This Smoked Spatchcock Turkey is a simple main dish and should be the centerpiece of your holiday table. Use sharp kitchen shears to remove the backbone, add the best seasoning rub for fantastic flavor, and smoke it to perfection!
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!
Our Thanksgiving table starts with a spatchcocked turkey, and then we add Holiday Mashed Potatoes, Instant Pot Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Mom’s Stuffing Recipe with Chicken, healthy Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad, a large Candied Pecan and Apple Holiday Salad, some Soft Brioche Dinner Rolls, and all the delicious desserts!
Why We Love Spatchcock 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 and results in a juicy turkey every time.
- The seasoning is easy but delicious. Just a six-ingredient seasoning that requires dried spices plus a fresh lemon. You’ll love the incredible flavor.
- Cooking it slowly makes it extra tender. This turkey gets smoked at 250 degrees for close to four hours. Cooking it low and slow results in tender meat.
- The Smoky flavor is perfection. We love a smoked flavor, and even if you don’t smoke it over indirect heat, you can use a charcoal grill or gas grill and add smoked chips.
- It makes amazing leftovers. We love leftover turkey, and enjoy it in sandwiches, soup, salads, or a cheesy casserole!
The spatchcock technique 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 some 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 turkey!
Spatchcock the turkey. Use sharp kitchen shears (I’ve linked what I have below.) and remove the backbone. If you have a pair of kitchen shears, this will be fairly easy. You may have to cut through some cartilage on both sides of the backbone, but it should only take a few minutes or so.
Lay the turkey flat, skin side up. Use your hand to press on the breast bone 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. The raw turkey should be close to room temperature before cooking, for best results.
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 the turkey until an intant-read meat thermometer reaches about 160 degrees in the thickest part of 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. Test the internal temperature of both the white and dark meat.
Let the turkey rest. Remove the turkey and let it rest for about 20 minutes before slicing. The goal is to keep the juices IN the bird so resting it is vitally important.
Slice turkey. Transfer the turkey to a large cutting board and use a sharp knife to carefully slice the entire turkey, keeping the skin intact.
Other Delicious Side Dishes:
You’re going to need a variety of side dishes to go with the best turkey ever! Your special occasion dinner table will be complete with a few of the recipes below!
- Instant Pot Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes
- Fall Harvest Salad
- Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Streusel
- Naturally Sweetened Cranberry Sauce
Smoked Spatchcock Turkey Recipe
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.