Spatchcock Smoked Turkey RecipeIf you’re planning on cooking a large turkey for Thanksgiving – or if you are short on time – you might want to check out this this Spatchcock Smoked Turkey method. Spatchcocking or removing the backbone is great for larger birds. It allows the turkey to lay flat on the cooking grate and helps the meat cook more evenly. It’s also great if you’re limited on shelf space in your smoker. To spatchcock a whole turkey first remove the tail; flip the bird breast side down and grab a pair of kitchen shears. Make a cut along one side of the backbone with the shears from the bottom to the top of the spine. Repeat the same cut along the other side of the backbone and remove it. Use a sharp knife to separate the wish bone and press down on the turkey. It will spread out and lay flat. At this point you can also trim away any fat or sinew inside the cavity. Dry the cavity or bone side of the turkey with paper towel, spray with olive oil cooking spray, and season the bird with your favorite dry rub. I use a layer of Killer Hogs AP Rub followed by Swine Life Mississippi Grind. Flip the turkey over skin-side up and repeat the same process. To get more flavor into the meat I use an injection. Mix I level scoop of Butcher’s Bird Booster with 2 cups of cold water and wisk. You can substitute your favorite injection as well. To cook the turkey I’m using my Memphis Wood Fire pellet smokers running pecan pellets for flavor. Any smoker will do the job just run it at 275-300⁰ the entire cook. Place the turkey breast/skin-side up on the cooking rack and arrange the legs and wings so the bird remains as flat as possible. Touch up any areas that need it with rub and smoke for 1 hour. At this point start basting the skin as needed. In a small pot melt a stick of butter with a bundle of poultry herbs and a few cloves of garlic. Drizzle this mixture over the skin to help it brown. It will eventually start to turn a beautiful golden brown color. To keep it from getting too dark lay a couple pieces of aluminum foil over the bird (don’t wrap it tight). The turkey is done when a probe thermometer reads 165⁰ in the thickest portion of the breast. At this point carefully remove the turkey from the smoker and rest loosely covered for 5-10 minutes before carving. The skin on this turkey turned out incredible. The savory seasonings and melted butter create the perfect bite through crust and the meat was dripping with juice after I carved it. Give this spatchcock technique a try the next time you smoke a turkey. Print
Spatchcock Smoked Turkey Recipe
- 18–20lb Whole Turkey
- 2 cups Water
- ¼ cup Butcher’s Bird Booster Injection
- 2 Tabelspoons Killer Hogs AP Rub
- 2 Tabelspoons Swine Life Mississippi Grind
- 1 Stick Butter
- 1 bundle Poultry Herbs (Rosemary, Thyme, Sage)
- 3 cloves Garlic
- Thaw frozen turkey in refrigerator for 5 days; remove neck and giblet bag, rinse, and pat dry with paper towel.
- Remove the tail with a sharp knife, flip the turkey breast side down and cut along each side of the backbone with kitchen shears. Discard backbone and use a sharp knife to cut through the breast bone (wish-bone) allowing the turkey to lay flat.
- Trim away and sinew or fat from the bone side of the turkey and dry the cavity with paper towel. Spray with Olive Oil cooking spray and season with a layer of AP and MS Grind rubs.
- Flip the turkey over breast/skin side up; use paper towel to completely dry the skin and spray with olive oil cooking spray; season the skin side with AP followed by MS Grind rubs.
- Mix the Butchers injection with 2 cups of water. Inject the breast, thighs, legs, and wings with the mixture.
- Prepare smoker for indirect cooking using your favorite wood or smoking pellets for flavor. The smoker should be at 275-300⁰ the entire cook.
- Place turkey skin side up on the smoker. Tuck the wings and arrange the legs so the bird lays flat on the rack. Add additional MS Grind as needed to cover the places where touched.
- Smoke the turkey for 1 hour then baste. Heat the butter with the herbs and garlic in a small pot until melted; keep warm. Use a basting brush to drizzle the melted butter mixture over the skin as the turkey cooks.
