Spatchcocking a Whole Turkey


Turkey Smoke Team

Spatchcocking, a.k.a. butterflying, is a quicker route to a beautiful, delicious turkey that’s ready for the grill. Spatchcocking is increasing in popularity as pitmasters look for more efficient ways to achieve golden-brown perfection.

Whether you’re on the barbecue competition circuit or simply competing for favor at the dinner table, we’ve answered some of the most pressing questions to walk you through the spatchcocking process below.

What is spatchcocking?

Spatchcocking is removing the backbone of a bird and laying it flat on the grill or smoker. Yep, that simple! 

Why should I spatchcock my turkey?

While it is a little extra butchery work, spatchcocking a turkey helps it cook more evenly and quickly. Additionally, this method exposes all the skin at the same time, so you end up with a perfectly crispy skin and juicy meat.

It requires a bit of elbow grease, but take your time, and the results will be well-worth the effort!

How do I spatchcock a turkey?

To spatchcock turkey, we recommend using kitchen shears to remove the backbone. A sharp knife or meat cleaver can alternatively be used. Check out GrillGirl’s spatchcocking tutorial below to get you started.

  • Pat the turkey dry.
  • Place it breast-side down on a cutting surface.
  • Starting at the tail, make an incision along one side of the backbone.
  • Continue cutting along the backbone until you’ve snipped through the rib bones up to the neck.
  • Use your hands the spread the turkey open slightly.
  • Make an identical cut along the other side of the backbone. Watch your fingers!
  • The backbone should now be freed – this may take some additional snipping. Remove.
  • Flip the turkey over and, using two hands, press down hard on the breastbone. Listen for a couple of cracks. The turkey should now rest flatly.
  • Now arrange your turkey on the grill or smoker. Splay the legs and tuck the wing tips under the breast (or remove entirely) to prevent burning.

How should I grill my spatchcocked turkey?

Grilling a spatchcocked turkey is best over a two-zone grill, with direct and indirect zones. Grill your turkey on the indirect zone at a temp of about 375-400°F or until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 160°F verified with a meat thermometer. Transfer your bird to the direct side (directly over the coals) to allow the skin to crisp up and cook until the internal temperature of the breast reaches 165°F.

Here are a few of our favorite spatchcocked turkey recipes worth a try:

rosemary spatchcock turkey on a grill

How long does it take for a spatchcocked turkey to cook on the grill?

A spatchcocked whole turkey will cook more quickly than a standard bird. Depending on the size of the bird, cook times are estimated between 1-1.5 hours.

To ensure doneness, we recommend verifying the internal temperature of the turkey has reached 165°F in three places: the innermost part of the thigh, breast and wing.

Are there any helpful tips for a first-timer?

Safety first! Cutting gloves can help lessen the risk of cutting yourself.

Spatchcocking requires a bit of force, so don’t hesitate to recruit friends or family to get in on the action.

If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge, ask your butcher to spatchcock a turkey for you.

Make sure to wash your hands before and after handling the raw turkey. Sanitize surfaces and tools used during the process.