Shake up your traditional turkey routine with this perfect Spatchcocked Smoked Turkey recipe. Evenly cooked and with juicy turkey no matter where you slice, this is a tried-and-true method for making the best smoked turkey on the planet!

Smoked spatchcocked turkey arranged on a cutting board garnished with parsley.

Spatchcocked? What kind of nutty word is that? Spatchcocking is a chef’s secret for creating moist, tender, and juicy poultry without overcooking it, and ensuring flavor in every bite. Never fear, I’ll show you exactly how to do it, and then you’ll never make turkey or chicken any other way!

Perfect for Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas, or anytime you’re in the mood for spice-rubbed turkey with golden brown skin, this easy Spatchcocked Smoked Turkey recipe is amazing! And, once you’ve tried smoking your turkey, you’ll never go back to roasting it in the oven. The smoky flavor infuses the meat, and by cooking it low and slow, you lock in all the juices. 

I love cooking turkeys in my Pit Barrel Smoker, but any smoker will work. You can also smoke your spatchcock turkey on a pellet grill. Just make sure it’s big enough to hold your spatchcocked turkey and let’s get cooking! 

What’s Spatchcocking?

Spatchcocking is a term used to describe the process of cutting a turkey open and laying it flat. Almost like butterflied turkey. It’s a simple process, but you need good sharp kitchen scissors or a big knife. 

What’s great about this method is it helps to cook even a large bird evenly due to the whole bird laying at an even level. The spatchcock method keeps the whole bird juicy and tender, and since all of the skin is exposed, not sitting in turkey drippings, it also makes for great crispy skin on the entire turkey!

Another bonus of smoked spatckcock turkey is it speeds up the cooking time on larger birds making this a great cooking method

Wondering how to spatchcock a turkey? Start by removing the bird from the packaging and removing the gizzards, pat the turkey dry with paper towels, and get a cutting board out.

Flip the turkey over so it is breast side down and find the spine. Use a pair of kitchen shears to cut along both sides of the backbone until you can remove it completely. It can take some hand strength to cut through the bone, and a sharp knife might work better if your kitchen scissors aren’t up to the task.

Be sure to save the backbone and any leftover bones once dinner is over to make instant pot turkey stock.

Raw turkey showing kitchen sheers snipping along the backbone, the start to spatchcocking the bird to make it lay flat.
Start by cutting along the backbone to spatchcock a turkey.

For safety, I recommend investing in sharp poultry sheers. I find them to be the easiest way to manage cutting along the backbone of the turkey for this spatchcock technique without too much strain.

Flip the bird breast side up, and press down with the palm of your hand on the breast to crack the breast bone. Open the turkey up and lay it out evenly with the breast, things, and wings all on an even level. Tuck the wings back behind the breast by folding the wings up and the tips back, under the breast bone.

That’s it! Place the bird on a baking sheet or big roasting pan to get it ready for cooking.

Close up of smoked turkey sliced from the bone and the breast meat cut into portions.

What You Need To Make The Best Smoked Spatchcocked Turkey

You’ll Also Need:

  • Kitchen sheers – not just regular scissors but heavy-duty poultry shears.
  • Smoker – this recipe features the Pit Barrel Cooker, but it can be adapted for any smoker, including pellet smokers.
  • Maple wood – or other mild smoking wood like pecan or apple.
  • Heat-resistant grilling gloves

How To Make Spatchcocked Smoked Turkey

First, spatchcock the turkey using the instructions above.

Whisk the salt and spices together in a bowl. We use our general all-purpose chicken rub because of its fresh notes and herbs, along with GirlsCanGrill Chicken rub for the color and flavor from the paprika and sugar. However, your favorite dry rub will work.

Rub the whole turkey all over on both sides with the spice rub, and place it on a wire rack on a baking sheet in the fridge for up to 3 days. This is essentially dry brining the turkey.

On cooking day, remove the turkey from the fridge and brush the skin with oil. Rub it with another layer of the spice rub and prepare your grill.

Charcoal pouring from a charcoal chimney into a smoker.
Glowing embers of ashed over charcoal in the bottom of a grill.
Make sure your charcoal is ashed over. When it’s like this, and not flaring up or smoking, it’s ready to go!

Set the smoker to 225-250 degrees F with your lump charcoal. Add smoking wood (we like maple wood chunks for smoked turkey) for additional flavor as you’re grilling. Arrange the grilling grate over the smoker so you can easily transfer the turkey.

When the grill is heated, and the smoke is a clear blue, add the spatchcocked turkey directly on skin side up and close the lid. Let it smoke until the turkey meat reaches an internal temperature of 165 F in the thickest part of the breast and 170 degrees f. in the thigh with an instant read thermometer.