- Cook the turkey until a probe thermometer reads 165⁰ in the thickest part of the breast. Rest the turkey for 5-10 minutes and cut into desired portions.
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What’s the ballpark time on a bird that big?
all depends but around 3.5 hours
For a 20 pound turkey 3.5 hours?
Malcom when you smoke a turkey on gas grill do you use indirect heat
Keep up the cookin
you are the best ^ 5
Malcolm, can’t wait to try this Thursday. About how many hours will a bird that size take? Minutes per pound. Thanks! Keep up the good work.
is 18lb bird took about 3.5 hours. But you go my internal temp and not time. Take it odd when it hits 165 in the breast
Do you always spatchcock your turkeys now?
No, I will spatchcock to make it cook faster or if I’m cooking on grill with limited space.
I just started smoking last year, and follow all your recipes.. I started with chicken, brisket, and turkey…all have turned out perfect.
My question: Do you use water when you are smoke?
Thank you so much for your videos.
I only use a water pan in my water cookers – but I never add it to any smokers
can I put two 12 #spatchcock turkeys on pellet grill ?
oh yeah – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcGHGr4l-rU
Hi Malcom. I love your website and appreciate the recipes you share. For the Spatchcock smoked turkey, how long do you cook a 20lb turkey? I’m trying to get an idea of how long this will take.
I would give myself plenty of time (4-5 hours). And then cook it until it’s 165 in the breast. You can always hold the bird in a dry cooler until it’s time to serve – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcGHGr4l-rU
Putting the bird in a cooler will it make the skin soft? I like a little crunch to my skin!!
don’t wrap it tight with foil
That’s what I’m gonna do this Turkey day! Looks great and thanks for the tips!
Great Video, I’m giving this recipe a try! Do you get a nice crispy skin doing it this way? I cooked one at 350 and it was crispy in some places and rubbery in others. I did not really use any fat howevr.
get the skin dry, use cooking spray at cook it hotter – it’s your best chance for good skin
What was the total cook time and weight of the bird?
Turkey was 18bs and it cooked in about 3.5 hours. But you want to go by internal temp and not just time
Love your videos! I’m going to do two turkeys the morning of and then take them to our family’s Thanksgiving. What would you suggest I do to warm them up before carving? I have the option of the oven or I can throw them on my uncle’s pellet grill if that would be better. Thanks again for all the great eats!
this might answer some questions – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcGHGr4l-rU
I don’t have the Mississippi Grind, but have the AP rub and both the hot and bbq rub. What would you suggest in place of the Grind?
I would use the AP Rub, then mix a little Hot Rub with a little poultry seasoning. Or you could just use the AP and Poultry Seasoning.
At what point would you brine a spatchcock?
You can brine it for 24 hours. Ideally you will brine for 24 hours, remove the turkey and have time for it to dry and chill in the fridge for a couple hours before cooking.
Malcom, gotta ask, Brine or Injection?
If I have the time I’m doing both!
I bought a brined turkey. Will your recipe work without injecting it?
Love your shows!
you don’t have to brine or inject – but I still brine and inject all my turkeys.
Just wanted to say thanks for the great instructions on the spatchcocked turkey. This will be my first attempt at smoking a bird of any kind so I’m very happy to see your detailed information. Thanks again and keep the tips coming.
I’m going to cook your cajun smoked turkey. On my pellet grill. I’m going to spatchcock it. Can I also put butter under skin or do you think I don’t need to do this ? Also do you use vegetable or olive oil spray ?
Used you spatchcock recipe as my cooking guide. The bird was a total wow. She who must be obeyed has told me from now on I cook the bird. Thank you for the tips and the courage to do it this way.
Malcom! We got a 16 pound turkey. Does anything need to be adjusted? Thanks.
