Spatchcock Smoke Roasted Turkey

November 7, 2019

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.

whole smoke roasted spatchcock turkey on a wooden cutting board

Spatchcock Turkey

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.

whole smoked spatchcock turkey on a wooden cutting board with herbs and cranberries

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!

backbone being removed from a raw turkey

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.

hand pressing down on a turkey to flatten it on a wooden cutting board

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!

bowl of herbed butter on a granite countertop

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.

spatchcock turkey on a smoker next to bacon wrapped carrots

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:

Grilled Spatchcock Chicken
Spatchcock Smoked Chicken with Cherry Chipotle BBQ Sauce

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:

Smoked Turkey

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 YouTubeInstagram, 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 on a cutting board
Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes

Spatchcock Smoke Roasted Turkey

Spatchcock Smoke Roasted Turkey will be the star of your Thanksgiving spread this year. There is nothing more impressive than a smoked spatchcock turkey.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Resting Time15 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Comfort Food, Party Food
Keyword: spatchcock turkey
Servings: 15 people
Calories: 375kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 10 pound turkey gizzards and neck removed
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Herb Butter

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 375kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 171mg | Sodium: 552mg | Potassium: 487mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 333IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 31mg | Iron: 2mg

**This post was originally published November 2016. It has since been updated with more information and helpful tips. The recipe remains the same.

Smoke Roasted Spatchcock Turkey. All of that delicious roasted turkey flavor in a fraction of the time!

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72 thoughts on “Spatchcock Smoke Roasted Turkey

  1. Hi, there is an incongruence in the spatchcocked turkey recipe. It states .5 lbs. per person, but the example says a 10 lb. bird will serve 5 persons. Please clarify as this is a difference of 400%!

    I plan to prepare this on my Rec TEC along with the bacon glazed carrots this year!

    Thanks,

    Cal

    1. Good catch Cal! Thanks for pointing out the discrepancy. I’ll correct it on the recipe now, I would still plan a half pound per person as a minimum. Keep in mind, people love leftovers! I usually plan more turkey just so I have enough for the day after too. Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Any time you cook over a wood fire, you will be getting a smoky flavor. It’s not a smoked turkey, true. If you want to smoke the turkey first, I recommend smoking at 225 for 2 hours and then turning up the temperature to 450 to finish cooking and crisp the skin.

  2. Retired, moved from house to condo, wife is the cook and I her sous chef. Only allowed electric grills on our small screened patio. We have a Charbroil Patio Bistro infrared grill. Have done shrimp, burgers, pork loin, steak in cast iron skillet. Wanting to try a turkey and chicken. I always spatchcock.
    Want to try your recipe, any suggestions since we can’t use charcoal or gas?

    1. Hey Bud! Sounds like you and your wife have a good thing going!! The only thing I would worry about with an infrared grill is the skin/exterior burning before the interior is cooked through if you have a bigger turkey. Maybe shoot for a lower cooking temperature, say 350 or 375 degrees and then plan a little longer to cook.

  3. I am a ‘roasted’ turkey person. I was wondering if one could cut it as you did, and use the herbs, and still roast in oven that way. I usually cook my turkey with high heat, and fast. Anyone who I am blessed to serve my turkey to always compliment me on the juicy, yummy turkey. Should I stick to my plain ol turkey, or try changing it up a bit?

    1. It absolutely works in the oven too! If you’re nervous, give it a whirl with a spatchcocked chicken to try it out. The benefit is the even cooking between the legs and thighs so nothing dries out.

    1. Depending on the size of your turkey. You might have to go a little smaller. Try setting your grill up with the hot coals all around the edges. This will give you better indirect heat and prevent flare ups from the fat dripping on the coals.

      1. I learned to splatchcock a turkey because my friend bought one too big for my Weber. You can do an 18-20 lb bird on a Weber kettle. I used the charcoal baskets, one one each side.