Spatchcocked Turkey in a smoker with clear smoke billowing around it.
This turkey was huge. Due to its size, the breast didn’t fully ‘flatten’ when pressed for spatchcocking the bird. Which is ok, because it made for a beautiful presentation.

How to carve a spatchcocked turkey

To carve a spatchcocked turkey, start by cutting along the thighs to remove the leg quarters. If the bird is cooked through, the joint will separate with little effort. You can cut the dark meat into a thigh and drumstick portion along the joint.

Next, remove the wings from sides of the bird with a few simple cuts and a little wiggle to release the joint.

Then slice the breast from the bone. And lastly, slice the breast meat into thin slices to serve.

If you’re worried about not having a big beautiful bird to display at the holiday table, this one, carefully carved over a bed of greens, is absolutely beautiful. And everyone can dig in a lot faster.

Showing the crisp herb rubbed golden brown skin of a turkey on a smoker.
Basting in the last hour helps crisp up the skin.

GirlCarnivore Pro Tip:

For the last hour or so, baste the turkey with a little oil to help make crispier skin and add a deep color.

Recipe Tips

  • If your bird is especially large, get someone to help handle the lid, so you don’t cross-contaminate the grill with raw turkey.
  • For the last hour or so of smoking time, baste the whole turkey with some oil to help crisp the skin and get a nice dark color.
  • Keep the cooking temperature even, adding wood as needed. If the temp drops too low, this smoked spatchcock turkey recipe will take forever to cook. Maintaining an even heat is the key to this delicious turkey!
  • Ensure you have plenty of time for your dry brine spatchcock turkey – it could take hours, depending on how big it is. We recommend the bird brine at least overnight and find that this helps to crisp up the turkey skin too.
  • If you’re smoking on a pellet grill, try adding a smoker box with wood chips to your grill or a pellet smoker tube for deeper smoke flavor or this delicious smoked spatchcock turkey.
Above shot of a spatchcocked turkey thats been carved to remove the leg quarters, wings, and sliced the breast into servings.

FAQs

How long does it take to Smoke a Spatchcock Turkey?

This isn’t an easy question to answer because a lot of variables change the answer, like the size of the bird and its temperature cwhen it goes into the smoker. Weather can also play a factor in smoking time – a cold or windy day can affect your smoker’s performance, and so can altitude. If you’re using a Pit Barrel Smoker, be sure to check their guide for adjusting the vent for altitude.
For reference, my 16-pound spatchcocked turkey took about 5 hours to smoke at 225-250F. Use a thermometer with a probe and ambient temp monitor to ensure success when smoking the best turkey.

Should You Brine Your Turkey?

Traditional brines involve soaking the turkey in a salt bath for a few days, but you need a very large container, and keeping it cold enough to be safe can be tricky. Instead, dry brine your turkey! You’re infusing the meat with maximum flavor by rubbing it with a bold spice rub and letting it absorb those flavors while refrigerated. This will also help crisp up the skin! 

How To Serve Smoked Spatchcock Turkey

Let the turkey rest for 10-15 minutes before carving your smoked spatchcocked turkey, then carve it like you would a normal turkey. Wondering what to serve with smoked turkey? Check out tasty side dishes like creamy mashed potatoes, biscuits, or stuffing. But if you’re watching the carb load, try it with these smoked brussels sprouts.

Finished golden brown smoked spatchcocked turkey on a cutting board garnished with salt and parsley.

Leftovers and Reheating

Wrap leftovers tightly in plastic wrap or store them in an airtight container for up to 4 days in the fridge. Take the time to chop any extras and freeze them for up to 3 months for easy soups, burrito fillings, or leftover sandwiches later. Save the carcass and bones to make homemade pressure cooker turkey stock.
Reheat individual servings in the microwave in short bursts until heated through.

MORE SMOKED TURKEY RECIPES YOU’LL LOVE

If you’ve tried my spatchcocked smoked turkey recipe, or any other recipe on GirlCarnivore.com please don’t forget to rate the recipe and let me know where you found it in the comments below. I get inspired by your feedback and comments! You can also FOLLOW ME on Instagram @girlcarnivore as well as on  Twitter and Facebook.

Spatchcocked Smoked Turkey

5 from 21 votes
Prep: 3 d
Cook: 7 hrs
Resting Time: 20 mins
Total: 3 d 7 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 16
A quick spatchcock to help the meat cook evenly, paired with a dry brine, and simple rub makes this the best turkey recipe you can smoke!
  • Pit Barrel Cooker
  • Kitchen Sheers
  • Grilling Gloves

Ingredients  

For Garnish

  • Parsley

Instructions 

Spatchcock the turey

  • Start by removing the bird from packaging and clearing out the inner cavity for any gizzards.
    16 lb Turkey
  • Pat the bird dry.
  • Flip the turkey breast side down and find the spine.
  • Using your sheers, cut along the spine on both sides until you cut out the spine completely.
  • Spread the turkey open and crack or cut the breast bone.
  • Flip the turkey over, spread it as best you can, and press down forcefully on the top of the turkey breast to crack the breastplate.
  • Butterfly the turkey open. Laying it out evenly with the breast, thighs, and wings all on an even surface.
  • Tuck the wings back, placing them behind the breast.

