It’s time to cook Turkey. And there is no better time than right now than to get cook your turkey on the grill this year! I’m a big fan of Spatchcocking (you’ll see a lot of Spatchcocked recipes here). So before I start telling you how deliciously moist and evenly cooked a Grilled Spatchcocked Turkey is, let me dig into what exactly it is and why you need to try it.
WHAT IS SPATCHCOCKING?
What is Spatchcocking? Spatchcocking is removing the backbone of a bird and butterflying it so it cooks more evenly. So instead of getting a big pan and roasting your bird and having it take up all the space in your oven, you can in spatchcock it and cook it on your grill, saving your oven space for stuff like Pumpkin pie!
WHY SPATCHCOCK YOUR TURKEY?
The biggest reason to spatchcock your turkey is the delicious end result. Grilling a spatchcocked turkey allows the bird to cook more evenly and more quickly, resulting in a more moist and evenly cooked bird with delicious smokey grill flavor. More parts of the bird touch the grill to brown and get crispy. In addition, the breast touches the grill directly and the turkey cooks overall more evenly than when roasting because it is butterflied and spread out on the grill. Even if you don’t own a grill, if you spatchcock your turkey it will cook more quickly in your oven which is a major bonus!
HOW TO SPATCHCOCK A TURKEY?
The best option would be to call your butcher or the guy who works in the meat department at your grocery store and ask them to do this for you. Keep in mind that unless it is around major holiday time there won’t be any “fresh” turkeys (ie, not frozen) so you call them up, ask them to defrost it and then “Spatchcock” or remove the backbone for you.
If you don’t have your butcher do it for you (and I highly recommend you do this!), then you will need sharp poultry shears. Do yourself a favor and make sure to use a SHARP pair of poultry shears. If you have a pair that’s been sitting in your drawer for 20 years and hasn’t ever been sharpened, then it is worth the investment to get a good pair to make this easier for you. You can get a good pair of Poultry shears for $20 on Amazon and it’s worth the investment.
If you don’t have poultry shears, use a sharp meat cleaver. To be extra careful, I recommend getting cutting gloves to ensure you don’t cut yourself. These are great to have in your kitchen arsenal! I bought these after cutting myself a few times and they have been a game changer! Please see my full video on how to spatchcock a turkey, including cracking the bones to lay flat on the grill.
SHOULD YOU BRINE YOUR TURKEY?
People often wonder if it is worth the extra time to brine a turkey. The answer is YES! Brining is your chance to take your bird to the spa and let it hang out in a saltwater bath which will help it retain moisture (and flavor!) during the cooking process! My brine recipe can be customized to what you have on hand and with whatever ingredients you like but a good rule of thumb is a salt to water ratio of 3/4 cup of salt to one gallon of water. I like to add in aromatics like rosemary, oranges, black peppercorns, and bay leaves but use what you have on hand to customize how you like!
Some people just like to go with a BBQ rub, but I’m a big fan of Compound butter. I like to make an aromatic compound butter and stuff it under the skin of the turkey to ensure the meat stays extra moist. In this recipe below I show you how to make a rosemary lemon compound butter.
The Key to grilling a spatchcocked turkey is to set up a two zone grill, ie, direct and indirect zones. if you aren’t sure how to do this then reference my GRILL SCHOOL Video on how to create direct and indirect zones on your grill. You will smoke roast your turkey on the indirect zone at a temp of about 375-400 degrees or until the internal temp reaches 160 degrees internal temp with a meat thermometer (I recommend the thermapen). Once you’ve hit that temp, transfer your bird to the direct side (directly over the coals) so the skin can crisp up and cook until the internal temp on the breast has hit 165 degrees (keep in mind it will continue to cook when you take it off). This will take about an hour to an hour and a half depending on how big your bird is. For a 13 lb bird this took a little over an hour.
If you want to do a spatchcocked turkey in the oven, you will set your oven for 400 degrees, follow all the same instructions with the brine and butter, and then roast the turkey in the oven until it reaches the internal temp of 160 and then put it under the broiler at the end to get crispy skin.
Once you remove the turkey from the grill, tent it under foil for 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute before cutting into it.
Grill your turkey this year and save yourself valuable oven space while also creating the most moist, flavorful Turkey you’ve ever cooked! Spatchcocking results in more evenly cooked bird that also cooks more quickly than roasting in the oven! Plus, the added smoke flavor takes this moist, juicy bird to new heights! The addition of an aromatic rosemary lemon compound butter makes this the turkey of your dreams!
1 13 lb turkey, spatchcocked (backbone removed) – if your turkey is bigger than that, increase compound butter recipe
1.5 sticks butter (room temperature)
zest of 2 lemons
1 tbsp sea salt
6 bunches of rosemary, stems removed
Brine the turkey overnight. Turkey brine recipe can be found here. If it hasn’t been removed yet, remove the backbone from the turkey (see instructions in blog post- save yourself some trouble and have your butcher do this for you!).
Combine the butter, lemon zest, rosemary and salt with a stick blender until uniform in consistency and all the rosemary needles have been chopped up.
Take your finger and separate the skin from the meat of the turkey to create a pocket to put the butter underneath the skin and gently get the butter in as many places as possible under the skin of the turkey. Repeat and slather the outside of the bird with butter too.
Create direct/indirect zones on your grill opting for between 375-400 degrees. Add wood chips if you like- cherry, maple, oak, apple are all great for turkey. Remember, you will be smoke roasting on the grill on indirect heat until the very end. Cook on indirect heat with the breast facing up until an internal read thermometer reads 160 degrees. When you hit that temp, transfer the turkey to the direct side and grill until the breast reads 165 degrees internal temp. Keep in mind the bird will continue to cook once you take it off the grill. Tent it under foil for 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute before slicing into it.
This recipe post was made in partnership with my friends over at the National Turkey Federation.
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We love cooking turkey on the grill over here at GrillGirl.com. Check out all our different grilled turkey recipes to set you up for a successful turkey cook!
I'm Robyn, The GrillGirl behind GrillGirl.com. My focus is on healthy, simple and creative recipes on the grill. I encourage women to learn to grill as it is a great way to create healthy, flavorful dishes without all the fuss and clean up in the kitchen.