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Simple Smoked Spatchcock Chicken with Citrus Rub on Traeger

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This simple Traeger Smoked Spatchcock Chicken recipe is juicy, fresh, and has an incredible smoky flavor! This homemade citrus rub adds delectable brightness to our easy smoked whole chicken. If you’ve never spatchcocked chicken before, have no fear! This simple step-by-step guide will get you through in no time.

Traeger spatchcock chicken presented on a sheet pan with citrus and parsley garnishes.

Smoked chicken is one of my favorite meals.

First of all, it’s cheap! A whole chicken is typically much cheaper to buy than individual cuts, and the carcass can be used to make your own bone broth or stock when all is said and done, so you’re able to use every part of the animal and nothing goes to waste–no wasting food OR money.

Second of all, it’s pretty stinkin’ easy to do. You can pretty much set it and forget it except for remembering to turn the heat up for the last 20-30 minutes to crisp up the skin.

Third of all, it’s super kid-friendly…well, for the most part. I do have one kid who is still working on eating chicken not in nugget form. We will get there. 😉

Fourth, it’s a wonderful healthy meal that tastes indulgent. Chicken is a great source of lean protein–even it’s dark meat is not too fatty. But there’s something about eating a smoked whole chicken that makes it feel like you’re having a celebratory meal that took a lot of time to prepare.

All that said, let’s hop to it! Here is how you make my Traeger spatchcock chicken recipe with citrus rub.

Left side of a spatchcocked chicken with citrus slices.

Ingredients

To make this delicious chicken dinner, you just need a few simple ingredients:

  • Whole Chicken – The timing in this recipe is based on a large 5-6 lb whole chicken, but you can also use a smaller chicken–just keep an eye on the internal temperature to adjust cooking time as needed.
  • Orange – For zesting & slicing to place under the skin. You can use any kind of orange you’d like–I used a large navel orange.
  • Lemon – For zesting & slicing to place under the skin.
  • Olive Oil – A little healthy oil to rub onto the skin & meat before the rub.
  • Spices – sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and chili powder contribute to the delightful flavors of this chicken.
Ingredients for recipe including raw whole chicken, dish of olive oil, orange, lemon, and spices on a white plate.

Equipment

I make this on my Traeger smoker, but you can use any pellet grill that allows you to smoke chicken over indirect heat.

A pair of poultry shears is also helpful, but you can also use strong kitchen scissors or a sharp knife if you’re very careful.

I use my Meater+ thermometer–it’s my favorite meat-smoking accessory! But you can use any meat thermometer as long as it’s accurate.

You need wood pellets for your grill. I love the generic Kirkland brand for a great all-purpose wood pellet, but if you don’t have a Costco membership, the signature blend is wonderful.

Instructions

Follow the step-by-step instructions below to spatchcock your chicken and get it smoked to perfection!

This is a glass bowl with spatula holding up a scoop of the seasoning mix.

1. Prep the Rub

Turn on your Traeger and preheat to 225 degrees F.

Prepare the dry rub for the chicken. Into a small bowl, zest one whole orange and one whole lemon. Add the sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and chili powder. Stir to combine.

This is a person slicing an orange and lemon on a wooden cutting board.

2. Slice Citrus

Take the lemon and orange you just zested and slice into 4-6 slices each. Set these aside while you prep the chicken.

This is Holly cutting down the side of the backbone on the chicken.

3. Remove Backbone

Place chicken on a large-size rimmed baking sheet or cutting board and pat dry with some paper towels.

Flip your chicken breast side down. With a pair of poultry shears, cut down the edge of the side of the backbone on both sides. You could also use a good pair of kitchen shears, or try this very carefully with a sharp knife.

Remove the backbone and put it aside for another purpose, such as making stock (you can freeze this to do another day, too).

This is Holly compressing the breastplate of the chicken so it lays flat on the baking sheet.

4. Compress the Breast

Flip the chicken over so the breast side is facing up. Compress the breast bone with the heel of your hand to flatten the chicken. You may need to grab around the edges of the chicken and pry it apart as needed to get the chicken to lay flat.

