This smoked spatchcock turkey recipe is the perfect way to master your barbecue platter presentation. Prepared with a beautiful dry rub, this meat preparation method will steal the show this holiday season.
Spatchcock or butterflied turkey is a great way to work smoke and wood aromas throughout your bird. This will lock in the flavor and the juices that we love in barbecue turkey, and will only take a fraction of the time compared to a regular smoked turkey. It’s win-win.
Today I’m going to walk you through how to prepare your bird for your smoker, and how to butterfly it the right way. Here’s everything you need to know about smoking a spatchcocked turkey.
How to spatchcock a turkey
First and foremost let’s look at how to spatchcock a turkey. This is a good way to ensure that the entire turkey is cooked and saturated with flavour. It also cuts down the amount of time that you spend cooking.
- Make sure the turkey is fully defrosted.
- Use sharp kitchen scissors or a knife. I prefer scissors. They are safer and also easier to handle.
- Cut along the backbone, from the tail up to the neck.
- Repeat the process on the other side
- Then cut the backbone off, along with the tail.
- Lay the turkey flat in front of you with the legs facing you.
- Cut through the cartilage around the breast bone area and let your knife glide along the bone, making sure not to cut through the breast.
- Then turn the turkey over and press down to flatten it.
- Once this is done, pat the turkey dry to be ready for spicing up and marinades, or whatever you prefer.
Times & temperatures
To get the best result possible, it helps to know what temperature to cook the turkey and how long. This way you avoid constantly opening the cooker or poking and prodding, wondering if it is cooked or not. By doing this, you also run the risk of breaking the skin. The ideal temperature for smoking spatchcock turkey is 225˚F for between 2 and 3 hours.
The total number of hours depends on the weight of the turkey. You can estimate about 11-13 minutes for every pound. If you’re not too sure how much the turkey weighs, then you may want to rely more on the internal temperature rather than on how long the turkey has been cooking.
For turkey to be edible and safe, it has to reach certain temperatures. The recommended internal temperature for turkey is 165˚F. In general, all poultry needs to reach between 160 and 165˚F for it to be safe to eat. This is why it is essential to use an internal meat thermometer. The good news is that most smokers come with these.
Best wood for smoking turkey
Fruity hardwoods are the best woods for smoking turkey. You want something delicate and mild that doesn’t overpower the meat, while carrying enough fruit flavor to elevate it.
Cherry wood gives your turkey a nice touch of sweetness without overwhelming it. Pecan is a sweet-tasting wood, just like cherry. Pecan is much richer in flavor and adds a note of nut to the smoke. Maple is far more subtle than its sweet counterparts. Applewood is another sweet and fruity wood, but it has a much more mellow taste than cherry or pecan. Choose maple for a much lighter flavor profile.
Avoid mesquite and hickory. They are both strong and robust, and will overwhelm the natural flavors of the turkey. While hickory is undoubtedly a classic wood, it is too tough and intense for poultry.