Brazilian Barbecue Chicken Recipe (Plus How to Properly Butterfly a Chicken)

Pull off your best grilled BBQ chicken yet.

How to butterfly a chicken

Removing the backbone and flattening the chicken will help it cook faster and more evenly, reducing the chances of overcooking.


  • Place chicken, breast side down, on a cutting board with legs facing you.
  • Using shears, remove spine by first cutting along one side and then the other. Reserve this for stock
    (freeze for up to three months) or discard.
  • Gently press down to push open and then turn over so that chicken is cut side down.
  • Using your hands, press down firmly on breastbone to flatten. It’s OK to hear cracking – that’s good!

For more of Jennifer’s barbecue recipes, check out her Pineapple-Coconut Kebabs and Planked Shrimps.

barbecue chickenPhoto Credit: Angus Fergusson
Servings Prep Time Cook Time Passive Time
8 to 10servings 15min. 40min. 30 min.
Servings Prep Time
8 to 10servings 15min.
Cook Time Passive Time
40min. 30 min.
Servings: servings
Servings: servings
  1. Finely grate peel from 1 lemon into a blender. Squeeze in ¾ cup juice. Add cilantro, oil, garlic, chilies, coriander seeds, paprika, sugar, turmeric and salt. Purée just until blended. Measure out ½ cup; cover and refrigerate for use later.
  2. Place chickens in a large casserole dish. Pour remaining marinade overtop. Rub all over chickens and under the skins. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  3. Before grilling, let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. For gas grills, preheat to medium high. After 10 min, turn off the middle burner. If using charcoal, bank coals on one side of grill.
  4. Place chickens, skin side up, on indirect side of grill. Close lid and grill, rotating so that it cooks evenly, for 20 minutes. Occasionally baste with sauce.
  5. Turn chickens over; generously baste with sauce. Cover and continue to barbecue, rotating often until skin is deep golden and crisp and a thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh reads 180°F, about 20 to 25 more minutes. Add limes, cut side down, for last 5 minutes.
  6. Remove to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut each chicken into 4 or 5 pieces and drizzle with reserved marinade.
Recipe Notes

Nutrients per serving: 658 calories, 55 g protein, 45 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 7 g carbo-hydrates (1 g fibre), 175 mg cholesterol, 425 mg sodium.

Best Health tip: Be sure to allow time for the chicken to marinate – the longer, the better. I recommend four hours.