Incredibly juicy Smoked Spatchcock Turkey is simple to pull off and is packed with smoke flavor. Easy to prep, cook, and serve. Give yourself a break with the wet brine and try this method!
Did you ever notice how controversial turkey is? You’d be challenged to find 5 people that would give you the exact same method for smoking a turkey. Everyone has their best-kept family recipe, secret injections, brines, or spices. One of the best parts about barbecue is the journey to achieve something tasty. I’m going to share mine with you.
You’ve here because you saw the words Smoked Spatchcock Turkey and are either generally curious or trying to perfect yours. Let’s focus on a few key points and I’ll break them down.
Funny word for a bird, but to spatchcock means removing the backbone using shears or a heavy knife, flipping it over, and then pressing down on the breast to flatten it. Pressing down firmly will literally crack the breastbone underneath, allowing the turkey to spread completely flat. You might not get the high fives and chest bumps for the picture-perfect Martha Stewart holiday roast turkey, but trust me the taste will make up for it.
Why Should You Spatchcock a Turkey?
- Even layer of smoke flavor on all sides.
- Meat cooks more evenly, high chance of cooking at the same time.
- Creates the crispiest crust on the outside.
- Juicier meat with less effort.
- Backbone used for the best gravy.
- Drastically less cooking time.
Advantages of the Spatchcock Process
Let’s chat about the main reasons why I prefer this method, and hopefully, it will give you enough information to decide whether or not to try it.
Flat Shape Means Even Cooking
The biggest advantage of using this process is even cooking due to the flattened, wider surface. Drumsticks and thighs are exposed more, allowing them to cook faster. Roasting a whole turkey typically cooks the breast faster due to its exposure, leaving you waiting on the dark meat. You also don’t have to worry about the inside areas being undercooked.
Crispy Skin All-Around
Crispy skin is pretty important to me. All of the skin is exposed to heat from the top, providing a consistent cook. No need to flip the turkey here, it should all cook at a similar rate. The fat also drips down, basting the meat, meaning the underside won’t get rubbery or chewy.
Cooks Much Faster
A spatchcocked turkey will cook much faster, and can also take higher heat if needed. You will save close to 50% of the cooking time simply by flattening out the turkey. Generally, a 10-14 lb turkey will take you about 2 hours give or take.
Gravy is the Backbone
Do you love gravy? The backbone can be used to make the most delicious broth while you’re smoking the turkey or even the day before. Typically I’ll make turkey broth ahead of time so it’s one less thing to worry about on the big day.
Disadvantages of the Spatchcock Process
Yes, this isn’t a completely flawless process. The few disadvantages are pretty minor compared to a crispy, fast-cooking smoked spatchcock turkey, but I’ll let you be the judge.
No Cavity for Stuffing
Stuffing fanatics might be very upset with this, but I am not. Our stuffing has been made on the side for a long time, as it’s well-known that there are food safety concerns for cooking temperatures inside the cavity. I admit, stuffing from inside the turkey tastes pretty amazing.
Flat turkeys on the table do not present well and take up a LOT more space if you try to showcase it that way. That picture-perfect moment of the reveal isn’t the same.
How to Season a Spatchcock Turkey
Do you enjoy reading? I could write a cookbook simply on the different methods to prepare poultry, from brines, marinades, and confit. We’re not going to cover all of the various ways here.
I’m going to focus on my preferred method for spatchcock turkey, which is using a dry-brine.
Dry-brining uses juices from the turkey to create its own brine. Salting the skin draws out moisture, the salts melt into the juices and then flow back through the cells of the meat. The salted juices will tenderize the meat and retain moisture. The skin is also dried significantly which allows it to crisp up better.
The biggest drawbacks are fridge space and time. Any brining process you use will come across this challenge, but it makes a leveled-up bird for the table.
Seriously, there’s no more you need to do. The salt and spices will make their magic, and the fridge will dry out the skin.
