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Lemon Herb Butter Spatchcocked Turkey (In Time for Thanksgiving)

grilled turkey

Save space in your oven this year- make your turkey on the grill!

I’ve done beer can turkey on the Big Green Egg for the past two years so I was looking to do something different this year for this years Thanksgiving turkey. When I saw the Spatchcocked Turkey on my friend’s Chris’ blog NibbleMeThis, I felt inspired to do this method for Thanksgiving this year.

What does Spatchcocking mean exactly? Spatchcocking refers to butterflying a bird, (or any kind of poultry,) removing the backbone and then cooking it butterflied, spread out on the cooking surface. What is great about spatchcocking is by butterflying the bird, it cooks much faster than roasting as the bird is spread out on the heat surface.

I’ve spatchcocked chicken and Cornish game hens before and it is one of my favorite grilling techniques and it is now is my go-to way to cook turkey.

I didn’t brine my turkey first and it turned out great when I did my Paleo Thanksgiving test run a few weeks ago, but I may brine for Thanksgiving. My vote is still undecided about brining and whether or not it is worth it. When I took a class from French Trained Chef Jeanne Pierre last year he said he had tried both ways and you couldn’t tell the difference between a brined or unbrined turkey. But, if you decide to brine I thought Chris’ Orange Bourbon brine looked wonderful and fragrant and this is the recipe I will use if I do decide to brine for Thanksgiving.


  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 large bunch rosemary, tarragon and thyme- leaves removed off the stems
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • sea salt, large pinch, large pinch
  • fresh ground pepper, large pinch
  • 1 turkey, spatchcocked with back bone removed (save yourself the trouble and have your butcher do this!)


If brining, brine overnight and then pat dry.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the butter, herbs, salt, pepper, and lemon juice with a stick blender.

Next, lay the turkey out on a big cutting board or plate and spread it out. Slide your fingers under the skin and separate it from the meat to placement of butter. Slather butter underneath the breast, legs, etc- anywhere you can get butter underneath the skin- this is what is going to keep it moist (this is the unfun part but the results are worth it!).

Next, heat your grill to 350 degrees. Lightly oil the grill grates and when nice and heated up, grill the turkey on each side for 8-10 minutes or until nice char marks have begun to form. Remove the turkey now and place on a grill safe pan so you can collect juices from the turkey to make gravy with.

Now, place the turkey back onto the cooker and let cook until an internal read thermometer such as the ThermaPen or ChefAlarm, reads 170 degrees. Depending on the size of the turkey, this could take between 2 and 3+ hours. I had a smaller turkey that was approximately 10 lbs and it took 2.5 hours.

These may not be my best photos, I was busy running around like a turkey with my head cut off while making this, but trust me, the end result is super tasty!

These may not be my best photos, I was busy running around like a turkey with my head cut off while making this, but trust me, the end result is super tasty!

Note, I used the Pit Barrel Cooker to cook this turkey. The Pit Barrel Cooker is a drum smoker and grill and when grilling on direct heat, you are still fairly far away from the flames. However, with a kettle style grill I would recommend creating a direct and indirect cooking zone for this cook. (cooking direct over coals vs. cooking more like an oven, on the side without coals/direct heat source to simulate roasting or cooking in the oven.) So, for example, on a kettle grill I would grill the turkey first on direct for the char marks, and then let it continue to cook on indirect for the remainder of the cook.

Have you spatchcocked turkey before? How did yours turn out?

The best part of this recipe is that it cuts down the cook time and it also frees up valuable oven space for some of those side dishes since you are using your grill, NOT your oven!

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5 Responses to Lemon Herb Butter Spatchcocked Turkey (In Time for Thanksgiving)

  1. Chris November 19, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    I’m with you, regardless of the recipe you might choose, spatchcocking is the way to go for turkey on the grill or in the oven.

  2. Harold Smith November 25, 2013 at 12:50 am #

    Can’t say I’ve ever heard of this method of cooking. It sounds delicious, though, that’s for sure! Might have to test this out before its too late…

  3. Greg November 26, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    Spatchcock is the way to go for turkey and chicken. We did a spatchcock turkey on the Egg for Canadian Thanksgiving. Rubbed an herb butter under the skin and on top (sage, thyme, parsley). We then melted the leftover her butter to baste the turkey periodically during the cook. The skin was a dark, rich colour with tons of flavour.

    And since the turkey was spatchcocked, it was cooked perfectly even.

  4. Robyn November 26, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Greg, I”m going to baste in butter too. It will give me something to do while drinking beer outside. (Not like I won’t have like 5 other dishes to work in for thanksgiving but still!!)


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    […] amazing. And it cooks really fast too! You can read my original review here as well as the recent spatchcocked turkey I did on the Pit Barrel Cooker. Another bonus in addition to being an awesome grill/smoker is that […]

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