After flattening the breastplate, adjust the legs and wings as needed so they also lay flat.

This is Holly massaging the citrus rub into the chicken.

5. Rub Chicken

Rub 1-2 tbsp of olive oil onto your entire chicken. Make sure to pull the skin up off of the breasts, thighs, and legs and get the oil underneath, too. You can slide your hand underneath the skin and gently apply pressure to pry the skin off of the meat.

Then take the rub you made and rub it on the skin and directly onto the meat. Get the entire chicken well-coated!

Sliding orange peel under chicken thigh skin.

6. Place Citrus Under Skin

Take slices of the orange and lemon and slide them under your chicken skin–as many as you can fit. I like to put one orange and one lemon slice on each breast, a lemon on the legs, and an orange on each thigh.

Place a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken breast.

Placing the chicken directly on the Traeger grill grates.

7. Smoke Chicken

Place your whole chicken directly on the grill grates breast-side up. Close the lid and smoke at 225F for 2 hours. This duration at a low temperature is a great way to give it maximum smoky flavor.

Using spatulas to carefully remove the chicken from the Traeger grate.

8. Raise Temp to Finish

Turn the Traeger up to 375F. Cook for another 30-35 minutes until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165F. This will give you crispy skin and your chicken will finish promptly.

When it reaches the proper internal temperature, remove the chicken from the grill and let rest for 20-30 minutes to give the juices time to redistribute.

That’s it! After the rest, feel free to carve the chicken into individual cuts as desired: chicken thighs, breast meat, legs, and wings.

This is a wooden cutting board of carved chicken meat.

Serving Suggestions

Serve this delicious smoked Traeger spatchcock chicken recipe with my kale crunch salad for something green. My air-fried sweet potato wedges are a great option for a side dish for this tender bird.

Instant Pot Coconut Rice would also make a terrific side dish, as would my hot honey smoked carrots.

​My middle child loves this meal served with my lemon honey vinaigrette. He uses it as a sauce to dip the chicken in. It’s also great on a bed of greens for a side dish!

Also try this with some fresh & spicy chimichurri sauce!

overhead view of chick fil a kale salad with wooden salad tongs
This is a platter of air fried sweet potato wedges with ketchup and ranch in dipping cups.
overhead view of lemon honey dressing in jar with spoon on blue table
This is a shallow white bowl filled with spicy chimichurri sauce with cilantro and a lime on the side.

Substitutions

Use whatever citrus you have on hand–grapefruit, limes, blood oranges–it would all be delicious in this recipe!

Related Recipes

The spatchcock process is best used with bigger birds to speed up the cooking process, especially with turkeys. Check out my Traeger spatchcock turkey recipe if you’d like to give this a try at your next major holiday meal.

Intimidated by the spatchcock process? If cutting out a backbone intimidates you, try my recipe for a regular Traeger smoked whole chicken.

If you just want to smoke up some chicken legs, you’ll love my Traeger smoked chicken legs with chimichurri sauce! Another great smoker recipe to serve with chimichurri is my tender smoked picanha steaks recipe.

In the mood for a classic burger? You’ll love my smoked Traeger burgers!

Nutritional Information

This recipe makes 6 servings. For one serving of this recipe, the nutritional info is as follows (includes the chicken skin):

  • Calories: 432
  • Protein: 34 grams
  • Fat: 30 grams (saturated fat: 8 grams0
  • Carbs: 6 grams

Recipe Notes

Store leftover chicken meat in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat gently for the best texture. See the FAQ section for more tips for reheating your chicken.

Smoked chicken with orange and lemon slices under it's skin.

FAQ

How long does smoked chicken last?

Properly refrigerated smoked chicken lasts up to four days in the fridge per the USDA.

How should I reheat smoked chicken?

Smoked chicken is best reheated gently to prevent it from becoming dry or rubbery. You could place the leftover meat in a baking dish with a small amount of broth or water, cover it with aluminum foil, and then heat it in the oven at 325F for 20-25 minutes until warmed through.
If you’re in a hurry and would like to use the microwave, pre-cut the chicken into bite-size pieces so that they heat faster. Heat the chicken on a microwave-safe plate for 30-45 seconds at a time, checking if it’s warm enough after each spin. You do not want to overheat it.

