Labor Day Cookout

Spatchcocked chicken on grill
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Eating together is as ancient as the discovery of fire itself, so a family cookout tugs at something deep inside us. We all know how time suddenly shrinks during the school year. The days get shorter between school, homework, sports and other extracurricular activities, so dinner together can be a challenge. Labor Day weekend is a perfect time to share a meal, cooked with fire, with your family before you enter a more scheduled season.

Everyone has a different definition of family friendly, and it may largely be shaped according to the ages of your family. My kids are young, so they aren’t quite ready to cook with me on the grill, but they can contribute to the meal by setting the table, picking tomatoes out of the garden for a salad and standing around talking while mom and dad cook. Tip: Giving kids a job for the meal to me is as important as eating together. It engages them in the process.

My next guideline for creating a family friendly cookout is this: Put the veggies out as an appetizer while you cook. They’ll eat their greens without even knowing it.

And my third guideline? Grill something that will give you another meal the next day. Life is busy so make it easier on yourself. Maybe that’s just mama-friendly or parent-friendly, but we’re part of the family, too!

Here is a grilled spatchcocked or butterflied chicken that is not only delicious, but the leftovers make excellent pulled chicken, chicken for a pasta, or chicken salad sandwiches for lunch.


Family Friendly Cookout for Labor Day Weekend

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 1 minute

Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Yield: Approximately 4 servings

Serving Size: -

Calories per serving: -

Fat per serving: -

Grilling a whole spatchcocked chicken gives you dinner one night and leftovers for the week.


  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage


  1. To spatchcock your chicken, lay chicken out, breast side down, on cutting board.
  2. Make a cut along one side of the backbone with a paring or boning knife. Cut all the way down to the hip.
  3. Using the backbone as a guide, score the meat away from the back with the top half of your knife, until you can see the hip bone. Cut through the joint. Be careful not to cut all the way through to the other side, as you will puncture the breast.
  4. Open up the cavity. Cut the backbone out from the other side, keeping the knife against the edge so as not to cut out the meat.
  5. Score the breastbone and cartilage with your knife. Lay your knife down and press down with both thumbs just above the breastbone to pop it out.
  6. You now have a whole bird, flattened. You may grill it whole, or cut it in half and grill the halves.
  7. Rub liberally with the olive oil, garlic, kosher salt and fresh sage.
  8. Preheat the grill on high, then turn down to medium. Place the whole bird directly over the flame and close the lid. Let cook for 10-15 minutes on each side, then finish off indirectly either on the rack or by turning one burner off and moving chicken over that burner.
  9. Cook until the internal temperature reads 165°F. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
  10. Use the removed bones to make soup or stock for the freezer for another meal during the school year.


© Julie Reinhardt, She-Smoke: A Backyard Barbecue Book

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