The spatchcock method is by far the best way to smoke a whole turkey. Removing the backbone and flattening out the turkey will allow it to cook more evenly resulting in extremely juicy breast meat and heavenly dark meat. Instead of a normal dry brine, we’ll infuse a ton of flavor by wet brining the turkey with aromatics. We’ll then air dry it for 24 hours to help get crispy skin on our finished bird. The flavorful gravy will take this dish over the top and you’ll instantly understand why this spatchcock technique is the way to go! Let’s get started making this 5-star rated spatchcock turkey recipe.
How long does it take to smoke a spatchcock turkey at 225?
It is usually recommended to smoke the spatchcock turkey for 10-15 minutes per pound. The cooking time for the turkey depends on the weight and temperature of the bird. The time will also vary according to the temperature at which you start smoking the turkey.
The trick to get enough smoke flavor and crispy skin is to increase the heat after the spatchcock turkey reaches an internal temperature of 110°F. This will reduce the smoking time, so plan accordingly if you go this route.
Spatchcock turkey wet brine recipe
Here are the ingredients that you will need for the brine. This will work for a 10-to-18-pound turkey.
- 1 gallon of cold water
- 1 cup Kosher salt
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
- 6 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4 orange peels slices
- Splash of whiskey (optional)
Heat together all ingredients in a pot using only 2 cups of water. Heat until the salt and brown sugar are dissolved. Add a few ice cubes and remaining cold water. Let it sit until the brine is no longer warm. Place the turkey breast in a large bucket and pour the brine over it. Brine the turkey for 1 hour per pound.
How long should I brine a turkey?
It is recommended to brine turkey to make the meat tender and provide overall flavor to the meat. Before we talk about brining time, it is crucial to discuss the fresh and frozen birds and their weight.
If you have a frozen bird, you must check the label to make sure it isn't already pre-seasoned, enhanced, or brined. If not enhanced with a salted or seasoned solution, you must first thaw the bird in the refrigerator or water bath. Then you will brine the turkey for 1 hour per pound.
If you purchased a fresh turkey the brining process will be much easier. You'll want to stick to the same 1 hour per pound brining rule. So, if you have an 15 pound bird, then 15 hours of brining is perfect.
What's the best way to thaw a frozen turkey?
Thawing a turkey depends not just on the size but also on the environment you are thawing it in. You can either defrost the turkey in the refrigerator or in the sink.
Thawing a turkey in the refrigerator is a slower process. A turkey that is only 4 pounds can take an entire day to thaw in the fridge. Here is the estimated times for various weights if you're thawing in the refrigerator:
- 1 day for a 4 pound turkey
- 2 days for 4 to 8 pound turkey
- 3 days for 8 to 12 pound turkey
- 4 days for 12 to 16 pound turkey
- 5 days for 16 to 20 pound turkey
- 6 days for 20 to 24 pound turkey
If you use the "thaw in sink" method, a 4 to 10 pound turkey will thaw in the cold water in approximately 2 to 5 hours. In short, the estimated duration is around 30 minutes for a pound. I also recommend changing the water every 30 minutes and adding ice to keep the turkey cold.
How do I get crispy skin on a smoked spatchcock turkey?
Here are a few tips that will help you get crispy skin on your spatchcocked turkey:
- Air dry the turkey for 24-48 hours in the refrigerator to remove excess moisture from the skin.
- Rub butter or oil all over the turkey skin to enhance its crispiness.
- Do not cover the turkey with foil once it's finished smoking. The steam will start to make the skin soggy.
What internal temperature should a spatchcock turkey be smoked to?
We recommend probing the thermometer in the thickest part of the smoked turkey breast. You can also check the thermometer's reading inside the bird's inner thigh. Make sure that the thermometer does not touch the bone or you may get a false reading.
For perfectly cooked turkey, the thermometer must read around 170°F or 76 °C in the inner thigh and 160°F or 71°C in the thickest part of the breast. The turkey will continue to cook when resting and you'll end up with a perfectly cooked, juicy smoked turkey when finished.
