How to Spatchcock a Turkey

How to Spatchcock a Turkey

The method of spatchcocking smoked turkeys and chickens has gained tremendous 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. Using a kitchen shears, cut through the ribcage along both sides of the backbone. Remove and discard the backbone or reserve it for making stock for smoked gravy!
  3. Cut off any loose bones along the ribcage, then cut through the first rib or two on either side of the breastbone. This will make it easier to flatten the bird.
  4. Flip the turkey skin side up and flatten the turkey by firmly pressing down on the center of the breastbone with both hands (you should hear ribs breaking).
  5. Proceed with step 4 of the Traditional Turkey or BBQ Turkey recipe (omit the ice bag step).
  6. When setting the turkey on the smoker grate, arrange the legs with the thighs lying flat and tucked next to the body of the turkey and the drumsticks pointing outward (see the photo). The cook time will be about 8–9 minutes per pound with a smoker temperature of 325°.

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 faster per pound).
  • A spatchcocked turkey may fit where a whole turkey doesn’t because of the lack of 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°, but the thigh meat is best if it’s cooked to 175–180°. 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 and remove one or the other from the smoker if it's reached the target internal temperature. This prevents 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 some chefs! Sentimental? Maybe. But Thanksgiving comes only once a year, and to some, 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.

Nicholas Breed Turkeys Available Seasonally

Fossil Farms’ Nicholas Breed Turkeys are exceptionally juicy and tender, a delicious alternative to conventional turkeys raised on factory farms.

Why these turkeys are better:

  • Pasture-raised for a happier and healthier life
  • Fed an all-vegetarian diet consisting of local corn, rye, oats, alfalfa, and soybean meal
  • Raised by a network of 4th and 5th generation family farmers in Pennsylvania and humanely harvested in New Jersey
  • 100% all-natural and free of antibiotics, growth hormones, and steroids
  • Minimally-processed—perfect for brining

To check availability, email or call us at 717-355-0779, or visit our store at 140 W Main Street in New Holland, PA.

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.

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Meadow Creek Barbecue Supply is a specialty BBQ equipment and supply store in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

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140 W Main St in New Holland
Phone: 717-355-0779

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