Smoked Spatchcock Turkey is incredibly flavorful and juicy. A brine keeps it moist while smoking and herb compound butter adds to the smoke flavor. It’s the turkey to make in a smoker for Thanksgiving. Perfect for an electric smoker or pellet grill.
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Spatchcock Smoked Turkey
Cooking a whole big turkey can be daunting. However, help is at hand because this smoked spatchcock turkey recipe speeds up the process by spatchcocking the bird.
Spatchcocking means that your smoked turkey cooks more quickly with more even temperatures across the breast and thighs. Plus, your traditional seasonal turkey is smoked for incredible flavor.
You will never have had a Thanksgiving bird quite as good as this!
What Makes Smoked Spatchcocked Turkey So Delicious?
This smoked spatchcock turkey recipe gives you carved meat dripping with juice. You also get incredible turkey skin because the savory seasoned melted butter creates the perfect bite-through crust.
Give this spatchcock technique a try the next time you smoke a turkey.
What Does Spatchcocking a Turkey Mean?
Spatchcocking simply means removing the backbone from a turkey, allowing the bird to lay flat for more even cooking.
How Do You Spatchcock a Turkey?
To spatchcock a whole turkey, start by removing the giblets and neck bag, pop-up timer (if there is one), and any hardware or plastic holding the legs together.
Next, remove the tail. Then, with the turkey breast side down, cut along one side of the backbone from the bottom to the top of the spine. Do the same along the other side of the backbone and remove it.
Separate the wishbone and press down on the turkey to spread it out, so the bird lays flat. You can also trim away any sinew or fat inside the cavity. Get more info in this step-by-step guide to spatchcocking a turkey.
CopyKat Tip: The best tool for spatchcocking a turkey is a pair of kitchen shears.
Here is what you will need for the perfect Thanksgiving smoked turkey:
- 1 large turkey
For the Smoked Spatchcock Turkey Brine:
- Sea salt
- Dried rosemary, sage, thyme, and savory
For the Turkey Butter:
- Fresh parsley, rosemary, and sage
- Lemon juice and lemon zest
How to Make This Smoked Spatchcock Turkey Recipe
Making this smoked turkey takes a few simple steps as follows:
- Remove the turkey’s backbone and make an incision behind the breastbone.
- Flip the turkey to breast side up and press down to flatten it.
- Make a brine with water, salt, sugar, and dried herbs.
- Place the turkey into the brine, add ice, and refrigerate it for 8 to 12 hours.
- Remove the brined turkey, pat dry, and lay it breast side up on a wire rack.
- Push the prepared turkey butter between the skin and the meat.
- Place the turkey in the roasting dish on the grates of a preheated smoker (225°F).
- Cook until the breast reaches an internal temp of 100 to 110°F, about 2 to 2½ hours.
- Raise the smoker temperature to 375°F and continue cooking until the internal temp reaches 160°F, about 1 to 1½ hours).
- Remove the turkey and allow it to rest for 20 minutes.
- Transfer it to a cutting board and carve.
How Brining a Turkey Can Help Improve the Flavor
A smoked spatchcock turkey brine is optional but highly recommended because it keeps a moisture level in the bird that is otherwise pushed out in a low and slow cooking process.
Brine your turkey by covering the container with the bird and the brine and placing it in the refrigerator overnight. If your receptacle is too large for the fridge, you will need to keep adding ice to ensure that the brine stays below 39°F for food safety purposes. Brining for 8 to 12 hours is recommended for the best results.
Alternatively, you can choose to go with two smaller turkeys. Figure about 2 pounds of raw weight per person.
What Is a Dry Brine for Turkey?
A dry brine for turkey (pre-salting) does not use any water. Instead, a combination of salt, seasonings, and/or sugar is rubbed directly onto the meat and skin. Then the turkey is allowed to rest in the refrigerator before cooking.
During the brining process, osmosis causes the salt to draw out the meat juices. Then the salt dissolves into the juices, making a “natural” brine without any added liquid.
Finally, the brine is reabsorbed into the meat and begins to break down tough muscle proteins, giving you tender, juicy, seasoned meat. Check out more detailed information on dry brining.
How Long to Smoke a Spatchcock Turkey?
Smoke time for the spatchcock smoked turkey pellet grill method will vary depending on how your smoker behaves and the weight of the turkey. Always smoke turkey to temperature and not time.
The important thing to know is that the turkey or any poultry is done when the internal temp of the thickest part of the breast reaches 160°F.
The thighs and legs will cook faster than the breast. This means if the breast temp is 150°F, then the thigh may be closer to 170°F. This is ok! The thighs and legs are tender and delicious when cooked to 170-180°F.
If your turkey is done earlier than you expected, wrap it in foil and store it in a clean cooler (with no ice). It will stay warm for up to four hours.