Dry Brine

  • Rub the turkey all over with the salt.
    4 tbsp Salt
  • Place it on a wire rack on a baking sheet to brine in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Smoke the Turkey

  • Whisk the remaining salt in a small bowl with the Girls Can Grill Chicken Rub and the GirlCarnivore Chick Fest spice blends.
    4 tbsp Salt, 3 tbsp GirlsCanGrill Chicken Rub, 2 tbsp GirlCarnivore Chick Fest
  • Remove the bird from the fridge and brush the skin with oil.
    1/2 cup Oil
  • Rub it with a coating of the spice mixture.

Prep the grill

  • Set your smoker to run at around 225 to 250 with your lump charcoal.
  • Add smoking wood.
  • Arrange the grilling grate over the smoker.
  • Once your grill is preheated and the smoke is a clear you’re ready to cook.

Smoke the turkey

  • Transfer the turkey to the grilling rack and shut the lid. If you are using a probe thermometer, make sure it is interested before closing the lid and working.
  • Smoke the turkey until it reaches an internal temperature of 165F, check the ambient temperature of the grill occasionally to maintain heat. Additiaonl fuel may be needed.
  • For the last hour of smoking, baste the turkey with a little oil every 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Cooking can take 4 to 12 hours depending on the side of the bird.

Rest

  • When the meat reaches 165F, transfer it from the smoker onto a baking sheet or cutting board and tent it with foil.
  • Rest the bird for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

Slice

  • Carve the legs from the main body.
  • Cut the wings from the body.
  • Slice the breasts from the bone.
  • Slice the breast into portions against the grain.

Serve

  • Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.
    Parsley

Notes

We cooked this bird in a Pit Barrel Cooker, and love drum-style cookers for poultry. But any grill will work. If using a gas grill or pellet grill, add a smoker box with wood chips to the hottest part of the grill to add a richer smoked flavor. 
We use a blend of GirlCarnivore Chick Fest and GirlsCanGrill Chicken rub for this blend, as they are balanced all-purpose poultry rubs, but any bbq spice blend will work. 
Giving the bird time to dry brine in the fridge helps to produce great crispy turkey skin. Allow yourself at least a 16 hour dry brine before smoking. 
When grilling, always go by internal temp, not time. Use an instant-read meat thermometer or a probe thermometer to ensure the meat has reached a safe temperature of 165 degrees F. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 522kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 70g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 232mg | Sodium: 2106mg | Potassium: 734mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 185IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 49mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Author: Kita Roberts
Keyword: pit barrell smoked turkey, smoked turkey, smoker turkey, spatchcocked smoked turkey, spatchcocked turkey

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I need to try this, though I think I’ll quarter the bird so I have juicy white meat while Jean gets perfectly cooked dark meat.

    This is even more of an issue with wild turkey or heritage breeds. They are less voluptuous than the standard supermarket bird.

  2. 5 stars
    Since smoking a turkey a few years ago (on my PBC…) my family does not want it any other way now.

    Brining was a pain in the… yeah. But this year I figured it out (tagged in Insta)

    Question – do you have a method to maintaining temps on the PBC using lump? I’ve been using the bricks and for best temp maintenance used the stacking method. Rows of set bricks around the ring. It mostly works. Just not 100% of the time.

    Constantly lifting the meat out to add more charcoal is another pain in the….

    I do love the art side of this style of cooking and figuring things out.

    Thanks for another great recipe!

    1. Hey hey, yeah once you go smoked bird there’s no other way!
      For temps, have you checked the vent on the bottom vs elevation / etc (they have a guide on their site)? I have that set for mine and once it gets going, it holds pretty well overall. I do an indirect, with lump stacked.to one side, and some outside the ring. In bad weather, I’ve had to add more fuel, and yeah, with a turkey, that’s never easy. I find when they are hung, it’s easier to add coals from the side, but laying spatchcocked across the grate, you have to lift it out.
      Oh! And an ambient temp probe is a must. Check out the one from thermoworks.
      That being said, I haven’t checked out PBCs new larger one 🤣 maybe this is an excuse to test it!
      Stoked to see your cooks!

  3. 5 stars
    I was nervous to spatchcock such a huge bird, but your tips got me through it! This turned out to be the best darn turkey we’ve ever had! Loved it so much!

  4. 5 stars
    This turkey is HUGE and it was awesome! It came out super juicy and made for wicked meals even when reheated. Great for meal prep, not just big dinners!

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