  4. We will be roasting a spatchcock turkey. Recipe says a 18-20 lb turkey will take 1 hour 15 min to roast at 450 degrees. I watched your live turkey program on FB and you say turkey will take 10 min per lb to roast. With a 20 lb turkey, that is 3 hours 40 min. Which roast time is more accurate? Love your site

    1. Hey David! Definitely follow the recipe as written here, but with a bird that size be prepare for a little longer stall time. In the live video, I had just roasted a bird at 375 degrees and it was about 10 min/pound. This one runs at a higher temp and will cook a bit faster.

  5. Hey Grill,

    I am spatchcocking a 16 lb turkey for Thanksgiving. I am roasting it on my Kamado Joe grill. I will follow your recipe. How long will the bird take if roasting at 450 degrees? Also, is a drip pan required or needed for the roast? I will use stone deflectors to provide indirect heat.
    Enjoyed your son being on the live broadcast.

    Thanks,

    David

    1. Hey David-

      I would plan between and hour and an hour and a half. A drip pan is not required, but if you like to make gravy from the drippings, you can put an aluminum pan under the grill grate to catch them. The stone deflectors should be enough to create the indirect heat that you need.

      1. Last year I had problems with smoke and flare ups. I have a Kamado Joe grill with deflectors to create indirect heat. However, when the butter melted and dropped on deflector, it caused a lot of smoke and flare ups. Should I use a drip pan filled with water? Don’t plan to use drippings for gravy. Just want to eliminate the smoke and flare ups.

  6. I’m planning to brine my turkey before smoking so my question is, would you spatchcock it prior to brining or afterwards?

    And do you need to let the turkey rest for awhile after brining and before smoking? Perhaps even at room temp?
    Thanks.

    1. Hey Bev- I would spatchcock prior to brining. It makes it a little easier to handle. You do not need to let it set at room temperature for any amount of time. You want to go from the fridge to the heat as quickly as possible to prevent bacteria growth.

  7. I have a few more questions about your recipe. I read in another recipe that you can put the turkey in the refrigerator overnight to help the skin dry and be more crisp. They also seasoned the turkey with salt and pepper. Does this make any difference with making the skin more crisp, or the meat more tender, since I will be roasting at 450 degrees? I believe my turkey is pre brined, so can I spatchcock and put it in the refrigerator overnight or early morning to let skin dry? Then I would work a ghee and herb mix under the skin, then rub some ghee on outside along with salt and pepper before roasting? What are the pros and cons to letting the bird sit uncovered in the refrigerator over night if I am not dry brining, then putting ghee on the turkey? If none, then should I just do all right before roasting?
    I have my whole family here for Thanksgiving and I don’t want to mess up with the turkey.

    Thanks so much for your help.

    David

    1. I have used the skin drying technique before, but only on birds I am smoking. The higher roasting temperature seems to take care of crisping the skin up beautifully without the need to air dry. Also, air drying makes the skin very taught, if you attempted to rub butter under the skin after it has been drying you will likely tear the skin. You should be good to just use the ghee/butter then season and roast.

  8. This is my first time at a smoked turkey. I spatchcock chickens a bunch and always remove the ribs. I’ve noticed you and others do not remove the ribs when spatchcocking turkeys. Any reason I should or shouldn’t? Thank you

  9. Used your recipe as the inspiration for a 21-pounder I cooked up on Thanksgiving. Not sure I got the presentation right on the legs (they sorta fell off the main carcass of the bird), but otherwise, the bird turned out great. I smoked it for 2 hours at ~225, and then cranked up the heat to ~400 until the meat reached temp (was about an hour for the legs/thighs, and 90 mins for the breasts, which I’m pretty sure were augmented — they were HUGE). I definitely like the spatchcocking method much better for the bigger birds.

    1. That is a big bird!! Spatchcocking is definitely a benefit when you’re cooking a turkey that size because you can better distribute heat. So glad it worked out for you!