Just make sure to cook to internal temps and not based on times
This may be a silly question but I purchased a char broiler grill with a smoker this summer and haven’t quite gotten how to use the smoker portion. How do you maintain the temperature? Are you putting all the coals in the smoker section or the grill section ? Adding coals while it is cooking ?
It’s all about airflow. You just have to get out there and learn your pit: https://howtobbqright.com/2017/05/24/smoker-temperature-control/
You are the Truth Brother!
I followed your technique and it was amazing! Keep doing what you are doing!!
I have a 22# bird. Can I cut it into 2 halves once I spatchcock it in order to fit on shelves in my smoker?
Sure – I expect it will decrease the cook time even more
I tried this method for Thanksgiving and it was the best turkey I’ve ever done in my 52 years of cooking! I’m doing another one for New Years Day. I did brine it first for 24 hrs then injected it with Tony’s cajun butter. Wow!
i used your recipe and smoked a 11 lb bird last weekend. brined and injected. took close to 3 hours at 300 degrees. my wife said the most tender and moist white meat ever. awesome! thx for the recipe and great video. doing a 14.5 lb bird today. smokers steady at 300; turkey brined overnight. use an assassin 28 gravity fed vertical smoker. was the best way to quickly defrost a frozen bird. i just put in cold water. never seem to plan in advance for turkey! thanks again for all your posts and videos.
Am thinking of one of those wireless thermometers? Have you used them before? I’m guessing they can stand the heat ok, just seems weird leaving the electrical part in all the smoke?
Use them all the time – https://www.thermoworks.com/DOT?tw=KILLERHOGS
Just purchase my pellet grill- smoker ,been using a Char-Broil Kamdander. Do you get enough smoke for the turkey at the high temps using a pellet grill smoker? Also have you used the Mojo bricks and the smoking tubes for pellets?
I have two questions:
1 – Is the folly under the grates on your Memphis in a sheet pan? And if so, does it all effect the airflow?
2 – I rarely inject my birds and have no reason to buy a large jar of the stuff that you use. So I would really appreciate a recipe for homemade injector liquid.
The foil is just on the deflector plate to make clean-up easy. It doesn’t effect the airflow because it’s only wrapped around the plate.
Cajun Smoked Turkey Butter Injection:
14oz can of Chicken Broth
1/4 cup melted Butter
2 Tablespoons Killer Hogs Hot Sauce
1 teaspoon Cajun Seasoning
Thanks Malcom. Appreciate your speedy and succinct reply to both of my questions. I really enjoy your videos from an educational and practical perspective. Keep em comic’ brother!
Would you brine and/or inject a frozen bird that says it has “8% solution of spices etc”? Lots of debate on the internet about this topic, with most saying it’s pre-brined.
I’ve always brined my turkeys – and I’ve always gotten the ones in the solution.
I would like to do a bacon weave on a spatchcock turkey this year. I’m new to smoking and have never done this. Any tips or suggestions for this technique?
Thank you for your help!
I would suggest doing a bacon weave on a boneless turkey breast – it will come apart when you try to slice a bone-in turkey. https://howtobbqright.com/2016/11/15/bacon-wrapped-turkey-breast/
I have a 18 pound turkey, I want to use this recipe but I’m not going to spatchcock it. How long do you think it will take per pound? Thanks again and appreciate the help.
Probably about 4.5 to 5 hours.
Have you ever done a larger bird this way? We have a 35lb home grown turkey we are planning to prepare. I know you go by temp, not time, but how long do you think it will take? Trying to plan accordingly.
I’ve never cooked one that large but I would guess 8-10 hours.
I have been trying your recipes for awhile now and have never been let down. Doing this recipe for the in-laws for Thanksgiving and my wife just told me, “Don’t [email protected]$# up the turkey!” Lots of pressure. Couple of questions. What other rub can I substitute for the Mississipi Swine and what do you think about mesquite for the bird?
You could use any savory rub – or just use a good all-purpose seasoning you like.
