Chicken al Mattone with Thyme Pesto

By • June 10, 2010 21 Comments

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Author Notes: Al Mattone means "with a brick". This Tuscan technique for grilling makes use of heavy bricks to weigh down a butterflied chicken so that it is pressed against the grate. The result is a juicy, smoky, perfectly cooked chicken with crispy golden skin. In this recipe, the chicken is marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and thyme overnight before it is grilled. It is served with a thyme pesto sauce. I knew it was going to be good. The aroma from the grill was intoxicating. The dogs were going berserk. The children came into the kitchen asking what smelled so good. We were not disappointed. This is a perfect meal for a casual summer dinner party, but it is simple enough to make anytime. Waverly

Food52 Review: This is not one of those birds you need to reserve for a weekend BBQ. Waverly's use of larder staples, combined with the set and forget marinade and make-ahead pesto, means this is perfect for a Tuesday night meal that requires only crusty bread, a green salad and a bottle of wine. Seriously, the hardest part of this dish is finding the right sized stone along the garden path.cheese1227

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pounds), rinsed and patted dry, and backbone removed
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme or lemon thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1-foot-square paving stone wrapped in aluminum foil (use a cast iron skillet if you can't find one)
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  1. To marinate the chicken: Place chicken, skin side up, in a glass baking dish. Press down on the center of the breast to break the sternum. The chicken should lie flat now. Rub it with marinade, making sure to loosen the skin and rub the marinade under the skin as well. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
  2. To grill the chicken: Remove chicken from refrigerator. Drain the marinade and pat the chicken dry. Season it with salt and pepper. Wrap your paving stone in foil (I pulled a cement paving stone out of my garden and washed it off). Prepare your grill. (Note: I threw a few mesquite wood chips onto my grill to give it a little something extra.) Brush your grill rack with a bit of oil. When the fire reaches medium-high heat and you can hold your hand over the grill about 5 seconds, place the chicken skin-side-down on the grill grate. Brush your wrapped paving stone with a little oil and then place it on top of the chicken. Grill for 12 to 15 minutes. Using grilling gloves, very carefully remove the stone. Flip the chicken, replace the stone on top, and grill until chicken is done, about 12 to 15 minutes longer. About five minuets before chicken is done, grill the lemon wedges. Transfer everything to a serving platter. Let chicken rest, covered with foil, for 5 to 10 minutes, and then cut into quarters.
  3. For the pesto: Combine parsley, thyme leaves, lemon zest, Parmesan, walnuts, and garlic in a food processor. When finely chopped, add olive oil in a steady stream until pesto is smooth. Season to taste with salt. (Note: this can be done up to 1 week ahead.)
  4. Serve grilled chicken with a dollop of pesto and a lemon wedge. Tell your diners to squeeze the lemon over the pesto. Enjoy.

More Great Recipes: Pesto|Chicken|Entrees|Olive Oil

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Comments (21) Questions (1)


3 months ago mm

Maybe I did something wrong. Mine turned out bland. The technique of grilling was great, but the marinade did nothing for me


over 1 year ago Robin Compo

this can be done with a small turkey also


almost 2 years ago NatWhit

This looks delicious. If I used bone-in split breasts instead of a whole chicken, do you think I should still use a brick?


almost 2 years ago Waverly

I would. Pressing the chicken into the grill really encourages browning and thus the flavor. Without the brick, you still have a great grilled chicken breast, but it is not quite the same thing.


about 2 years ago Midge

We tried this last night and it was AMAZING. Thanks for another keeper Waverly. Your bbq shrimp has been in heavy rotation this summer too.


about 2 years ago Foodiewithalife

Everything about this sounds just right! I'll be making this chicken for a weekday dinner.



about 2 years ago Printz

I've made chicken this way for years & we love it. The pesto is a new slant tho and am anxious to try it. I use the double cast iron skillet trick- which I preheat in oven 1st.


about 2 years ago Stefania Kleynendorst

I can't tell enough how good is the chicken like that!!!! mouth watering!


over 2 years ago ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

This not only sounds good, it LOOKS gorgeous! Have to try this one.


over 2 years ago kweber

This is going to sound lame, but do you grill this with the grill lid down or up?


over 2 years ago Waverly

I did not close the lid on the grill for this recipe. Closing the lid promotes even cooking, but that is not a concern here since the whole chicken is flattened by splitting it and then placing a heavy paver on it. That said, I am sure your chicken would still be successful grilled with the lid on - just be sure to watch the cooking time as that might change.


over 2 years ago QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.



over 2 years ago cheese1227

The flavor of this chicken is fabulous!! Thanks for sharing!


over 2 years ago Waverly

Thank you for the generous review, cheese1227! I am happy that you enjoyed it.


about 5 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Love this! I use my largest, very heavy cast iron skillet, with one of my Dutch ovens sitting inside it, whenever I need a "brick" for this purpose. It works really well! (I also cook butterflied chickens using this method in the oven during the dead of winter when it's pouring down rain outside . . . lightly browning the chicken on the stove first.) Great recipe. ;o)


about 5 years ago Waverly

You absolutely make bricked chicken in the oven - you can even make it on the stove. And, if you don't have a one foot paver, please don't go out and buy one. Use what you have - like Antonia who used a Dutch oven to weigh her chicken down. Dr.Babs uses a cookie sheet with bricks on it. The point is to crush the chicken down onto the grate so that it browns. Bon apetit!


about 2 years ago Printz

I too use my oven for this recipe when outdoors cooking isn't possible- I prefer cast iron as my bricks :)


about 5 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

I love to grill chicken this way! And it cooks so much faster. I can't eat nuts, but your pesto sounds really great.


about 5 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

So glad you posted this--it's how I grill chicken, too! You can also put a cookie sheet over the chicken and then weigh it down with bricks rather than put the paving stone directly on top of the chicken.


about 5 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

This sounds fabulous, we have been wanting to do a flat chicken and have not gotten around to it - now we will!! Plus I love plucking the stone out of the garden and throwing it on the grill.


about 5 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

This sounds really great! Thanks for the recipe.