Spatchcocked?  What the heck is spatchcocked, right?  When I first heard that someone I knew spatchcocked his chicken I thought he was doing something dirty.  Not so.  Spatchcocking poultry is simply butterflying a bird prior to grilling it.  In my quest to try everything on the grill at least once I decided to give this a shot.

It’s fairly simple and it has two distinct advantages over grilling a whole chicken or game hen in this case.  First, it cuts down on grilling time.  By spreading the bird flat it cooks more quickly than a whole chicken.  Second, the chickens or game hens grill more evenly.  A lot of times when doing a whole bird the breasts dry out before the thighs are done.  Not with this method.  Keep reading to see how easy it is to spatchcock your bird…

Here we have four game hens.  I think these ran me about $3/bird.  You can do this with chicken or turkey too.  The cell phone is there to give you some perspective as to the size of the hens:


I brined these hens the night before.  To see the basics to brining check this post where I brined three chickens.  The process is identical.

Once the hens have been removed from the brine and rinsed off it’s time to butterfly them.  For this all you need is a pair of kitchen sheers.  You could also do it with a knife but this way is easier and safer.

Put the bird belly down and take the sheers and cut the ribs running out of each side of the spine.  Your goal here is to remove the spine entirely.  First the right side of the spine:


And now the left side:


One whole spine that can be discarded:



Now spread the bird out and flip it over like so:


As of right now the game hen still stands up a bit near where the neck use to be.  You want to flatten that out:


With hens simply push down a bit with your hand to flatten it out.  For a chicken you may actually feel a couple of bones break:


Now she’s flat:


Some people will say that you need to remove this bone and cartilage  shown below:


You can if you want but it adds time to the process.  Part of the reason to spatchcock or butterfly is to save time.

So here are my four game hens completely butterflied or spatchcocked:


In an effort to keep this easy both in terms of cooking time and prep I simply added granulated garlic and Italian herbs to each side of the birds.  I started with the skinless side:


Sorta looks like something from the original Alien, doesn’t it?!?


Just a dusting of garlic and dried Italian herbs (oh and a few turns of fresh black pepper) and flip and repeat and they are ready to be grilled:


Now off to the grill.  Going for an indirect grill/smoke session.  Coals on the right.  Nothing on the left:


First a little grill maintenance.  I put the two grill grates I will be using over the coals to get the residuals from prior cookouts heated up:


Then I brush the grates clean and slide them over to the side with no coals.   I leave the side with the coals uncovered to make it easier to add more fuel and smoke wood.  But with such a short cooking time here I won’t need to do either but out of habit I always leave one side open as shown below:


I add the spatchcocked game hens and a chunk of peach wood and close the lid:


The temp settled in a little over 300 which was perfect for this grilling recipe.

And while I am going for quick and easy here I have some time.  It’s gonna take about 90 minutes to indirect these so in the mean time I have a quick way to take them to the next level.  Start with a couple cloves of garlic, minced:


Then add the garlic to a pot with two melted sticks of unsalted butter:


Once the skin tightens up and browns a bit, roughly 30 minutes for this session, or when the game hens look like these below, brush with the butter/garlic mixture:


Here we have 60 minutes on the grill.  The two birds on the upper rack were the ones closest to the fire so I put them up top as they were grilling faster than the other two hens:


Another slathering of butter at the 60 minute mark and here we have a closeup of the glistening birds on the grill:



And here are the grilled, spatchcocked games hens at about 90 minutes when the internal temp of the breast reached 165.  The butter helps to brown the chicken skin and make it crispier than with just the granulated garlic/Italian herb mixture alone.  How good do the grilled game hens look:


An easy and interesting way to liven up a chicken dinner as well as make it quicker to grill.

If you like grilled spatchcocked game hens and are interested in other dishes the Grillin Fools have done with chicken or turkey on the grill, click here.

If you have any questions about the game hens, feel free to comment below or email me.

Also, you can follow the Grillin Fools on Facebook and post your own grilling pictures, share grilling recipes, or join the general grilling conversation. You can keep up with us on Twitter@GrillinFool (no S).

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas, the Original Grillin’ Fool, was sent off to college with a suitcase and a grill where he overcooked, undercooked and burned every piece of meat he could find. After thousands of failures, and quite a few successes, nearly two decades later he started a website to show step by step, picture by picture, foolproof instructions on how to make great things out of doors so that others don’t have to repeat the mistakes he’s made on the grill.
Scott Thomas

@GrillinFool - #GrillPorn abounds here. All meat, all the time!
Oh my wow! There is so much perfection right there! 😲✔️👍😎 . Video shot by the insanely talented @carlaocarvalho77 …… - 2 years ago
Scott Thomas

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Thank you for the EXCELLENT post. I especially like the detailed photos you always use. I will be venturing into the game hen world soon, and I have bookmarked your page and have already been following your site.

Your site is the best!



Been following you too. Good stuff on your site. I think I need to add you to my blog roll. What have you got on the menu this week?

How did it taste?


Your site is awesome!!! My mouth is watering at the thought of grilling up some great food using your recipes, and I rarely use recipes. I especially like your section describing the different smoking woods, and their flavor profiles. I have two cherry trees, in my yard, but the cherries are so sour that no one eats them. Will the wood still be good for smoking? I would definitely like to use it for these spatchcocked game hens.


Sensei Rogue,

Just because the cherries are too sour, doesn’t mean you can’t smoke with them. You can smoke with crabapple wood and nobody is eating those. Same with Bradford or Cleveland pear. You’re good…


Im trying this GH recipe tonight but rotisserie. butterflied. looks good.


Thanks for the info. We currently have some spatchcocked game hens bathing in a Cuban inspired marinade. We had decided on indirect heat around 300 and decided to do a search to see if anyone had posted an experienced viewpoint, and you had. Thank you! Great site; we will bookmark it for sure.


I have an electric patio grill. How can I do the indirect grilling method w one source of heat? Any suggestions on how I can get the same results w/o indirect heat? Thx!



Unless you can turn one burner off and close a lid, I don’t know how to do indirect heat on an electric patio grill. I’m sorry. I wish I had a better answer for you…


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