If you’re familiar with my guide for these delicious grilled chicken quarters, you know a couple things. One, that grilled chicken quarters are absolutely amazing. And two, they’re very inexpensive. Building on those things, I decided to write this How To Grill Chicken Halves guide.
With this guide, like many others, the technique is the big takeaway. I will of course provide a recipe for a classic way to grill chicken halves, but the flavor profile can be changed to personal preference.
Prefer a rosemary rubbed chicken to a barbecue rubbed chicken? No problem! It’s the technique that’s important here, and it doesn’t change regardless of flavor profile preference.Jump to Recipe
Are Chicken Halves Better Than Chicken Breasts?
What’s great about grilled chicken halves is that they include a portion of all the parts of the chicken. It really is a smorgasbord of grilled chicken, including the breast of course. AND, a chicken half is the perfect portion for an individual serving.
So what makes a chicken half better than a chicken breast? All of the tasty extras of course! Along with the breast you’ll also get a crispy flavorful wing which are just bites of awesome, a juicy thigh—maybe my favorite part, and the ever popular drumstick that everyone loves to gnaw on.
How To Prepare Chicken Halves
Because the chicken half includes the breast, I highly recommend brining them. Chicken breasts are very lean, which is attractive for many people.
The downside to being so lean is that the breast meat itself often lacks flavor, and it can get dry when cooked. Brining is an essential step in preventing dryness, and getting flavor into various meats.
I’ve written extensively about the benefits of brining chicken breasts and those who have tried them, rave about them. It’s so simple to do, it would be a shame not to.
Why Grill Chicken Halves Instead of a Chicken Pieces?
I love grilling various parts of the chicken, depending on the mood and what’s on sale at the market. That said, there are definitely some advantages to grilling chicken halves.
First, there is less opportunity for the chicken to lose its natural juices. Each time a cut is made into the flesh of a chicken, there is opportunity for juice to leak out during the cooking process. By grilling the entire half of the chicken, much of that risk is mitigated.
Wait, why not grill a whole chicken then? That’s a logical question, and the answer comes down to risk vs. reward.
The shape of the chicken makes it challenging to get the entire bird perfectly cooked. The same principle applies to turkey at Thanksgiving which is what I grill my turkey in halves as well.
So, simply cutting the chicken in half cuts way down on loss of juices compared to cutting into individual pieces, AND increases the likelihood of a perfectly cooked chicken when compared to cooking a whole bird.
Second, chicken halves are just easier to cook and serve; especially if you’re cooking for a crowd. They don’t need to be turned or otherwise tended to once placed on the grill. They’re nearly set and forget because they are grilled with indirect heat.
Tips For Grilling Chicken Halves
The Grill: Grilled chicken halves can be done on a gas grill or on a charcoal grill. The important part is to set the grill op for two zone cooking.
The Temperature: Use a reliable leave-in thermometer to be sure the cooking temperature in the indirect heat zone is 425°F. Don’t trust the thermometer in your grills lid.
The Seasoning: Because of the temperature the chicken will be cooking, be aware of a dry rub or bbq sauce with excessive sugar. The sugars will burn when exposed to high temperatures for long periods of time.
The Moisture: You’ll want the surface of the chicken to be void of moisture. Moisture will steam and make the chicken skin rubbery; so ensure you blot the skin as dry as possible with paper towels.
The Split: Use poultry shears to split your chicken in half. They’re much easier than a knife, and more comfortable on your thumb than poultry scissors. Simply remove the back bone and cut the chicken in half down the center of the breast.
Internal Temperature: Remove the chicken from the grill when it reaches 10° lower than your desired internal temperature. Carry over cooking will continue to cook the chicken while it rests. Read this more info on safe temperature for chicken, it might surprise you.
How To Grill Chicken Halves
Serves: 2 | Active Prep Time: 5 mins | Cook Time: 30 mins
1 whole chicken, split into 2 halves
12 cups water
3 tbsp table salt
1 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp BBQ rub, or favorite chicken seasoning
1/2 cup chimichurri, optional
Step 1: Completely dissolve salt and sugar into 2 cups of hot water. Then, add the salt water solution to 10 cups of ice cold water in a large vessel. Completely submerge the chicken halves in the brine and place the vessel in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Overnight is better if you have the time.
Step 2: Light your grill and set up for two zone cooking. Using a reliable leave in thermometer, stabilize the indirect heat zone at 425°F.
Step 3: While grill is preheating, remove chicken from the brine and and pat it as dry as possible with paper towels.
Step 4: Evenly coat the chicken halves with olive oil. Then season the chicken with dry rub, being sure to season under the wings.
Step 5: Insert a leave in thermometer into the thickest portion of the breast and place the chicken on the grill over indirect heat. Close the lid and allow the chicken to cook until the internal temperature reaches 150° – 155°F. About 45 minutes.
Step 6: Remove the chicken from the grill, tent with aluminum foil and allow the chicken the rest for ten minutes while carry over cooking continues to cook the chicken.
Step 7: Slice and serve hot with some flavor packing chimichurri.
- Completely dissolve salt and sugar into 2 cups of hot water. Then, add the salt water solution to 10 cups of ice cold water in a large vessel. Completely submerge the chicken halves in the brine and place the vessel in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Overnight is fine if you have the time.
- Light your grill and set up for two zone heating. Using a reliable leave in thermometer, stabilize the indirect heat zone at 425°F.
- While grill is preheating, remove chicken from the brine and and pat it as dry as possible with paper towels.
- Evenly coat the chicken halves with olive oil. Then season the chicken with dry rub, being sure to season under the wings.
- Insert a leave in thermometer into the thickest portion of the breast and place the chicken on the grill over indirect heat. Close the lid and allow the chicken to cook until the internal temperature reaches 150°F. About 45 minutes.
- Remove the chicken from the grill, tent with aluminum foil and allow the chicken the rest for ten minutes while carry over cooking continues to cook the chicken.