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How To Spatchcock A Turkey

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How to Spatchcock a Turkey and Why

If you’ve never tried spatchcocking a turkey—that is, cutting out its backbone and opening it flat—then this just might be the year to try. Spatchcocking, which you can also do with a whole chicken, helps the bird cook quicker and more evenly. And with all that skin exposed to the heat, you get optimum crispness. Best of all, when cooking a spatchcocked turkey on your Traeger grill, more of the meat will be exposed to the smoke giving you next-level wood-fired flavor. Finally, a spatchcocked bird is easier to maneuver than a whole bird, and carving is a breeze.


Select the Right Tools for Spatchcocking

There are a few must-have items when figuring out how to spatchcock a turkey:

  • Whole turkey
  • Shears
  • Cutting board
  • Towels
  • Pan or baking sheet

Note for choosing your shears: Spatchcocking is very easy to do but only if you’re using strong kitchen scissors or shears, like Traeger BBQ Shears. Trust us on this one. With a strong pair of scissors or poultry shears, cutting out the backbone takes little effort. While you may technically be able to cut it out with a knife, it will be much more awkward and difficult.


Steps to Spatchcocking a Turkey

  1. Place the turkey on a cutting board and position its breastside down. Using kitchen scissors or poultry shears, cut along both sides of the backbone and remove it. (Reserve it for making stock if you like.)

  2. Open the turkey up like a book and remove the giblets if necessary. (Reserve for gravy or stock if desired.)

  3. Flip the turkey over so that it's breast side up and press down hard on the breast to crack the breastbone and flatten the turkey somewhat. You will hear a small crack to let you know that the breastbone has flattened. Pro tip: If you're struggling with cracking the breastbone, you can make a small cut in the cartilage at the base of the breastbone to help it lay flat.

  4. Tuck the wingtips behind the turkey so they do not burn when cooking. You can secure them with cooking twine if that makes the process easier.

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How to Cook a Spatchcocked Turkey

As with a whole turkey, spatchcocked turkeys can be cooked in several different ways from roasting it to smoking it low and slow. The turkey can be seasoned in all manners, too, from simple salt and pepper to an elaborate wet or dry brine. We always recommend using our Traeger Orange Brine and Turkey Rub Kit, however to achieve the perfect wood-fired flavor. While it’s best to follow a recipe, below are basic methods for roasting and smoking a spatchcocked turkey.

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How to Roast a Spatchcocked Turkey

  • Heat your Traeger to 400°F.
  • Season the bird with either salt and pepper or a seasoning/rub of your choice. Tuck the wings under and be sure the thighs are positioned meaty side up.
  • Insert a leave-in meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast, near the neck but not touching the breastbone. (Alternatively, you can check the temperature in the thickest part of the breast with an instant-read thermometer toward the end of the cooking time.) However, for perfect results every time make sure to use the MEATER Plus Thermometer which you can connect to its partner app to keep an eye on your turkey while it cooks.
  • Place the turkey breast side up directly on the grill grate and roast for 30 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to 300°F and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. The time will vary depending on the size of the turkey. Figure between 3 and 4 hours for an 18-pound bird.
  • Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving.
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How to Smoke a Spatchcocked Turkey

  • If desired brine your turkey using Traeger’s Orange Brine and Turkey Rub Kit.
  • Heat the Traeger to 190°F using Super Smoke.
  • Tuck the wings under and be sure the thighs are positioned meaty side up.
  • Insert a leave-in meat thermometer, like the MEATER Plus, into the thickest part of the breast, near the neck but not touching the breastbone.
  • Place the turkey breast side up directly on the grill grate and smoke for 1 hour.
  • Increase the heat to 350°F and cook until the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 165° The time will vary depending on the size of the turkey.
  • Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving.

How to Carve a Spatchcocked Turkey

Carving a spatchcocked turkey is like carving a whole turkey but easier because the bird is splayed, and you can see and easily access all the joints.

  • Remove the legs by first slicing the skin between where the leg and breast meet. Continue slicing down to the cutting board to remove the thigh and leg in one piece. Cut through the joint where the drumstick connects to the thigh and transfer the pieces to your platter. Repeat on the other side.
  • Remove the wings by cutting through the joint connecting the wing to the body and add them to the platter.
  • Remove each breast half by cutting down both sides of the breastbone and peeling the breast away from the bone in one piece. Place on the cutting board and slice across the grain to keep the skin intact.
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Spatchcock Turkey Recipes

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While the spatchcocking process is similar no matter the recipe, the preparation can differ. Learn how to spatchcock a turkey through a few of our favorite recipes below:


FAQ'S: How to Spatchcock a Turkey

What size turkey should I use?

Any turkey can be spatchcocked. The size you choose for your turkey depends on how many people you plan on cooking for. If you have a smaller party consider 10-14 pound turkey, for a gathering of a more moderate size choose a 15-18 pound turkey, and for a large party choose a 19+ pound turkey.

Can I stuff a spatchcock turkey?

We recommend cooking your stuffing separately from your spatchcock turkey because of the flat, spread-out shape.

Is spatchcocking a turkey difficult?

While spatchcocking a turkey does take a bit more muscle compared to traditionally cooking a turkey, it's not difficult -- especially if you use poultry sheers.

Why spatchcock a turkey over traditional roasting?

Spatchcocking a turkey allows for even cooking throughout the entire area. It also makes the entire cooking process much faster.

Traeger Spatchcock Turkey

by Traeger Kitchen

Prep Time

30 Min

Cook Time

4 Hr
30 Min

Serves

8

Pellets

Turkey Blend

Kick traditional to the curb with this wood-fired take on turkey. This Traeger spatchcock turkey is given a double dose of flavor with a Traeger rub and an aromatic herb paste, then slow-roasted on your pellet grill for a turkey that's gorgeously golden, tender, and juicy.

Ingredients
main
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tablespoonchopped fresh parsley
2 Tablespoonchopped fresh thyme leaves
1 Tablespoonchopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 scallions, chopped
1 (18-20 lb) whole turkey
4 TablespoonTraeger Fin & Feather Rub
1 Tablespoonkosher salt
3 TablespoonOlive oil
    Steps
  • 1

    When ready to cook, set the Traeger temperature to 400°F and preheat with the lid closed for 15 minutes.

  • 2

    On a cutting board, chop together the garlic, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and scallions until the mixture forms a paste. Set aside.

  • 3

    Spatchcock the turkey: Using a large knife or shears, cut the turkey open along the backbone on both sides, through the ribs, and remove the backbone. Flip the bird over and press down on the breastbone to flatten; this will allow the turkey to roast evenly making the perfect Traeger spatchcock turkey.

  • 4

    With the bird breast side up, season the exterior with half the Traeger Fin & Feather Rub and salt, then rub two thirds of the the herb mixture into the bird. Drizzle with the olive oil. Flip the bird and season with the remaining Fin & Feather Rub, salt, and herb mixture.

  • 5

    Insert the probe into the thickest part of the turkey breast. Place the turkey directly on the grill grates, breast-side up. Close the lid and cook for 30 minutes.

  • 6

    Reduce the Traeger temperature to 300℉ and continue to cook until the internal temperature reaches 160℉, for 3-4 hours more.

  • 7

    Remove the turkey from the grill and let rest for 20-25 minutes before carving. The internal temperature will continue to rise to a finished temperature of 165°F. Enjoy!

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