Butterflied Chicken on the Grill with a Zesty Lemon Sauce

There are many ways to identify a French woman. The most cliche is by their style and their love of scarves, but that’s most likely not the French characteristic people would know me by. I can picture my friends and neighbors nodding as they read this, as they see me most often walking around town in yoga pants. It is my sauciness that betrays me as a French woman. Both verbally and culinarily, I am saucy and sauce loving. I tell it like it is, and love to dip in sauce. And consequently, I’m not afraid to ask for extra sauce when my restaurant dish comes plain or with just a schmear.

My recipe this week, for butterflied chicken on the grill with a zesty lemon sauce is a celebration of sauce and its power to transform a dish.

Roasted Lemon Chicken on the Grill

Pan sauce, or lack thereof, is the only downside to roasting chickens on the grill. The flavor is superior. There is no mess in the oven. But there are no delicious pan drippings to whip up into a little sauce. This tangy lemon sauce is the answer; the perfect complement to grill roasted spatchcocked chickens.

Marinade the chickensIf butterflying chickens is not your idea of fun, just ask your supermarket butcher to remove the chicken backs for you. It doesn’t need to be Whole Foods or a fancy butcher. The butcher counter of your local supermarket will be happy to spatchcock your chicken. But if you get the same thrill out of butchering as I do, check out my post on spatchcocking. Whatever you do, save the chicken backs. They make great chicken soup base.

Roasting Chickens on the GrillThe reason chicken skin is so incredibly delicious is because it is full of fat, and thus, highly flammable on the grill. The first time I tried to roast a chicken on the grill, fifteen years ago, I almost burned our house down to the ground. But I couldn’t stay away from the special texture and taste of chicken on the grill. Indirect heat is the answer.

Turn your grill to medium heat and sear your chicken on both sides for about 5 minutes. Then set it away from the flames, on a part of the grill with no burners turned on, and let it cook with indirect heat for an hour, until a thermometer inserted deep into the drumstick registers 165 degrees. To be sure, check a few parts of the chicken.

Cutting roast chickenOnce your chickens are cooked, you’ll need to rest them. Not only will that finish the cooking, but it will yield delicious juices that are the secret sauce ingredient. The sauce is the key to this recipe! Don’t forget to leave 10 minutes for the roasted bird to give up its juices.

To make the sauce, you just need the juice of 1 lemon, a heaping tablespoon of mustard, 1/4 cup of great extra virgin olive oil, and a few generous pinches of salt and pepper. Combine those ingredients with the pan juices, and you will have a zesty sauce that will make your mouth zing.

The sauce, and any leftover chicken, is also delicious cold.

Butterflied Chicken on the Grill with a Zesty Lemon Sauce
Cook time
Total time
Roasting a chicken on the grill gives it wonderful flavor and texture. The zesty lemon sauce that goes with the recipe is truly crave-worthy.
Cuisine: French
Serves: 6-8
  • 2 chickens, butterflied or spatchcocked
  • 3 tablespoons of dried shallots
  • 7 lemons
  • ¼ cups of good quality olive oil
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Have your butcher spatchcock your chickens.
  2. Zest 6 of the lemons. Then cut them and juice them into a large bowl. Add the dried shallots. Place the chickens in the bowl and marinade for 4-6 hours, making sure the lemon juice has been put on most of the chicken.
  3. Preheat the grill on medium high flames, only turning on the burners on one side.
  4. Place the two chickens skin side down on the flame. Sear for 5 minutes. Turn. Sear for another 5 minutes. Move to the side of the grill without the burners lit. Cook until the temperature of the bird reaches 165 degrees under multiple drumsticks. If your grill has a thermometer, try to keep the heat around 400 degrees fahrenheit.
  5. Let the chickens rest for 10 minutes.
  6. While the chickens are resting, combine in a small bowl the olive oil, the juice of the last lemon, the mustard. Beat vigorously with a fork until emulsified. Pour in any of the juices that have pooled under the chickens. Beat until emulsified again. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.
  7. Serve the sauce with the cut up roasted chicken.


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