Butterflied Grilled Whole Chicken with French Herbs and Shallot Butter

Butterflied Grilled Whole Chicken with French Herbs and Shallot Butter

I start my grilled whole chicken with a French mix of fresh herbs rubbed into the chicken. Then I brush it with a sweet and spicy glaze as it cooks. And, to top it off, I make a caramelized shallot butter. The result is layers of flavor. Earthy, green notes from the herbs, sharp spice from the mustard, and complex sweetness from the honey and shallots. Yum!

We’re in the middle of the ‘let’s get out of house and go do something‘ part of the summer!

This past weekend we all went up to western New York for a few days to visit my in-laws and drop off the daughter. Yep, the husband and I have been daughter free this week. It feels weird! Good for working and getting things done, but there is this daughter shaped hole in my thoughts.

Luckily, it won’t be there long since we are retrieving her on Thursday. On Thursday we’re getting together with my in-laws and my parents in western Massachusetts for a few days of seeing a nice play, going out to dinner, and visiting a museum or two. At that point all my impulses to tell someone to brush their teeth and get to bed will be back where they belong.

In between, I’ve been cooking, trying out new recipes, writing, and all that good stuff needed to keep things going around here.

About the only issue with this week is that it is about 60F here! In the middle of summer! I need a jacket and all the blankets on the bed. Brrr! At least it’s a good week to test out oven recipes…

But let’s think back to warmer days…like last week, when grilling was the only way to go and the only way I was going to consider cooking a whole chicken.

Roasting a chicken in the oven is awesome in the winter, but not so much in the summer. Even with air conditioning, I’m not going to turn on the oven for hours if I can possibly avoid it.

Bring on the grill!

And bring on the June/July issue of Fine Cooking. As I was sitting and thinking about what I should do with a chicken if I wanted to grill it, that issue arrived in my mailbox with an article all about butterflying and grilling small birds. Aha! They recommended a three layered approach of rub, glaze, and flavored butter. After I finished reading the article, I closed the magazine and thought ‘okay, what would I do? what flavors are mine?’ and so I came up with a French style whole grilled chicken inspired by their methods but with my own flavors and ideas.

Like with my quick and tasty Grilled Tuscan Style Turkey I posted last year, this recipe starts with a whole bird and a pair of kitchen shears. Happily, cutting up a chicken is So Much Easier than doing the same for a turkey, which means its a matter of minutes for me to snip down the backbone of the chicken and flatten in out.

Once I have my chicken all set, I give a good rub. I do adore the flavor you get when you rub meat with fresh herbs and let it rest for a while. In this case, I’ve chosen to work with French flavors, so I made up a fines herbes mix.

There is some variation in exactly what herbs to use in fines herbes, some use thyme or sage as a minor note in the mix, others add a bit of oregano, but the basics are well known – parsley, chives, tarragon, and chervil. Fresh not dried! Let’s note that chervil, especially fresh chervil is basically impossible to find (or at least improbable) on this side of the Atlantic, so I switched to a mix of oregano and thyme in its place. A bit of a different flavor, but still good, and those are all fresh herbs I have in my garden and in my herb pots.

The first few times I did this grilled chicken, I didn’t use a glaze, but the sweet and spicy flavor from the honey and dijon mustard does add a needed layer of flavor. I couldn’t believe how the chicken went from ‘this is good’ to ‘this is great!’ once I added the glaze. Don’t skip the glaze! It takes two ingredients and about 30 seconds to make.

After the chicken comes off the grill, it’s time slice it up and pull out the compound butter. You’ll need to make the butter at least a few hours ahead to give the shallots time to caramelize and cool from caramelizing and then for the butter to set after you mix it all together.

To make a complete meal, I cooked up some extra crispy roasted potatoes and simple, steamed broccolini. Roasted potatoes and broccolini (or broccoli) are always big hits in my house so that was an easy choice for the meal.

Also, I’ll note that my picky 12 year old daughter who turns her nose up at chicken most nights, gives this recipe for grilled whole chicken two thumbs up. Even though I made it a number of times in the past month or two. High praise from her!

– Happy Grilling, Annemarie

Butterflied Grilled Whole Chicken with French Herbs and Shallot Butter

A French herb rub, a sweet and spicy glaze, and a caramelized shallot butter all combine to make a grilled whole chicken full of layered flavors.

Caramelized Shallot Compound Butter


  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp butter
  • 2 medium shallots, (sliced 1/8 inch thick)
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, (room temperature)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 3 1/2 lb whole chicken
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, (minced)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp water
Read the whole recipe on Just a Little Bit of Bacon