How to Spatchcock a Turkey

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How to Spatchcock a Turkey

The method of spatchcocking smoked turkeys and chickens has gained popularity in recent years, so you may be trying to decide whether to spatchcock your turkey this Thanksgiving. In this article we will cover the steps for spatchcocking a turkey and explain the advantages and disadvantages of this method.


  1. Complete steps 1–3 in our Traditional Turkey or BBQ Turkey recipes.
  2. Set the turkey on a cutting board with the spine facing up. Remove the backbone from the turkey by cutting along both sides of the backbone and through the ribcage with kitchen shears. (Reserve the backbone if you’re making stock for smoked gravy.) 
  3. Flip the turkey to skin side up and flatten the turkey by pressing the center of the breastbone with both hands (you should hear ribs breaking).
  4. Proceed with step 4 of the Traditional Turkey or BBQ Turkey recipe (omit the ice bag step).
  5. When setting the turkey on the smoker grate, arrange the legs with the thighs lying flat and tucked next to (not underneath) the body of the turkey and the drumsticks pointing outward (see the photo). The cook time should be 8–9 minutes per pound with a smoker temperature of 325 degrees.

What are the benefits of making a spatchcock turkey?

  • Using the spatchcock technique instead of cooking the turkey whole results in a slightly faster cook time (2–3 minutes per pound faster)
  • A spatchcocked turkey may fit where a whole turkey doesn’t because of the vertical space in your smoker.
  • The biggest challenge in cooking a whole bird is that the breast meat starts to dry out if it’s cooked over 160 degrees, but the thigh meat is best if it’s cooked to 175 degrees. When spatchcocking a turkey, the bird is butterflied and laid flat on the smoker grate. This arrangement of the thighs and breasts helps the thighs cook faster and make it easier to cook both to perfection. (If you choose not to spatchcock, you can easily solve this problem by using an ingenious ice bag trick as explained in our Traditional Turkey and BBQ Turkey recipes.)
  • It’s easy to separate the legs from the breasts if one part finishes cooking before the other to avoid overcooking any of the meat. 

What are the downsides of making a spatchcock turkey?

The only downside of spatchcocking is the non-traditional appearance of the turkey on the platter, which is a big deal to us! Sentimental? Absolutely! Old fashioned? Maybe. But Thanksgiving comes only once a year, and it just doesn’t seem complete without a whole turkey in all its splendor being displayed in the middle of a Norman Rockwell spread of accompanying side dishes.

Thanksgiving Recipes Library

Browse other Thanksgiving recipes, such as smoked turkey gravy, stuffing, and pumpkin cheesecake in our Thanksgiving recipes library.

Do you need help cooking your holiday turkey? We believe amazing barbecue is not just for celebrities. Visit our store for everything you need to cook outdoors, including free and friendly advice from fellow barbecue enthusiasts. Call us at (717) 355-0779 or visit us at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA.

1 thought on “How to Spatchcock a Turkey

  1. The texture and juiciness of a spatchcocked turkey is incredible.
    This is the only way I do poultry anymore.

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