One more thing…what is your goto for Turkey brine. Salt only or do you add a little sugar.
I always add salt and sugar.
Love your work!!! I’m smoking a couple turkeys via the spatchcock method this year and my question is how to catch the drippings in the smoker to use for the gravy? Any input or tips you have would be much appreciated! Thanks!
Saving the drippings in a smoker can get bitter. I don’t recommend using smoker drippings.
Malcolm – Love your videos. I’m gearing up for Thanksgiving and want to smoke a turkey. I know you say baste as needed, but how frequent is that? I smoked a turkey before and the skin ended up rubbery, not crispy so I was thinking I may have basted too frequently. What’s your cadence? Thanks for your help.
I baste every 30-45 minutes. But make sure you get the skin really dry, spray it with cooking spray and then season it. Then cook it at a higher temp (around 300 degrees). That will help with your skin texture.
Malcom- made your Heath Riles ribs tonight and looked like a pro. Thanks! I’m going to do the spatchcock smoked turkey on Thanksgiving- do I spatchcock & then brine? Other way around? Does it matter?
I would brine then spatchcock
Is there any type of specific butter you use for the injection/baste? Salted, unsalted, clarified, etc?
i buy regular salted butter unless it’s a baking recipe then i go unsalted
Two real basic questions here:
1) do you open the vent on your smoker? I’ve got a master built one.
2) if you brine, do you still use a dry run with salt?
on my pits the vents need to be open for airflow. On an electric pit it’s not as important because the heating element does all the work and the smoke is just for flavor.
Outstanding! Thanks Malcom. I followed your procedure for a friends thanksgiving lunch today. Bang on 4hrs for a very similar sized bird. My first turkey cook was a huge success. Thanks from Dave in Australia ??
Made this turkey for a Christmas dinner and man it was out of the world. Making it again today just for a small gathering. The flavors all comes together so well. Love the 3 point attack, rub, injection and smoke. Keep it up!!
Some people say 165 IT breast AND 175 IT thigh. Do you ever check the thigh IT as well as breast? Thanks for a great video!
Awesome way to do the bird. Love your presentation. This works on all pellet grills, Big Green Egg with convector plate, and even on an offset wood burner with diffuser plate to spread heat.
I don’t have time to cook it on Thursday so smoking a 20 pound Wednesday. What’s the best way to re heat the turkey? Thanks so much!!
Is it okay to apply dry rub and inject the turkey 24-48 hrs prior to smoking it? I’m planning on spatchcocking it. Also planning on using apple and cherry pellets. What do you recommend?
I wish I could post pictures of how this turned out. Thanks a bunch Malcom for helping make this Thanksgiving a hit.
Can we cook at lower temp for more smoke? It will add time to the cook
What would the estimated cool time be for a smaller bird around 12#?
Your videos inspired me into smoking years ago and I’ve grown into a winning competitor- THANK YOU!
Never done a spatchcock turkey before. Along with the recipe provided, I was thinking of putting a small pan of beer underneath, for the extra layer of flavor. Can you advise? Wifey says skin must be crispy.
Malcom, I have followed your recipes and cooking for some time and I made my turkey yesterday following these instructions and turned out one of the best turkeys I every made. I pulled mine at 160 and I know everyone has to say 165 for legal safety reason but the carry over got it 165 and held it there for awhile. I did also brine this one versus the injection as well.
The herb garlic butter was amazing so much so my guests used it to drizzle over their turkey on their plates at the table. The skin was so good compared to what I had made in the past well.
Thanks a ton for this tutorial!!!
Tried smoking a turkey before and it came out dry and tasteless. Went back to Alton Brown’s oven method but really wanted to try smoking one again. Saw this and followed your exact recipe and method by spatchcocking it and basting as you showed and it was fantastic… Made our Thanksgiving execptional!
I’ve been following your recipes for ages and they are all great.. keep it up!
How long to cook a 10 lb spatchcock turkey