The Washington Post

Lemon and Herb Chicken

Lemon and Herb Chicken 4.000

Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

May 17, 2021

Pitmaster Rodney Scott recommends smoking chicken at a temperature between 225 and 250 degrees, the classic low-and-slow range for barbecue. But it can take a long time to get your charcoal to drop to the proper temperature. The wait can begin to feel like a waste, not only of your time but of valuable heat. Post Food writer Tim Carman decided to put the chicken on a grill heated to between 350 and 400 degrees, but to cook it several inches away from the smoldering coals. The technique produced a bird with beautifully bronzed and charred skin while cutting down on the cooking time.

Active time: 40 mins; Total time: 4 hours 15 mins

Make Ahead: The chicken needs to be marinated for at least 1 hour (and up to 1 hour 30 minutes) before grilling.

Storage Notes: The finished chicken can be pulled from the bone, wrapped and refrigerated for up to 3 days. The bones can be saved for making stock.

4 - 6

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4-6 servings

  • One (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken, spatchcocked or cut in half (see NOTE)
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 4 to 5 large lemons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 small sprig fresh rosemary


Place the chicken in a large bowl or baking dish; stack the halves if necessary.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and mustard until thoroughly combined. Continue to whisk as you slowly drizzle in the olive oil to form an emulsified marinade (it should be thick and creamy). Season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Pour the marinade over the chicken. Using a mortar and pestle or the back of your chef’s knife, press on the herbs (still on their stems) to bruise them, releasing some of their aromas and oils. Add the herbs to the chicken and toss everything together, making sure all parts are covered. Cover with a large plate or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 hour 30 minutes. If you stacked the chicken halves, or if the spatchcocked bird wasn’t fully submerged in liquid, rearrange the pieces halfway through the marinating process, moving the top part to the bottom and vice versa, or just flip the chicken over.

Use a chimney starter to prepare your charcoal. Once the charcoal is red hot, dump it on the lower grate of your grill, leaving enough room for the chicken to sit on the upper grate without being directly over the smoldering coals. Heat the grill to between 350 and 400 degrees. (See NOTES for other grill options.)

Remove the chicken from the marinade and brush off any herbs still clinging to the meat so they don’t burn on the grill. Transfer the meat to the grill, skin side up. Close the grill and cook for about 1 hour, rotating the bird every 10 to 15 minutes to maintain an even color.

Flip the chicken over and close the grill again. If the temperature drops below 250 degrees, prepare a little more charcoal in the chimney and add to the grill. Cook until the thickest part of the meat registers 165 degrees, about 1 hour. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving.

NOTES: Scott advises home cooks to ask their butcher to remove the backbones and spatchcock their chicken; if you do that, save the backbone to make chicken stock.

If using a gas grill: Set the temperature to 350 degrees. With three burner zones, heat the left and right zones and leave the center off. With two burner zones, turn on one and leave the other one off. Then, place the chicken over the unheated zone.

If your grill does not have different grate levels, add the charcoal in a ring around the edge of the drum and place the chicken in the middle of the grate so that it is not directly over the charcoal.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from “Rodney Scott's World of BBQ: Every Day Is a Good Day” by Rodney Scott and Lolis Eric Elie (Clarkson Potter, 2021).

Tested by Tim Carman.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (based on 6): 278

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 14g 22%

Saturated Fat: 3g 15%

Cholesterol: 111mg 37%

Sodium: 993mg 41%

Total Carbohydrates: 3g 1%

Dietary Fiber: 0g 0%

Sugar: 1g

Protein: 34g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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