What is the best temperature to smoke a spatchcock chicken?

225-250 degrees Fahrenheit will be the best temperature range to achieve maximum smoky flavor while keeping the timing practical. I recommend 225F for this recipe and then turning the temperature up to 375F for the last 30 minutes to crisp up the skin.

What temperature should cooked spatchcock chicken be?

You should smoke a spatchcock chicken to the same temperature that you would cook any chicken to–generally speaking, 165 degrees F. For simplicity’s sake, as well as for consistent results, I recommend smoking the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165F in the breast meat. There is some nuance to this question as you may wish to go until your thigh meat reaches 170-175F for tenderness. Chicken smoked at *slightly* lower temperatures can be safe if they maintain that temperature for a long enough period. However, your best bet is to keep it simple and cook to 165F. This will give you juicy, tender meat that you can be sure is safe.

Spatchcock a Chicken Today!

You’re going to love this super easy smoked Traeger spatchcock chicken recipe! If you give it a try, please leave a comment and review! It means the world!

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Traeger spatchcock chicken presented on a sheet pan with citrus and parsley garnishes.
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Traeger Spatchcocked Chicken

This simple Traeger Smoked Spatchcock Chicken recipe is juicy, fresh, and has incredible smoky flavor! The homemade citrus rub adds delectable brightness to your bird while being simple to prepare.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time2 hours 30 minutes
Resting Time30 minutes
Total Time3 hours 10 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: pellet grill chicken recipes, pellet grill spatchcock chicken, smoked spatchcock chicken, traeger, traeger chicken recipes, traeger recipes
Servings: 6
Calories: 432kcal
Author: Holly Lee
Cost: $15

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 lemon for zesting
  • 1 orange for zesting
  • 5-6 lb whole chicken
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  • Turn on your Traeger and preheat to 225F, then prepare the rub for the chicken. Into a small bowl, zest one whole orange and one whole lemon. Add the sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and chili powder. Whisk to combine.
  • Take the lemon and orange you just zested and slice into 4-6 slices each. Set these items aside while you prep the chicken.
  • Place chicken on a large-rimmed baking sheet and pat dry with some paper towels. Flip your bird breast-side down. With a pair of poultry shears, cut down the edge of the backbone on both sides. Remove backbone and put aside for another purpose, such as making stock.
  • Flip the chicken over so the breast side is facing up. Compress the breastplate with your hands to flatten the chicken. You may need to grab around the edges of the chicken and pry it apart as needed to get the chicken to lay flat. Adjust the legs and wings as necessary so they lay flat, too.
  • Rub 1-2 tbsp of olive oil onto your chicken. Make sure to pull the skin up off of the breasts, thighs, and legs and get the oil underneath directly onto the meat. Then take the rub you made and rub it on the chicken skin as well as under the skin onto the meat.
  • Take slices of the orange and lemon and slide them under your chicken skin–as many as you can fit. I like to put one orange and one lemon slice on each breast, a lemon on the legs, and an orange on each thigh.
  • Place your whole chicken directly on the Traeger grates breast-side up. Close the lid and smoke at 225F for 2 hours.
  • Turn the Traeger up to 375F. Cook for another 30-35 minutes until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165F.
  • Remove the chicken from the grill and let rest for 30 minutes to give the juices time to redistribute. Carve and enjoy!

Video

Notes

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Properly refrigerated smoked chicken lasts up to four days in the fridge per the USDA.
To Reheat: Place the leftover meat in a baking dish with a small amount of broth or water, cover with aluminum foil, and then heat in the oven at 325F for 20-25 minutes until warmed through. To heat in the microwave, pre-cut the chicken into bite size pieces. Heat the chicken on a microwave safe plate for 30-45 seconds at a time, checking if it’s warm enough after each spin. You do not want to overheat it.

Nutrition

Calories: 432kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 136mg | Sodium: 715mg | Potassium: 437mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 573IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 2mg

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