How to Butterfly a Chicken

Nothing beats a smoked whole chicken, really! I make them quite often and they serve many purposes. Mostly I like to smoke the chicken and then pull the meat similar to how one would pull pork for sandwiches.

It’s a delicious and more nutritious way to enjoy the same style of sandwich.

The best part is the leftovers can be used for anything from smoked chicken enchiladas to smoked chicken lasagna… you name it.

Long story short here, there are tons of recipes for smoked chicken and I will post some of them I have used. In the end, however, I feel that butterflying the chicken serves many purposes that benefit the cook. The bird cooks more quickly, it allows easier access for injecting and seasoning to all areas of the bird and it makes the cutting / pulling process after cook MUCH easier, since all the sections are nicely laid out as you’ll see below.

For this cook, I started with 2 whole birds from Bag n Save in Omaha. I placed them in foil pans because I hate messes and even more..I hate clean up.? This allows me to toss the pans when I’m done.? They are your basic Tyson whole chicken come just like this:

From here, you’ll need to open up the chickens from the package and wash them as much as you can at this point.? It might be slightly frozen still…which is OK.? Just run some cool water to wash and it will begin to soften up for handling.? You’ll want to place the chicken wings up with the legs pointed right at your belly.

Once you have it situated, you will remove the backbone.? Start by cutting with some kitchen shears as close to the backbone as possible so you don’t waste too much meat and cut all the way down to the neck.? You can see how I started this here:

Continue cutting down the backbone and then repeat on the other side.? Once you have both cuts complete, you can start to pull away the chicken halves and remove the backbone completely.? It’s nice to get this out as it’s a tough bone to work around when pulling / slicing and really only holds trivial, low quality meat anyway.

Now pull the backbone out and set it aside, like so:

Now is the time to clean out all the guts and other material that looks nasty out of here.? You can see….this doesn’t look very tasty:

At this point, we want to start getting the bird flattened out so it sits nicely on the smoker or grill.? Simply grab both sides of the bird and pull them apart gently until you feel the breast bone begin to break….just enough to get it opened up nice and wide.? After we wash it – we’ll flatten it out from the top side.? Once you have it opened up – run the entire bird under cold water using your hands and fingers to clean out all the guts and odd looking pieces as well as any “spur” type feeling material that’s in here.? This is the best time to get all this out of here and will make your finishing steps much easier so you don’t have to pick through it later.? Don’t hesitate to use a knife or scissors during this process.? Whatever you need.

Once it’s all washed up, check it out.? It should look like this:

Now you are set to make it sit flat and pretty up the way you want it to lay in the smoker.? I like to have mine skin side up…so I finagle it until I have the positioning I like in the smoker…just to make sure it’ll go that way once it’s seasoned up and ready to cook.? You want to keep the wings and legs tucked in as much as possible, while also allowing for as much of the skin and meat to get hit with smoke.? It’s a fine balance between keeping in moisture and giving it smoke.

Flattened out, it should look like this:

Now you’re all set!!? Season that bad boy up, inject it, whatever you want to do to it to make it delicious.

Like I said – I like mine skin side up while smoking so I put it in the smoker and leave it alone the entire cook..just as you see it directly above.? This allows for the most smoke to hit the meat and allows for the skin to get a nice color and all those seasonings you put on top to run into the meat…as well as the fat from the skin…which will break down during the cooking process.

Good luck – hope this helps!

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