Spatchcock Smoke Roasted Turkey will be the star of your Thanksgiving spread this year. By spatchcocking the turkey first, you flatten the cooking surface, allowing for faster cook time and lots of smoke flavor.
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.
What Size Turkey Do I Need?
Before we jump into the specifics on spatchcocking a turkey, we need to talk size. I recommend planning 1 pound per person (ex: a 10 lb turkey would feed 10 people). Not everybody is going to be eating a pound of turkey, you also need to account for bones, giblets, etc. that are included in your turkey. Also, LEFTOVERS!! Perhaps the best part of a turkey!
This recipe is designed for a smaller turkey, 10-12 pounds. I don’t recommend this recipe for birds any larger than that with this high temperature grilling technique because the skin will overcook before the internal temperature is right. If you need more than 10-12 pounds, cook two turkeys (double the wings and legs that way, anyways!)
Next, up, a quick note on brining. 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 do decide to brine, I do not recommend a brine with any sugar in it, as it is likely to burn or get too dark with the high temperature cooking in this recipe.
How to Spatchcock a Turkey
Spatchcocking a turkey is actually much more simple than it may seem. Make sure you have a sharp pair of kitchen shears, and you’ll be ready to go. I have the instructions in the recipe card below, but I am going to expand on the condensed version up here so you can tackle this turkey with full confidence!
First: Prepare the Bird. Create a fairly open work space 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.
Second: Cut! 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! Nicely done!
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!
How Long to Smoke a Spatchcock Turkey
A 10 lb turkey will cook in about 45 minutes on a 450 degree grill; a larger 12-15 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, 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 can maintain high temperatures without worrying about flare-ups from grease and butter dripping off of the bird.
Can I Roast a Spatchcock Turkey in the Oven?
Absolutely! If you are concerned about flare-ups, you can set the turkey on a foil lined baking sheet. The temperature in your oven will be the same, but you can plan on this method increasing the overall cook time. I would plan an extra 15-30 minutes of cook time for an oven roasted bird.
One of the major upsides about using this pan method is that you will have the melted butter and turkey drippings to use in gravy. In fact, I will occasionally place my turkeys in a pan before placing them on the grill when I want to reserve the drippings.
More Spatchcock Recipes
So you’re a spatchcocking master now, huh? Now that you’re a master at cooking a flattened bird, check out these other delicious spatchcock recipes:
And if you just want to keep things simple with your smoked turkey, this recipe is the best of the best for smoking your bird:
Spatchcock Turkey Recipe
Watch the video below, and let’s make some really good food! I’m all about helping you make better BBQ, feed the people you love, and become a BBQ hero. Head on over to YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook for more behind the scenes action!
Creating a holiday dinner for your family should be stress-free, and Hey Grill Hey is here to help! Over at Patio Provisions, we have sauces, rubs, and more to help you make the most of your holiday planning. Check it out today!
Spatchcock Smoke Roasted Turkey
- 1 10 pound turkey (gizzards and neck removed)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
- 1 Tablespoon fresh sage (finely minced)
- 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 2 teaspoons coarse Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
- Preheat your smoker or indirect grill to 450 degrees F.
- Create a fairly open workspace for yourself that is easy to sanitize. Flip your turkey 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.
- 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.
- In a small bowl, make the herb butter by thoroughly combining the butter, herbs, salt, and pepper. Using your fingers, distribute the herbed butter evenly under the skin all across the turkey.
- Drizzle the turkey with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and carefully transfer to the grill grate. Close the lid and roast for 45 minutes, or until an internal thermometer reads a minimum of 165 degrees in the breasts and thighs of your turkey. The thighs may be a slightly higher temperature by the time the breast is fully cooked.
- Remove the turkey from the grill and allow to rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
**This post was originally published November 2016. It has since been updated with more information and helpful tips. The recipe remains the same.