Savoring BBQ Season and Independence Day with Perfectly Grilled Whole Spiced Chicken

by Andrew Wright
Grilled Spiced Chicken

Crafting a succulent, beautifully browned grilled whole chicken can be tricky. But worry not, we have a couple of straightforward tips for your Fourth of July grilling celebration.

The first move is to spatchcock the chicken. This technique involves removing the backbone and pressing down on the breast bone to flatten it, ensuring uniform cooking for both light and dark meat.

A common problem is the moisture loss during grilling that can make it tough for the seasoning to integrate with the meat. A simple solution is to apply the spices beneath the skin, maintaining their position and providing a more pronounced flavor profile.

Our flavor inspiration comes from the Iraqi spice-rubbed chicken, as featured in our book “The New Rules.” This book encourages new approaches to familiar recipes, altering how you cook. To expedite the process, we use a combination of curry powder and garam masala, which encapsulate a plethora of spices. Ground sumac offers a unique earthy, citrusy flavor and, along with paprika, creates a vibrant, deep-red color.

This delicious chicken, carrying an enticing smoky aroma from the grill, cooks in under an hour. Remember to keep the grill vents open, both at the bottom and on the lid, especially if you’re using charcoal. This ensures continuous airflow and prevents the fire from going out during covered cooking.

Pair this mouth-watering chicken with basmati rice or warm flatbread for a perfect meal.

Iraqi Spice-Crusted Grilled Chicken

Recipe link: Here

Preparation Time: 1½ hours (1 hour active), plus resting time

Servings: 4


  • 2½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds
  • Lemon wedges, to serve


  1. In a small skillet on low heat, combine 1½ tablespoons of oil with garlic. Cook until fragrant, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes, without browning. Transfer to a small bowl.
  2. In another bowl, blend the sumac, coriander, curry powder, garam masala, paprika, cumin, cardamom, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Stir 2 tablespoons of this spice blend into the garlic oil to make a paste.
  3. Position the chicken skin-side up on a cutting board. Remove the backbone using sturdy kitchen shears, and flatten the chicken by applying pressure on the breast. Loosen the skin and evenly distribute the garlic-spice paste beneath it. Sprinkle the remaining spice mixture on the chicken and let it rest at room temperature for around 45 minutes.
  4. Preheat the grill for high-heat cooking. For a charcoal grill, spread hot coals evenly over one side of the grill bed and open all vents. For a gas grill, set all burners to high and let it heat for 5-10 minutes. Clean and oil the cooking grate afterwards.
  5. If you’re using a gas grill, maintain the primary burner on high and turn off the others. Place the chicken skin-side up on the cooler side of the grill, with legs facing the heat. Cover and cook for 25 minutes.
  6. Rotate the chicken so the breast side is closer to the heat. Continue to cook until the breast reaches 160°F and the thighs reach 175°F, about 25 to 35 minutes more.
  7. Brush the remaining oil over the chicken skin, then flip the chicken skin-side down onto the hot side of the grill. Cook until the skin is slightly charred, roughly 5 minutes. Let it rest for 15 minutes before serving with lemon wedges.

Note: For additional recipes, visit Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street at 177milkstreet.com/ap.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Grilled Spiced Chicken

What is the main technique used to cook the chicken in this recipe?

The main technique used in this recipe is spatchcocking. This involves removing the chicken’s backbone and pressing down on the breast bone to flatten the bird, allowing for uniform cooking.

How can I keep the seasoning from sliding off the chicken?

You can prevent the seasoning from sliding off the chicken by applying the spices underneath the skin. This method ensures that the spices stay in place and intensify the flavor of the meat.

What is the main inspiration for the flavoring of the chicken in this recipe?

The flavoring of this dish is primarily inspired by the Iraqi spice-rubbed chicken. The recipe uses a combination of curry powder and garam masala to replicate a plethora of traditional spices, along with sumac for its earthy, citrusy flavor.

How should I manage the grill during the cooking process?

It’s important to ensure constant airflow by keeping the grill vents open, both at the bottom and on the lid. This prevents the fire from going out during the covered cooking period.

What is the suggested side dish for this grilled chicken?

This spiced grilled chicken pairs wonderfully with basmati rice or warm flatbread. You can also serve it with lemon wedges to enhance the flavors.

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SpiceLover101 July 7, 2023 - 11:46 pm

i’ve been looking for a good Iraqi spice blend for ages. Finally found it here, can’t wait to try it out!

BBQBilly July 8, 2023 - 1:19 am

pairing it with basmati rice was a game-changer. Lemon wedges too. Perfect for summer BBQs. gonna be my go-to from now on.

OutdoorChef July 8, 2023 - 7:04 pm

opening the vents – such a simple tip but makes a huge difference. learnt it the hard way last summer lol

CookingWithSara July 8, 2023 - 7:22 pm

OMG, this is the juiciest chicken I’ve ever made. used this recipe for our July 4th barbecue and it was a hit! thx for sharing.

GrillMasterJake July 8, 2023 - 8:40 pm

wow!! never tried putting the spices under the skin b4. gonna try it next time i grill chicken, thanks for the tip!!


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