Smoked Spatchcock Turkey
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This Smoked Spatchcock Turkey is a simple main dish, and should be the centerpiece to your holiday table. Use a sharp kitchen sheers to remove the backbone, add the best seasoning rub for amazing flavor, and smoke it to perfection!
Our Thanksgiving table starts with this turkey, and then we add Make Ahead Creamy Mashed Potatoes, Instant Pot Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Mom’s Stuffing Recipe with Chicken, a healthy Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad, a large Candied Pecan and Apple Holiday Salad, some Soft Brioche Dinner Rolls, and all the delicious desserts!
Spatchcock Turkey Recipe
Introducing our go-to Thanksgiving Dinner centerpiece! This smoked spatchcock turkey is tender and delicious, and is a no-fail recipe every time.
Thanksgiving is THE most popular meal of the year. We gather with people we love, count our blessings, share stories and dreams of our future, and eat a delicious meal together. Here in Texas, we occasionally even take this meal outside on the deck, depending on the weather.
There is always one thing that happens every year at Thanksgiving. We eat tons of great food!
Why we love this turkey
- It doesn’t require a brine. Some recipes require a dry or wet brine that the turkey sits in for a day or two. It requires that you store the turkey in the refrigerator, which takes up space. This recipe is great withOUT a brine.
- The seasoning is easy but delicious. Just a six-ingredient seasoning that requires dried spices plus a fresh lemon.
- Cooking it slow makes it extra tender. This turkey gets smoked at 250 degrees for close to four hours. Cooking it low and slow results in a tender meat.
- The Smokey flavor is perfection. We love a smoked flavor, and even if you don’t use a smoker, you can use a grill and add smoked chips.
- It makes amazing leftovers. We love leftover turkey, and enjoy it in sandwiches, soup, salads, or a cheesy casserole!
Spatchcocking a turkey allows for more even cooking, so that the white meat stays as juicy as the dark meat. I highly recommend it!
How to make Smoked Spatchcock Turkey:
Prep turkey. Remove the inside contents of the whole turkey. Use paper towel to pat it completely dry. (This may take a bunch of paper towels/towels depending on how wet your turkey is. It will be wetter if thawed out after being frozen.) Be sure to sterilize your counters and sink after prepping chicken!
Spatchcock the turkey. Use a sharp kitchen shears (I’ve linked what I have below.) and remove backbone. If you have a sharp scissors, this will be easy. You may have to cut through some cartilage, but it should only take a minute or so.
Lay the turkey flat, skin side up. Use your hand to press on the breastbone so that it completely flattens. Make sure you adjust the parts to make it easier to cook.
Prepare seasonings. Add mustard to a bowl. I used a combo of dijon and ground mustard. you can use all of one type or a combo. Then mix up the seasoning mixture – the kosher salt, black pepper, dried rosemary, dried thyme, onion powder, and lemon zest.
Add mustard and seasoning. Use your hand to spread the mustard all over the top of the turkey, covering every bit with a generous amount. Then add the seasonings, sprinkling all over the mustard.
Light a grill/smoker. Preheat a grill or smoker to about 250 degrees for indirect cooking. Add smoked chips and then place turkey on grill.
Smoke the turkey. Smoke turkey until a digital meat thermometer reaches about 160 degrees in the breast and 180 degrees in the thigh. This will take about four hours. Make sure the turkey leg moves easily and it’s completely cooked.
Let the turkey rest. Remove the turkey and let it rest for about 20 minutes before slicing. The goal is the keep the juices IN the bird so resting it is vitally important.
Slice turkey. Use a sharp knife to carefully slice the turkey, keeping the skin in tact.
Kitchen Tools Used: (affiliate links)
Smoked Spatchcock Turkey
For the seasoning:
- 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary – or use fresh (but use more)
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme – or use fresh (but use more)
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1-2 Tablespoons lemon zest
- 15 pound turkey
- 1/2 cup Dijon Mustard (or Course Ground Mustard)
You will also need good charcoal and some smokey chips that have been soaked overnight.
- Prepare the seasoning blend by combining all ingredients in a bowl – the kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, rosemary, thyme, onion powder, and lemon zest.
- Remove turkey from the packaging, and then remove the neck and giblets from the inside of the turkey. Make sure there is nothing plastic remaining. Use paper towels to dry off the outside of the bird as much as possible.
- Take a sharp kitchen shears (or a sharp knife) and remove the backbone from the turkey. This may take a bit and some hand strength! You will need to cut along both sides of the backbone, snipping through the ribs. I recommend using some paper towel to keep your hands from slipping.
- Open up the turkey so that the skin side is up, laying it on some paper towel (or an old towel works too). See pictures on the blog post. Use your hands to crack the breast bone so that the turkey lays flat. This may take a bit of body weight to crack.
- Continue to dry off both sides of the spatchcocked turkey. I normally use a bunch of paper towels to do this. You want to get it as dry as possible. Place the turkey on a large pan.
- Spread the mustard all over the outside of the turkey, using your hands to get it evenly distributed. Take the dry seasoning mixture and sprinkle it over the mustard.
- Light a smoker or a grill, and heat to 250 degrees. If using a grill, add smoked chips.
- If using a smoker, place the turkey directly on the grates. If using a grill, use a disposable pan and place the turkey inside. Place lid on grill and smoke the turkey for several hours, or until done. (Mine took approximately four hours.)
- Remove turkey when the white meat registers 160 degrees AND the dark meat registers 180 degrees on a digital thermometer. Let rest 30 minutes before carving.
- Should I brine my turkey before smoking? Brining a turkey is optional. I didn’t brine for this recipe, but you could add that step, if you like. I prefer a dry brine for less mess.
- How long does it take to smoke a spatchcock turkey? At 250 degrees, it takes approximately four hours to cook.
- What if my turkey is still pink? Make sure your turkey is completely cooked before removing from the grill. I insert a digital thermometer in several places to make sure it’s all at least 160 degrees F in the breast and 180 degrees in the thigh. I also recommend wiggling the thigh around and lifting it up to make sure there are no pink juices hanging out under the leg. If it’s still pink, continue cooking!
- Do you flip spatchcock turkey? No, don’t flip a spatchcock turkey. If you do, the beautiful skin could rip.
This was fantastic! I had the butcher do the work, but I wondered if it would be easier if you use an electric carving knife?
That’s a good point, Janice! Thanks!
Best turkey I’ve made. Recipe was easy to follow. Will use it again
I made used this turkey method/recipe for the second year in a row and there’s no question I’ll make it again next Thanksgiving if not before. Tender, juicy, and the most favorable turkey I’ve ever had.
Yay! So great to hear! Thanks for your feedback!
We made this recipe for Thanksgiving and it might be the best turkey I’ve had – ever. I made it on my Primo! smoker/grill (think Big Green Egg) and cooked it per Sue’s instructions. Ours was a 22 lb. bird so it took about 5-1/2 hours (we planned for that). It was tender, moist and very tasty! I’ve done the turkey on my Primo! before including a brine (but not spatchcocked) – this one was better, and brining wasn’t necessary. The only problem I encountered was removing the back. It was impossible (due to the size of the bird) to cut through the bones with a kitchen shears. Fortunately I had a cleaver in my arsenal!
Try this! It will not disappoint.
Thanks for trying this turkey, Dave! I had to have Mike help with removing the backbone, but we got it done! 🙂
This is different and it’s fun to cook…. and eat. Awesome recipe!