Oregano-Marinated Grilled Chicken with Charred Lemons Recipe
Grilling a whole chicken is easy when you butterfly it. Also known as spatchcocking, butterflying is simply removing the backbone so the bird can be opened up like a book and laid flat, which promotes fast and even cooking. You can ask your butcher to do it, though it’s easy to do yourself with a good pair of kitchen scissors. We’ve added a step that involves threading two skewers through the butterflied chicken, which keeps it flat and makes for a pretty presentation.
Special equipment: You’ll need 4 skewers for this recipe; it’s easier to thread the chicken using metal skewers, though you can use wooden ones. Be sure to soak wooden skewers in warm water for 30 minutes before using, so they don’t burn on the grill.
For the marinade:
- 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 medium lemons)
- 5 tablespoons dry white wine
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup packed fresh oregano (leaves and tender stems only)
- 2 tablespoons packed fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the chickens:
- 2 (4- to 5-pound) whole chickens
- 4 skewers
To grill the chickens:
- 3 medium lemons
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and process on high until smooth, about 1 minute. Refrigerate in a container with a tightfitting lid for up to 1 day.
For the chickens:
- Rinse the chickens inside and out with cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Remove the necks and innards and discard or save for another use. To butterfly each chicken, use a sharp pair of poultry shears or kitchen scissors to cut down both sides of the backbone. Remove and discard the backbone, or save for another use.
- Press down on each chicken’s breast to flatten it. If it won’t flatten, flip the chicken over, skin side down, and lightly score the cartilage on the back of the breastbone. Flip the chicken back over and press down again on the cartilage so the chicken is lying completely flat.
- Place the chickens in a large, shallow dish and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour all of the marinade over the chickens and turn them several times until evenly coated. Cover the dish and refrigerate at least 12 hours, turning the chickens occasionally.
- To prepare the chickens for the grill, remove them from the marinade, allowing the excess to drip off for a few minutes. (If using wooden skewers, soak them in warm water for 30 minutes before proceeding.)
- To skewer, lay one chicken skin side up on a cutting board, drumsticks pointing toward you and wings pointing away. Secure the wing tips by tucking them behind the back of each wing. Flip the chicken legs over so the tops of the drumsticks, or the “knees,” are facing inward and almost touching.
- With a skewer, pierce through the joint between the wing and the drumette. Thread the skewer through the point where the wing meets the back or the “shoulder” and through the upper edge of the breast. Continue through the other breast and shoulder and out the other side between the wing and the drumette.
- With another skewer, pierce through the outer part of the thigh. Continue through the back of the joint between the drumstick and the thigh. Push the skewer through the cartilage at the point of the breast. Continue through the other drumstick-thigh joint and out the other side. Your bird is now ready to go on the grill. Repeat the process with the other chicken. Cover and refrigerate until ready to grill.
To grill the chickens:
- Heat a charcoal or gas grill to medium (about 350°F to 450°F). Remove the chickens from the refrigerator and let them sit at room temperature while the grill heats up, at least 30 minutes.
- Slice the lemons in half crosswise. Using 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, brush the cut side of each lemon half and season with salt and pepper; set aside.
- Place the chickens on the grill skin side up and close the lid. Every 10 minutes, rotate the chickens 90 degrees in a clockwise direction. After the chickens have been rotated 4 times, about 40 minutes later, flip them over. Rotate the chickens every 5 minutes until they have completed one rotation (360 degrees), another 20 minutes total.
- When an instant-read thermometer inserted into the inner thigh reads 160°F to 165°F (be sure the thermometer is not touching the bone) and, when pierced, the juices run clear, remove the chickens from the grill. Let the chickens rest on a cutting board for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
- While the chickens rest, place the lemon halves on the grill cut side down and grill until charred and softened, about 12 to 15 minutes.
- Remove the skewers from the chickens and cut each chicken into eight serving pieces. Serve with grilled lemon wedges.
Beverage pairing: Boutari Moschofilero, Greece. Moschofilero is an indigenous Greek variety that is wonderfully balanced between herbal flavors and light fruits, and is light- to medium-bodied. This version is especially light, cheerful, and easy-drinking, making it a great match for the simple, delicious chicken.