Cook this smoked spatchcock turkey in a fraction of the time that it would take to cook a traditional turkey! Achieve an evenly cooked turkey with optimal moisture and smoky flavor. More surface area exposed = more of that coveted smoke swirling around your bird. Don’t let cooking a whole turkey intimidate you! Smoking a spatchcocked turkey on your Pit boss, Traeger, or other pellet grill will have your guests coming back for seconds. Don’t forget the Smoked Cranberry Sauce.
Gone are the days of dry breast meat and unevenly cooked entrees… smoked spatchcock turkey is perfectly moist and flavorful, taking less time to cook and leaving more precious oven space for other holiday sides. Whether you are making a spatchcocked turkey for Christmas dinner, Thanksgiving, Easter, or another special occasion, this main entree will not disappoint! Get your Pit Boss grill ready for a smoked entree that can easily be prepared on the busiest of occasions.
All About Spatchcock Turkey + Why It’s The BEST
Spatchcock turkey is a fancy name for a flattened turkey aka butterflied turkey. It looks complicated and intimidating to use the spatchcock method to prepare a whole bird but the cooking process is actually very easy. Shhh… Don’t tell anyone my secret! Butterflying your turkey will save you up to 50% of the time it would normally take to cook a whole turkey. Simply remove the turkey’s neck and backbone, cut into the chest bone, flatten, season, and cook using your desired method- I choose to smoke it!
Not only will your turkey be more evenly cooked, it will have more surface area to catch the smoke from your pellet grill. The entire turkey is flattened and cooked turkey breast side up, exposing all of the skin, allowing it to evenly crisp in your smoker without risking ripping it or having soggy pieces.
The spatchcock technique might just become your favourite way to smoke turkey. The end result is a gorgeous turkey, full of amazing smoky flavor and wrapped in crispy skin that you can be proud of placing on your holiday table and serving up to your guests. Less hands-on and cooking time leaves more time for visiting and appetizers! Smoked spatchcock turkey is the perfect way to prepare a whole tukrey and is just a great excuse to get outside and fire up your Traeger, Pitboss, or other pellet grill.
Brine Recipe- Check out this simple smoked turkey brine recipe.
Turkey- Choose a raw, unfrozen turkey to save precious defrost time. This recipe was made using a 15 pound turkey. Adjust cooking times for smaller or larger turkeys.
Olive Oil- Slather the turkey in olive oil or softened butter.
Poultry Rub- Choose your favourite poultry rub or make this simple rub.
Exactly How to Spatchcock a Turkey + Cooking Instructions
Optional Step: BRINE (12-24 hours)
If you have preplanned and have 12-24 hours, you may choose to brine your Turkey! Brining turkey before cooking it will give it great flavour, texture, and will result in crispier skin. Check out this Simple Turkey Brine With Brown Sugar and Apple Juice for a quick recipe and tutorial. Brine the whole turkey before spatchcocking for easier handling. See the section below for more information about why you should brine!
Step 1. Preheat + Prep (5 minutes)
- Preheat your pellet grill to 275 degrees f.
- Remove any organs or giblets left in the turkey as well as the neck if it is detached and rinse it.
- Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. If you don’t pat dry, the butter or olive oil and dry rub won’t stick properly.
Step 2. Spatchcock (10 minutes)
- Place turkey breast side down.
- Locate the spine and cut down the sides of the backbone with sharp kitchen shears, poultry shears, or a really sharp knife. I will admit cutting the spine out on a spatchcocked turkey is slightly harder than doing a Smoked Spatchcocked Chicken— but totally worth it. Smaller turkeys will be easier to cut through whereas larger turkeys will have larger rib and pelvic bones to cut through.
- Use two hands to guide the scissors along the spine including the neck and tail portion. Once the spine is removed set it aside for broth or another purpose.
- Open up the turkey and locate the breast bone right in the center of the chest.
- Make a small cut in it and carefully pull it open– you will most likely hear a “CRACK” sound. This is the easiest way to ensure your turkey lays flat!
- Turn the turkey over and flatten it on a large cutting board (for easy transport). Tuck the tips of the wings in so that they don’t burn.
Step 3. Season (5 minutes)
- Liberally coat the turkey with 2 tablespoons of olive oil or softened butter.
- Sprinkle on 3-4 tablespoons of seasoning and rub it in with your hands.
Step 4. Smoke (3.5-4 hours)
- Place the turkey directly on your grill “butterflied” out with the breast-side facing up. If you want to catch some drippings to make smoked gravy afterward, place the turkey on a wire rack inside of a baking sheet. This may add an extra 15-20 minutes to your cooking time.