  10. Having a large family gathering this weekend. Really want to try this but wife bought a 20lb Turkey. Any suggestions on time? And how to add smoke? Was hoping to use my electric smoker. Thank you

    1. Hey John! I would use the herbed butter in this recipe and then smoke with the instructions from this post: https://heygrillhey.com/smoked-turkey/

      That will give you a more traditional turkey. I’ve seen a lot of people struggle to get a spatchcocked turkey into an electric smoker, especially that size, because once opened they just take up a ton of room.

  11. What kitchen shears do you use? I bought some shears last year and they were horrible at cutting through the turkey. This tutorial makes it look super easy to cut through the spine on Mr. Gobbler or Mrs. Hen. Took me forever to cut it out. Unless I was doing it wrong…

    1. Yes, I would recommend only using two of the burners on high and the other two on low. Place the turkey over the burners that are on low so you don’t have flare ups and burn the bottom of the bird.

  12. I’m thinking of tackling this recipe for Thanksgiving this year, with a few mods, I was going to smoke it slow and low for an hour or two before cranking the heat up to roast, just to up the smokey flavor. I was also going to use the Smoked Turkey brine on it. My question is, between the brine and the herbed butter under the skin, would I end up with a bird that’s too salty? Should I remove or tone down the salt from the butter?

    1. I think cutting back the salt in the butter is smart if you’re brining your turkey in advance. You could easily get it too salty. The smoke first sounds delicious, too!

  13. Love your site! Planning on spatchcocking a turkey then using your brine. Should I also do the butter rub?
    I see some posts saying to do slow @225 then turn up to roast. What temp do you turn it up to? I’m new at this and don’t want to mess it up for Thanksgiving,.

  14. I would like to try this. I have an Oklahoma Joe smoker and doubt I can get my temp up to ~400 degrees. Can I cook at 225 until the bird is done or will it be too dry?

  15. I’m going to give this a shot since I normally rotisserie my birds but the turkey is too big. Do you roast it skin side up or down on the grill? Do you ever flip it?

  16. How do I prevent flare ups even when my pellet grill was new when I cook at a hi temp with fatty foods it flares up I can reverse sere stakes no problem but really thick cut bacon better have a fire extinguisher on hand

  17. Last year I had problems with smoke and flare ups. I have a Kamado Joe grill with deflectors to create indirect heat. However, when the butter melted and dropped on deflector, it caused a lot of smoke and flare ups. Should I use a drip pan filled with water? Don’t plan to use drippings for gravy. Just want to eliminate the smoke and flare ups.

  18. When you smoke your whole turkey you do so at 225*F for a long time (~30 min/lb). When you smoke your spatchcocked bird you do so at a much higher temperature for a much shorter time. Why is that? If I want to smoke my spatchcocked turkey, why would I not do it at 225 for as long as it takes to cook? Presumably In less time than it takes for a whole bird.
    Thank you

  19. We planned to do a 14 pound bird splachcocked and spiced very much as you do but I was planning to go with 300 degrees on the grill. Other than speed, what will I see different going lower longer vs high and fast? Your website is tremendous!

    1. The biggest thing I’d watch out for is how long your bird will be outside on a smoker within the food safety danger zone, and second the lower temp will change the crispiness of the skin a bit. It should still be crispy smoking around 300 though.

      1. Wow! This is the best non smoked Turkey we ever had. Everyone raved about the look and tasted, needless to say, a 16 pound bird was gobbled up in no time. This is will be our go to recipe from now on. Next time I will smike it fir 2 hours at 225 then crank it to 450 to finish it. Thanks again for the recipe.

  20. Great recipe! I use it every time I make turkey. My wife loves turkey, so we have this quite frequently. I have a quick tip….I use a 16 inch disposable plastic pastry bag to pipe the herb butter under the skin after I loosen it with my hands. Then all I have to do is pat it into place and I don’t have the messy hands, and I can get the butter right where I want it!

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