Spatchcock Smoke Roasted Turkey will be the star of your Thanksgiving spread this year.
There is nothing more impressive than a beautiful whole roasted bird with crispy golden skin to elicit the oooooooohs and aaaaaaaaaaahs of approval from your in laws. When they ask why the bird is flat, you can tell them it has everything to do with even cooking temperatures and distribution of heat and more smoky flavor penetration from your grill. What you don’t have to tell them is that your turkey cooked in less than half the time of a normal turkey and you were able to actually enjoy your morning. Everybody wins, but I think you win the most.
Spatchcocking a turkey is actually much more simple that it may seem upon first glance. With a good pair of kitchen shears (THESE are great!) you are ready to go. I have the instructions in printable form below, but I am going to expand on the condensed version up here a little bit so you can tackle this turkey with full confidence!
First, you need to make sure you grab a good turkey. I recommend planning 1/2 lb per person (ex: a 10 lb turkey would feed 20 people) but keep in mind what you’d like for leftovers! IF you want to have more than enough, you could plan up to 1 lb/person. Frozen turkeys will almost always be pre-injected with a saline solution to help them stay juicy during cooking. If that is what you want to use, that is absolutely fine! There are millions of discussions about wet brining/dry brining, etc. Those are for whole roasted birds, in my opinion. The purpose of a spatchcock smoke roasted turkey is to get great flavor from the grill and cook fairly quickly. If you have a favorite recipe for a brine, go ahead and use it, then follow these steps for preparing and grilling your bird.
Second, prep time! Create a fairly open workspace for yourself that is easy to sanitize. Any time you are working with raw poultry, easy clean up is a must. Remove the neck and any other gizzards from the cavity of your turkey and flip it breast side down on your cutting board. Starting on one side of the backbone, use your shears to cut a straight line from the tailbone to the neck. Most of the bones will be fairly easy to cut through with sharp scissors. Repeat on the other side of the backbone and cut all the way through until you can remove the backbone completely.
Third, flatten that bird. Turn the turkey over onto it’s back. Turn out the thighs until they lay flat on the cutting board. Using both hands, press firmly on the breastbone of the turkey until you feel a snap and the breast presses down to the cutting board. Take the wing tips and tuck behind the back of the turkey. You are now ready to dress your turkey! Simple!
Once your turkey is flat, you can add whatever seasonings you like. My favorite thing to do is slide herbed butter (the recipe is below) underneath the skin to add moisture and flavor to the breast while helping crisp the skin. This method truly saves time too! A 10 lb turkey will cook in about 45 minutes on a 450 degree grill; a larger 18-20 lb turkey would take close to an hour and 15 minutes or more. The real key is constantly monitoring the internal temperature of your turkey. Remember that the only way to know if your turkey is both safe to eat and not overcooked is with an accurate digital thermometer. Check in the thickest part of the breast and thigh for an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
For your reference, (and if you are still reading this, I applaud your desire to make an awesome turkey) I cooked this turkey on my pellet grill with apple wood pellets. Any type of indirect smoker or indirect grilling set-up would work as long as you could maintain high temperatures without worrying about flare-ups from grease dripping.