Whole Grilled Hot-Honey Lemon Chicken

Whole grilled hot-honey lemon butter chicken on plate with lemons

Cooking a whole grilled chicken is so much easier than you think— promise. 

In fact, this recipe is not much harder than sheet pan chicken or skillet chicken— two bastions of weeknight ease. A whole, well-seasoned chicken crisps up on the grill until gloriously charred grill marks appear, then it’s flipped and coated in layer after layer of a spicy, tangy, ever-so-sweet hot-honey lemon butter marinade. The result is lacquered, crisp skin, juicy white and dark meat, and plenty of marinade leftover for spooning, drizzling, or dunking.

Steps for grilling a whole chicken

Before we get into the nitty gritty details, here is a basic overview of the process:

  1. Spatchcock the chicken, then cut it in half through the breastbone
  2. Season the chicken generously with salt, as far in advance as possible (up to 24 hours)
  3. Grill the chicken over medium heat, starting skin side down and flipping it over once
  4. Baste with the hot-honey lemon butter marinade every 5 minutes 
  5. Cook until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 160°F-165°F
Two halves of whole grilled chicken with hot-honey lemon butter marinade cooking skin-side up on the grill

Why spatchcock chicken before cooking?

Here’s one of my favorite guides for how to spatchcock a whole chicken.

Buying a whole bird is significantly cheaper than buying thighs or breasts. Plus, it’s less processed and tends to yield a more flavorful chicken. After cutting out the backbone of the bird, you’ll cut it in half through the breastbone. Cutting it into 2 pieces significantly decreases the cooking time and helps the chicken cook more evenly. 

How long does it take to grill an entire chicken?

Normally, grilling a whole chicken would take about an hour, at least. Spatchcocking the bird and cutting it into two pieces speeds things up— this recipe only takes about 30-40 minutes on the grill. 

What’s the best temperature to grill chicken?

I like to keep the grill at 400°F-425°F when cooking a whole chicken. It’s hot enough to crisp the skin, but cold enough to cook the chicken relatively slowly to retain moisture. 

Half of a whole grilled hot-honey lemon butter chicken on plate with lemons

Grilled chicken marinade

I finally found it: My favorite chicken marinade. I didn’t invent hot-honey lemon butter (or at least I don’t think I did) but the combination of hot sauce, honey, fresh lemon juice, and butter definitely deserves attention— and generous slathering. Equal parts rich and spicy with a hint of sweetness and a tart backbone, it’s all of the best taste sensations at once. And better yet, it’s paired with America’s favorite protein.

And what to serve on the side?

Serve something summery and a little sweet (such as corn or zucchini) to contrast all of those spices, or try something cool and creamy (like feta or ranch dressing) that will also tame the heat:

How to make the best grilled whole chicken

Sprinkle the chicken all over with salt. Let sit at room temperature for about a half hour. Or, season it in advance (up to 24 hours before) and leave it in the refrigerator, uncovered.

Raw whole chicken on plate with salt

Meanwhile, make the hot-honey lemon marinade. Heat butter, hot sauce, and honey in a  small saucepan or microwaveable bowl until butter is melted, then remove from heat.

Hot-honey lemon butter marinade unmixed in white bowl with silver spoon

Juice ½ of one of the lemons and add to the bowl with the hot-honey butter. Stir to combine. If your butter is unsalted, season the marinade with salt to taste.

Hot-honey lemon butter marinade mixed together in white bowl with silver spoon

Prepare your grill for medium heat, brush and lightly oil the grates once it’s hot. Grill the chicken, skin side down, until skin is lightly charred and easily releases from the grates without tearing, about 10 minutes.

Two halves of uncooked whole chicken with hot-honey lemon butter marinade cooking skin-side down on the grill

Turn chicken over.

Two halves of whole grilled chicken cooking skin-side up on the grill

Lightly brush with hot-honey lemon butter. Cover grill and continue grilling chicken, brushing with lemon butter every 5 minutes or so, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers between 160°F-165°F, 30-35 minutes more.

Slathering chicken on grill with hot-honey lemon butter marinade

Whole Grilled Hot-Honey Lemon Chicken

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Dinner American
By Samantha Serves: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cooking Time: 45 minutes Total Time: 1 hour

A whole grilled chicken slathered in spicy, tangy, ever-so-sweet hot-honey lemon butter results in lacquered, crisp skin and juicy meat, with plenty of marinade leftover for serving.

Ingredients

  • 1 3½–4-lb. chicken, backbone removed, then cut in half through the breast
  • Salt
  • 5 Tbsp. butter
  • 5 Tbsp. mild hot sauce (such as Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 lemon, divided
  • Vegetable oil (for grill)

Instructions

1

Sprinkle the chicken all over with salt. Let sit at room temperature for about a half hour, or season it in advance (up to 24 hours before) and leave it in the refrigerator, uncovered. If refrigerating, take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before grilling.

2

Meanwhile, make the hot-honey lemon marinade: Heat butter, hot sauce, and honey in a small saucepan or microwaveable bowl until butter is melted, then remove from heat. Juice ½ of one of the lemons and add to the bowl with the hot-honey butter. Stir to combine. If your butter is unsalted, season the marinade with salt to taste. Set aside 1/2 cup of marinade for serving.

3

Prepare your grill for medium heat, brush and lightly oil the grates once it’s hot.

4

Grill the chicken, skin side down, until skin is lightly charred and easily releases from the grates without tearing, 8-10 minutes. Turn chicken over and lightly brush with hot-honey lemon butter. Cover grill and continue grilling chicken, brushing with lemon butter every 5 minutes or so, and moving the chicken pieces around the grill so that they cook evenly, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers between 160°F-165°F, 30-35 minutes more. If desired, flip the chicken back over (skin side down) for the last 5 minutes of cooking to get it extra charred.

5

Just before the chicken is ready, add the remaining lemon half to the grill, cut side down, and cook until charred and softened, 6–8 minutes.

6

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board; let rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting into pieces as desired.

7

Squeeze the grilled lemon half over the chicken pieces and serve with the reserved marinade.

Notes

Leaving the chicken at room temperature for ½ hour before cooking helps it cook more quickly and evenly; if you do not have time to do this you might just have to increase the cooking time by 5-10 minutes.

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