Should You Stuff a Smoked Turkey?
Yes, but only after it’s done. Stuffing beforehand will prevent the heat from flowing into the breast cavity and make for a longer cooking time.
It’s best to cook the stuffing separately and insert it into the cooked turkey just before placing it on the table.
How to Make This Smoked Spatchcocked Turkey Recipe From a Frozen Turkey
If you begin with a frozen turkey, place it in the refrigerator to thaw. Then rinse the bird, and pat dry with paper towels. Plan on 24 hours of thawing time for every 4 pounds of turkey.
If you are in a hurry or you forgot to take the turkey out of the freezer, place the frozen turkey in a sink full of cold water. Change the water every half hour (very important) until the turkey is thawed.
A 12-pound completely frozen turkey will take about 6 hours to thaw this way.
What to Serve With a Traeger Smoked Spatchcock Turkey
You can go traditional with your smoked turkey and serve it up with regular Thanksgiving sides such as:
- Air Fryer Broccoli
- Cornbread Dressing
- Mashed Potatoes
- Roast Potatoes
- Roasted Carrots
- Scalloped Corn
- Homemade Yeast Rolls
- Cranberry Relish
Opt for a bold wine such as Syrah or Zinfandel. Or check out this Thanksgiving Wine Guide for more great ideas.
How to Store Leftover Turkey
Cooked turkey can be kept in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. Since people tend to prefer either white or dark meat, divide your turkey accordingly into separate containers.
To freeze leftover turkey, slice it into manageable portions, wrap each one tightly in foil, and place them in a plastic zip-top freezer bag. Cooked turkey can be safely stored in the freezer for up to 4 months. Defrost thoroughly in the refrigerator before using.
Here’s a helpful article on how to store Thanksgiving leftovers.
What to Make With Leftover Turkey
There are endless ways to use up your leftover turkey, and here are just a few ideas for using leftover turkey:
- Simple turkey sandwiches on rolls with a little salt, mayo, and crisp lettuce.
- Best turkey sandwich ever: Turkey, bacon, BBQ sauce, onions, and shredded parmesan cheese. Pile it on a bun, and warm it in the microwave. Awesome!
- Use the carcass to make broth.
- Creamy Turkey Soup
- Thanksgiving Pizza
- Turkey Devonshire Sandwich
- Turkey Enchiladas
Popular Smoked Meat Recipes
Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes
- Cheesy Green Bean Casserole
- Creamed Corn Casserole
- Deep Fried Turkey
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
- Old Fashioned Cranberry Salad
- Southern Fried Okra
- Sweet Potato Souffle with Pecans
- Waldorf Salad
- White Cheddar Mac and Cheese
Smoked Spatchcock Turkey
- 1 18 to 20-pound whole turkey
- 1 gallon water
- 1 cup sea salt
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon crushed dried rosemary
- 1 tablespoon dried sage
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried savory
- 1 gallon ice
- 1 cup softened butter
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice zest
Using a sharp knife or pair of kitchen shears, remove the backbone of the turkey and set it aside for homemade turkey stock.
With the turkey breast side down, make an incision in the back of the breast bone.
Flip the turkey so that it is breast side up and press down on the breasts to flatten it.
In a container large enough to hold the turkey (I recommend a clean 5 gallon bucket), place 1 gallon of water, salt, sugar, crushed rosemary, dried sage, thyme, and savory. Stir to combine well.
Place turkey into the brine, add ice, and top off with additional water.
Place the bucket into the refrigerator and brine for 8 hours or overnight.
After the turkey has brined, remove it from brine, and pat dry. Discard brine.
Lay the turkey, breast side up, on a wire rack.
Gently seperate the skin and the meat of the breast, and the thighs.
Prepare the turkey compound butter by combining softened butter, parsley, rosemary, sage, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir to blend well.
Place the turkey on the wire rack over a pan large enough to accommodate the wire rack, I recommend a 4-inch-deep roasting dish. Doing this preserves the juices from the turkey you can use to make gravy.
Use your hands to gently push the compound butter between the breast meat and the skin. Work the compound butter under the skin. This will help baste the turkey while it cooks.
Heat the electric smoker to 225°F.
Place turkey in the roasting dish into the smoker.
Insert the temperature probe into the thickest part of the the breast.
Close the smoker lid and cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 100°F to 110°F, about 2 to 2½ hours.
Once the turkey has reached 100°F, raise the smoker temperature to 375°F.
Cook the turkey and baste with any of the rendered juices until the breast internal temp reaches 160°F. This should take between 1 and 1½ hours.
Remove the turkey from the smoker.
Place a foil tent over the turkey and allow the bird to rest for about 20 minutes before carving.