
- Classic Potato Salad
- Classic Cole Slaw Recipe
- Cucina Bean Salad
- Perfect Tossed Salad Recipe
- Mac and Cheese with Tomatoes
- Pioneer Woman’s Best Macaroni Salad
- Cheese Tortellini Pasta Salad
Perfect Grilled Chicken Halves
I hope you try these chicken halves on the grill. It most certainly makes grilling a whole chicken a breeze.
This recipe was adapted from my friend Cathy at Noble Pig.
And if you’re looking for more chicken recipes, you won’t want to miss my Chicken category. Lots of great recipe ideas, including the most popular chicken recipe on my site; Easy Baked Chicken Parmesan. It’s easy and it’s fab.
And, don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter for more delicious recipes and cooking tips. Make it a delicious day … every day.
If you’ve tried this or any other recipe on my website, please leave a star rating in the recipe card below. And write a review in the comment section. I always appreciate your feedback.
Perfect Grilled Chicken Halves
- 1 whole chicken cut in half (backbone removed)
- FOR THE DRY RUB
- 1 Tablespoon seasoning salt any brand
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon chile powder
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
- FOR THE BASTING SAUCE
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon canola oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 drop liquid smoke no more than a drop, it’s concentrated, optional
- 1/2 cup BBQ Sauce your favorite brand
- Cut the chicken in half by removing back bone. Your butcher can do this, or cut along side each side of the back bone and remove. This will avoid trying to grill different sized pieces of chicken.
- Using paper towels, pat the chicken dry.
- Next take your fingers and loosen the skin in as many places as you can. Take the dry rub and rub all over chicken and under the skin. Do this three hours before grilling. And bring the chicken to room temperature before grilling.
- Heat grill to 500 degrees. Lower heat to 375. I turn off the middle burner and cook chicken in the middle of the grill.
- Place both sides of chicken on grill. Using a grill brush, baste with basting sauce. Cover grill and cook for 15 minutes. Repeat this step 4 times for total cook time of 1 hours. Turning the chicken each time you baste.
- When the hour is up, generously coat one side of chicken with your favorite BBQ or grilling sauce. Close lid and cook for 2 minutes, turn chicken and repeat. Cook two more minutes with grill lid closed.
- Remove from grill and let sit 10 minutes before serving. This will help the juices redistribute and keep the meat tender and moist.
- Using a sharp knife, separate the breasts from the leg portions and serve.
BBQ Grilled Chicken Halves … It’s what’s for Summer.
Katherine A Dietz says
Hi Lea Ann,
Is it OK to use just boneless, skinless chicken breasts? I pre cook my chicken in the oven for 30 minutes in tinfoil in the oven at 350 in a little of the bbq sauce before grilling.
Here are some great tips for preparing chicken . Thank you so much for this valuable post. This is what I was actually looking for. I will also bookmark this page for future help.
Monica from Bestconsumerratings says
Wow! Looks so delicious, my entire loved chicken, especially grilled chicken. Can’t wait anymore, I will definitely try it your way, looks seem easy to make :D. Thanks so much for this guide. Looking forward to seeing more.
John / Kitchen Riffs says
Mmmm, chicken! So terrific on the grill. Your seasoning rub looks particularly nice. Thanks!
Great how-to post chef and the chicken looks delicious. I’ve never basted mine but I will in the future.
yes’siree! – that is one dang rub and sop… and I do confer, split chicken is the only way to grill ’em…
Lea Ann says
Thanks Drick. I’m not an expert on grilling but I know I sure like this recipe.
I love the half a chicken idea!
Vickie Hemphill says
Oops (unless you ASK my husband) 😀
Vickie Hemphill says
Great guide to preparing chicken . . . it is hard to get it just right! Also love the little bowl of olives. One can never have too many cute bowls (unless you has my husband). 😛