- Insert a probe into the thickest part of the turkey breast and smoke at 275°F for three hours. Aim to get the turkey up to around 135-140°F before turning up the heat.
- After three hours, turn the smoker up to 350°F and cook until the internal temperature of your turkey has reached 165°F. The higher heat toward the end of the cooking time helps to crisp up the skin!
These instructions are based off of a 15lb turkey. Adjust cooking time according to the size of your turkey. If you have a larger turkey, consider leaving the temperature at 275°F for 4 hours and raising the heat after. If you have a smaller turkey, consider checking the temperature after 1.5-2 hours and increasing it at that point.
Step 5. Rest + Serve
- Once your turkey has reached 165°F, remove it from the grill and place it on a large baking sheet or serving platter.
- Tent with aluminum foil for 15 minutes to allow the juices to reabsorb into the meat. This is the best way to seal in the moisture that makes this smoked spatchcock turkey so good.
- Slice + Serve! This turkey pairs well with smoked cranberry sauce and smoked turkey gravey!
★Why You Should Brine Your Turkey + Turkey Brine Recipe★
- Smoking alone infuses flavour from the outside in while brining adds flavor to your turkey far below the surface!
- The salt from liquid turkey brine softens muscle fibers by denaturing meat’s proteins, allowing moisture to flow into the meat.
Brine the whole turkey before spatchcocking. Use this Simple Smoked Turkey Brine Recipe that utilizes easy to find ingredients that most people have on hand including pepper, brown sugar, apple juice, and orange peels. If you would rather a dry brine, check out this recipe.
Dry Rub: Adding dry rub is optional but will only elevate your spatchcocked turkey! Once you have rinsed, dried, and spatchcocked your turkey, you are ready for a dry rub. Slather the skin side of the turkey with butter or olive oil and season with your favourite poultry rub with an extra tablespoon of brown sugar to help make the turkey skin crispy. This Simple Rub can be made at home and works great for all pork and poultry. Traeger Pork and Poultry Rub is also a great option. It is the perfect combination of spices without being too overpowering or salty.
Best Grill For Smoking A Spatchcocked Turkey
I use a Traeger Ironwood 885 wood pellet grill for this smoked turkey recipe but there are other great grills that won’t send you on a shopping trip including a Pit Boss pellet grill! No matter the type of smoker, arm yourself with a good meat thermometer and there will be no mishaps- knowing the internal temperature of your meat takes out all of the guesswork! My Traeger has a probe built in that I am able to connect to wifi. If you don’t have this built in on your grill this Meater thermometer gets amazing reviews.
Electric smokers have a lower starting price point, are generally easy to set up and are quite portable. Some electric smokers can even be used indoors making them a great option for smoking a spatchcocked turkey depending on your living arrangements. Choose your favorite wood chips and place them in the chip tray. You will have to keep an eye on the electric smoker to make sure that it is constantly producing smoke- if it becomes low on wood chips, you will have to refill. Best to check every hour.
This can be a bit more hands on but definitely worth the extra smoke flavour. Choose your wood chips, set up two zones to make sure that you can grill the turkey over indirect heat. Place the smoker box directly over the coals and the flattened turkey on the empty side. Control the temperature by adjusting the vents on your charcoal grill.
In order to “smoke” a turkey on a gas grill, you will need to soak 2-3 cups of wood chips in water and place them in a wood chip tray over direct heat. Place the butterflied turkey on the other side of the grill in a roasting pan or directly on the grill grates and cook it low and slow.
Wood Pellet Grill
I favor my pellet grill when smoking spatchcocked turkey because it is very hands off, predictable, and keeps a consistent temperature! Fill the hopper and walk away for up to an hour at a time.
Cooking Time + Temperature for Smoked Spatchcock Turkey
Smoke this spatchcock turkey low and slow (275°F) for the first 3 hours. At this point the internal temp of your turkey should be around 135°-140°F (estimates). Turn up the heat at the end of the cooking process (350°F) until the internal temperature has reached 165°F to crisp up the skin! Cook time depends on several factors including how cold your turkey is at the start of the smoke (room temperature or fridge temperature), the size of the turkey, how many times you open your smoker, and how consistent the heat on your pellet grill is. A spatchcocked turkey will take around 13 minutes per pound to smoke at 275°F.
My 15lb Turkey took 3.5 hours from start to finish (3 hours at 275°F and 30 minutes at 350°F.)