Smoked Spatchcock Turkey
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 8 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
- 1/2 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 tablespoons fat drippings from smoked turkey
- 2 cups drippings from smoked turkey, fat removed
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 celery stalk
- 1 carrot, peeled
- 1/2 onion
- 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 1 sprig of thyme
Brine the turkey
If the turkey is frozen, use the directions in the notes to thaw it out. Make sure to save the neck for the gravy. Brine the turkey 48 hours before smoking it according to the brine package directions. I have a really good turkey brine recipe in the notes section if you want to make it from scratch. I recommend brining the turkey for 1 hour per pound of meat. Make sure the whole turkey is fully submerged in the brine for optimal flavor.
Spatchcock the turkey
After the turkey has finished brining, rinse it and pat dry with paper towels. Place it breast side down on a carving board. Using a very sharp knife or kitchen shears cut along both sides of the backbone. It's usually easier to work from the tail end of the backbone towards the neck. I recommend saving the backbone of the turkey to use in the gravy. After the backbone is completely removed, flip the turkey over and press down hard on the breast to crack the breast bone.
Air dry the turkey before smoking
Place the turkey breast side up on a wire rack. This will allow air to pass around on all sides. Place the turkey in the refrigerator uncovered for 24 hours. This will help remove the excess moisture from the turkey so the skin will be crispy after smoking. If you don't have time to air dry, see the notes for additional tips to get crispy skin. The skin will have a much redder appearance after it's air dried.
Make the herb butter
In a small bowl, combine the herb butter ingredients and mix well.
Season the spatchcock turkey
Separate the skin from the breast and thighs to create a nice pocket for the butter. Be careful not to rip the skin. Cover the entire breast and thighs under the skin with the butter mixture. You can run your hand along the top of the skin to spread it around move evenly.
Drizzle the outside of the turkey with olive oil and spread it around with your hands. Sprinkle the BBQ rub on all sides of the skin and let sit for 10-20 minutes before smoking.
Preheat the smoker
Preheat your smoker to 225 °F. Most pellet grills don’t need it, but you can add a pan of water in the corner of the smoker to keep moisture inside. If using a Traeger or any other pellet grill with a high smoke setting, turn it on as well.
Prepare the gravy pan
In a roasting pan or aluminum pan, add the saved turkey neck and backbone along with chicken stock, celery, carrot, onion, crushed garlic, rosemary, and thyme. If your smoker has room, place the gravy pan underneath the grill grates to catch the drippings. Otherwise place a rack inside of the roasting pan containing the gravy ingredients.
Smoke the spatchcock turkey at 225 degrees
Place the turkey breast side up directly on the grill grates. This is my preferred method as it allows more smoke to flow around the turkey. Smoke the turkey until the internal temperature of the breast reaches 110℉. This should take about 1 hour depending on the size of the turkey. I recommend using an internal meat thermometer to easily keep track the temperature.
Then increase the temperature of the smoker to 375℉. Continue to cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 158℉ in the thickest part of the breast. This should take approximately one more hour. The smoked turkey will continue to cook once removed from the smoker and eventually reach a final temperature of 165℉ in the breast. Time can vary greatly depending on the smoker, size of the turkey, and outside temperature. Cook the spatchcock turkey to temperature and not time.
Rest the smoked turkey
Remove the turkey from the smoker and transfer it to a large carving board. Let it rest on the counter for at least 30 minutes before carving. This will allow the juices to redistribute back into the meat and not run out when slicing. I don't recommend tenting it with aluminum foil as it will make the skin soggy.
Make the turkey gravy
Pour the drippings from the turkey gravy pan into a fat separator. If you don't have one, you can strain the drippings through a mesh strainer into a large measuring cup. Discard everything except the drippings. Wait a few minutes for the fat to separate and rise to the top.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add 3 tablespoons of the fat drippings from the top of the liquid and 3 tablespoons of flour. Whisk until combined and fragrant. Add the broth from the bottom of the drippings into the pan ensuring not to get much of the fat. If there isn't enough of the drippings to make 2 cups then add chicken stock until 2 cups of liquid is reached. Add the liquid to the pan and cook for 5 minutes or until the gravy is the consistency you like. You can add salt and pepper to the gravy if desired, but there should be more than enough flavor without it!
Serve the smoked spatchcock turkey with gravy
Once the turkey has rested for at least 30 minutes, carve it and serve with the delicious gravy. This is the part you'll realize the spatchcock method is far superior to a standard whole turkey on the smoker.