Smoked Spatchcock Turkey (3 Choosing Tips to Consider)

Iva Carter
Published by Iva Carter
Last Updated On: December 5, 2023

As a seasoned cook and food enthusiast, I take great pleasure in crafting delectable dishes that are not only nutritious but bursting with flavor.

Today, I am thrilled to unveil my recipe for smoked spatchcock turkey, a culinary masterpiece that embodies all of these qualities.

With years of expertise in smoking meats and mastering the technique of spatchcocking, I've developed a recipe for smoked spatchcock turkey that will take center stage on your holiday table.

Recipe Overview

  • Prep Time: 12-24 hours
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Total Time: 15-27 hours
  • Servings: 8-10


Uncooked Turkey in a pan


  • 1 turkey
  • Smoking wood (apple or hickory recommended)
  • 1/2 stick melted butter

Dry Brine

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional


a smoked spatchcock turkey being cut
  1. Prep the turkey by removing the neck and giblets, and then pat the turkey dry with a paper towel.
  2. Spatchcock the turkey by placing the bird breast side down on a large cutting board. Use a sharp knife or sharp kitchen shears to cut along both sides and remove the backbone.
  3. Flip the turkey over so the skin side is up and push down on the breast bone to flatten the bird. Turn the spatchcock smoked turkey legs inwards towards the breast.
  4. Mix the kosher salt, onion powder, and black pepper in a small bowl to make the dry brine. Rub the dry brine all over the turkey, including under the skin. And unlike a wet brine, do not rinse the turkey after applying the seasonings.
  5. Place the turkey on a rimmed baking sheet and cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours, preferably overnight.
  6. Brush melted butter onto and under the turkey skin.
  7. Preheat a pellet smoker or gas grill to 250 degrees F using indirect heat.
  8. Add wood to the smoker or grill.
  9. Put the spatchcocked turkey directly on the pre-heated grill grates or wire rack if using a smoker. Smoke the turkey breast side up and close the lid.
  10. Cook the turkey until the internal temp of the thickest part of the breast reaches 165 degrees F. This should take about 2-3 hours.
  11. Baste the turkey with melted butter during the smoking process.
  12. Once the bird reaches the required temperature, remove the turkey from the smoker and let it rest on a clean cutting board for 15 minutes before carving. This allows for carryover cooking and the redistribution of juices.
  13. Carve by removing the leg quarters and separating the thigh with a knife or sharp kitchen shears. Then take off the wings. Finally, take the white meat in one big section and slice it into smaller pieces.

Recipe Notes

Inside of a turkey
  • When you spatchcock a turkey, it allows even a large bird to cook more evenly and faster.
  • Dry brining gives the smoked spatchcock turkey amazing flavor and helps keep it moist while smoking.
  • The USDA recommends cooking until the smoked bird reaches 165°F for food safety [1].
  • Adding the smoked paprika to the rub can enhance the smoky flavor.
  • Any leftover turkey should be placed in the refrigerator immediately. The backbone and other leftover bones can be used to make turkey stock.
  • You can put the whole bird back on the grill for a few minutes after it has rested on the cutting board for crispier skin.
  • Use an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the breast to ensure the dry-brined turkey reaches the correct internal temperature [2].
  • You can use any smoking wood chips you prefer, but hickory or applewood chips work well with turkey. Maple and mesquite are good if you want more smoke flavor.
  • If you don't have a pellet smoker or gas grill, you can still smoke the turkey on a charcoal grill using indirect heat.
  • It's important to let the spatchcocked turkey rest before carving so that it redistributes its juices.

Nutrition Facts

  • Calories: 329
  • Total Carbs: 0g
  • Protein: 41g
  • Fat: 17g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Net Carbs: 0g

Whole Turkey vs Spatchcock

A whole turkey beside a spatchcock turkey

The traditional smoked turkey recipe for Thanksgiving dinner involves seasoning the bird inside and out, stuffing it with aromatics, and smoking it until it's perfectly golden and juicy.

The main advantage of this method is that it's straightforward and requires little preparation. 

However, cooking a turkey can be quite time-consuming, especially feeding a large crowd.

You also run the risk of the breast meat drying out while you wait for the darker meat to cook through.

"Spatchcocking is a great way to smoke turkey cooked evenly, with crispy skin and juicy meat."

- Alton Brown, American Chef

Smoked spatchcocked turkey involves removing the bird's backbone, laying the entire turkey flat, and then smoking it.

The main advantage of spatchcocking is that it will cook faster and more evenly than a complete turkey, so the white meat is as juicy as the dark meat.

Removing the backbone creates more surface area, and the meat is more evenly exposed to temperature and seasoning.

However, spatchcocking requires more effort and preparation than the traditional method.

Choosing the Best Turkey

Uncooked Turkey

If you plan to smoke a spatchcocked turkey, here are some factors to consider:

  • Size: Determine the size of the turkey based on the number of people you plan to serve. A general rule of thumb is to estimate about 1 to 1.5 pounds of turkey per person. However, keep in mind that a spatchcocked turkey cooks faster in pellet smokers than a normal bird, so you may need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  • Freshness: Look for a fresh turkey rather than a frozen one, if possible. Fresh turkeys tend to have better texture and flavor. If you opt for a frozen bird, ensure that it is completely thawed before smoking.
  • Quality: Choose a turkey of good quality to ensure a flavorful and tender result. Organic, free-range, or heritage turkeys are often known for their superior taste and texture. A clean label is also important if you plan to brine the turkey.

Related Articles:

Side Dishes to Pair With Spatchcocked Turkey

Side dishes for turkey
  • Roasted Vegetables: Roasted vegetables, like carrots, Brussels sprouts, and sweet potatoes, have a sweet and savory flavor that pairs well with the smokiness of the turkey breast.
  • Cranberry Sauce: Cranberry sauce is a classic accompaniment to turkey, and the sweet-tart flavor contrasts the rich, smoky flavor.
  • Mashed Potatoes: Mashed potatoes are a comforting and classic side dish that goes well with any type of turkey, including a smoked spatchcock turkey.
  • Stuffing: Stuffing is a traditional side dish for Thanksgiving or holiday meals and complements the turkey's smoky taste.
  • Gravy: Gravy is a classic condiment for turkey, and it helps to add moisture to the bird and enhance the flavor.
  • Green Beans: Green beans are a simple and healthy side dish that pairs well with the rich taste of turkey.
  • Cornbread: Cornbread is a classic Southern side dish that complements the flavor of smoked poultry.
  • Sweet Potato Casserole: Sweet potato casserole is a savory yet sweet side dish that goes well with turkey.
  • Pumpkin Pie: Pumpkin pie is a classic Thanksgiving dessert, and its sweet spiciness balances out the smoky flavor of the turkey.

Also Read: Deep-Fried Turkey


How Much Faster Does a Spatchcocked Turkey Cook?

A spatchcocked turkey usually cooks about 30-40% faster than a regular bird due to its flattened shape, which allows for more even heat distribution throughout the bird.

Should I Spatchcock My Turkey the Night Before?

Yes, you should spatchcock your turkey the night before you plan to smoke it so that it has enough time to dry brine in the fridge for at least 12 hours (or overnight), which will help keep it moist and flavorful during smoking.

Where Do You Put the Thermometer in a Spatchcock Turkey?

You put the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast meat of a spatchcocked turkey, being careful not to touch the bone. This will ensure that the turkey is fully cooked and safe to eat.


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About the author

Iva Carter
Associate Editor
As a foodie and blogger, Iva loves to share delicious yet quick dinner recipes. When she's not in the kitchen concocting meaty delights, you'll find her playing with her dog, Sylvie.
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