Measure internal temperature by using an instant read thermometer (meat probe).Insert the probe into the thickest part of the breast. When the turkey breast read 165°F the thighs will be slightly warmer at 175-185°F.
Batch + Storage
How many People Will Your Spatchcocked Turkey Feed?
When you are cooking for a crowd, it is important to consider exactly how large of a turkey you will need to feed everyone! Depending on the ages- I usually like to budget about 1 or 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person, taking entire bird into consideration including the bones and skin. It is always better to have an overabundance than too not enough!
How to Store Leftover Turkey
Leftover smoked turkey can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months. If freezing, I recommend slicing into manageable slices and vacuum sealing. Consider slicing into a variety of sizes, separating light meat and dark meat, chop some for soup, some for pasta, some bigger slices.
How Use Leftover Turkey
Leftover smoked turkey is super versatile… add your leftover smoked turkey to Dill Pickle Soup, sandwich it between some whole wheat sourdough with a dollop of mayo and some fermented dill pickles, toss with your favorite noodles and pasta sauce, or make the best turkey pot pie. The backbone can be used to make homemade chicken stock along with the carcass. The possibilities are endless!
Related: How To Reheat Smoked Turkey
Printable Recipe Card for Smoked Spatchcock Turkey
- 15 lb whole turkey
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons poultry rub
- OPTIONAL STEP: If you have preplanned and have 12-24 hours, you may choose to brine your Turkey! Brining turkey before cooking it will give it great flavour, texture, and will result in crispier skin. Check out my Simple Turkey Brine With Brown Sugar and Apple Juice for a quick recipe and tutorial.
- Preheat + Prep: Preheat your pellet grill to 275°F. Remove any organs or giblets left in the turkey as well as the neck if it is detached and rinse it. Pat the turkey dry with a paper towel.
- Spatchcock: Lay the turkey breast side down. Locate the spine and cut down either side with sharp kitchen shears, poultry shears, or a really sharp knife.Use two hands to guide the scissors along the spine including the neck and tail portion. Open up the turkey and locate the breast bone right in the center of the chest. Make a small cut in it and carefully pull it open-- you will most likely hear a "CRACK" sound. Turn the turkey over and flatten it on a large cutting board (for easy transport). Tuck the tips of the wings in so that they don't burn.
- Season: Liberally coat the turkey with 2 tablespoons of olive oil or softened butter. Sprinkle on 3-4 tablespoons of seasoning and rub it in with your hands.
- Smoke: Place the turkey directly on your grill "butterflied" out with the breast-side facing up. If you want to catch some drippings to make smoked gravy afterward, place the turkey on a wire rack inside of a baking sheet. This may add an extra 15-20 minutes to your cooking time. Insert a probe into the thickest part of the turkey breast and smoke at 275°F for three hours. Aim to get the turkey up to around 135-140°F before turning up the heat. After three hours, turn the smoker up to 350°F and cook until the internal temperature of your turkey has reached 165°F. The higher heat toward the end of the cooking time helps to crisp up the skin!
- Rest + Serve: Once your turkey has reached 165°F, remove it from the grill and place it on a large baking sheet or serving platter. Tent with aluminum foil for 15 minutes to allow the juices to reabsorb into the meat, sealing in the moisture that makes this smoked spatchcocked turkey so good. Slice + Serve!
These instructions are based off of a 15lb turkey. Adjust cooking time according to the size of your turkey. If you have a larger turkey, consider leaving the temperature at 275°F for 4 hours and raising the heat after. If you have a smaller turkey, consider checking the temperature after 1.5-2 hours and increasing it at that point. The most important consideration is internal temperature. Once the turkey reaches 165°F, it is done!
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1092Total Fat: 44gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 29gCholesterol: 618mgSodium: 584mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 162g
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Frequently Asked Questions
Choose more mild wood when smoking your turkey. For poultry, apple, maple, cherry, or pecan wood pellets or chips are suggested. Mesquite, oak, and hickory have stronger wood flavors and can easily overpower your bird!
I personally use whatever pellets I have on hand (I don’t find the type of wood alters the flavor of my turkey very much either way.)
Budget 4 hours for your smoked spatchcock turkey to be fully cooked. More if it is larger than 15lb.
-keeps all light and dark turkey meat juicy with unreal smoky flavour- no more stringy breast meat
-a fun excuse to get outside, bump up your smoking skills and soak up some vitamin D
-tender leftovers that can handle reheating and be used in a variety of recipes including this Dill Pickle Soup recipe
-crispy skin facing upward so that it doesn’t tear or become soggy, blasted with the perfect amount of smoke