My advice for you is to use any seasoning that you’d prefer for poultry. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Chick Fest | This vibrant poultry blend is packed with herbs, aromatics, and a touch of citrus. It’s well-rounded enough that it doesn’t scream “holiday vibes”, allowing you to use this year-round. The flavors are familiar enough with a traditional holiday meal you won’t think twice about putting it on the table for your guests.
- Rosemary Dijon Blend | Tangy flavors of Dijon mustard and herbal rosemary come together for a very simple, bright blend of spices. This bottle is not a coarse blend, it’s very fine due to the white vinegar and mustard, so just be aware of what to expect.
- Honey Mustard IPA Blend | Beer, YES! Well, it’s the beer flavor at least. Don’t let the IPA stop you, this is not a hoppy-flavor profile. It’s tangy, sweet, savory, with a hint of the yeast flavor from IPA. Personally, this is one of my favorite chicken seasoning blends, and it’s also just as tasty on turkey.
How to Smoke a Spatchcock Turkey
Remember when I said there is more than one way to do this?
Pellet Smoker / Pellet Grill
Typically these smokers will generate the most smoke at lower temperatures. If you’re looking for additional smoke flavor, you should smoke the turkey at 225-250°F for at least an hour, before increasing the temperature to 350-375°F. This builds enough layer of smoke and still gives you the room to crank the heat for crispy skin.
Charcoal Grill / Kamado Grill
Once your temperatures are running around 350-375°F, add in your chosen hardwood chunks for smoking. There’s no need to smoke at a lower temperature.
Hot and Fast Turkey
Yes, it’s possible. Cook the turkey at 400-425°F for extra crispy skin and juicy meat. It won’t be near as smoky, and you’ll need to be mindful about the bottom of the turkey so it doesn’t char. Set up your grill to make sure that doesn’t happen. I recommend raising the turkey higher above the fuel source if possible so it receives as much ambient temperature as possible instead of direct heat.
Carving a Spatchcock Turkey
Placing a giant, flattened turkey on the table might not be the best choice. Portion out the major parts and carve them ahead of time, saving you time and giving you the gift of space.
Remove the wings and legs, separating them at the joints. Take the major thigh bone out, which should slide out pretty easily. Carve the breasts whole right off the bone. Slice the thighs and the breasts like you would a steak, against the grain in servable portions. Everyone will enjoy some crispy skin and there’s no fooling around with a knife on the table.
Don’t forget the gravy!
Need some Sides to Serve?
- 1 whole turkey, about 14–16 pounds
- 1/4 cup seasoning, more as needed
- Place the turkey on a very large cutting board surface area. Pat down the outside with a paper towel to dry excess moisture. Set the turkey so the backbone is facing up.
- Start at the tail end and work upwards, snipping through the rib bones as you go. Remove the backbone and flip the turkey over so the inside is facing down. Spread the turkey out carefully and push firmly in the middle of the breast – you should hear a snap. Now the turkey is spatchcocked and ready.
- Season both sides of the turkey generously with your spices of choice. Pat the spices in with your hands gently, and transfer the turkey to a baking sheet with a wire rack. Place the sheet into the refrigerator and allow the turkey to rest for 24-48 hours, uncovered.
- Pellet Smoker: Preheat the smoker when ready. Remove the turkey from the fridge and allow it to rest at room temperature while the smoker warms up to 250°F. Place the turkey, meat-side up in the smoker and allow it to cook for an hour. Increase the temperature to 350°F and continue to cook until the breast reads an internal temperature of 155°F.
- Offset or Charcoal Grill: Preheat the smoker when ready. Remove the turkey from the fridge and allow it to rest at room temperature while the smoker warms up to 350°F. Place the turkey, meat-side up in the smoker and allow it to cook until the breast reads an internal temperature of 155°F.
- Remove the turkey from the smoker and allow it to rest, with loosely tented foil for about 10 minutes. Carve the turkey are serve immediately
- Prep Time: 24 hours
- Cook Time: 3 hours
- Category: Chicken & Poultry
- Method: Smoking
- Cuisine: Turkey
Keywords: turkey, spatchcock, smoking