Spatchcocked Turkey with Herbed Butter

In this spatchcocked turkey recipe, I will show you how to speed up the process of smoking a turkey by butterflying it, commonly called “spatchcocking the turkey”.

This opens up the turkey allowing it to cook a lot more evenly, makes it easier to carve and often helps the skin to get more crispy especially if you are able to cook it a little hotter than normal smoking temperatures.

The herbed butter along with my Texas rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) seasons this baby to perfection and your Thanksgiving will be a huge success!

Helpful Information
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Brine time: 8-12 hours
  • Cook time: 4-6 hours
  • Smoker temperature: 225240°F
  • Meat finish temperature: 165°F
  • Recommended wood: Fruitwood and/or Pecan
What You'll Need

Note: You can brine first and then spatchcock the bird or vice versa. I like to spatchcock it first but this is completely personal preference.

IMG 0492 1000x715Please note that my rubs and barbecue sauce are now available in 2 formats– you can purchase the formulas and make them yourself OR you can buy them already made, in a bottle, ready to use.

What Does it Mean to Spatchcock a Turkey?

This is an old word that just means to butterfly the turkey by cutting out the backbone and laying it open. This allows it to cook faster and more evenly. This also allows you to cook a much larger bird in the smoker safely.

When you are smoking a turkey at low smoker temperatures such as 225-240°F it is not recommended to use a turkey that is larger than 12 lbs due to the fact that it will stay in the danger zone of 40 to 140°F for too long.

By laying it open, this allows even a large bird to cook much safer since the heat can get to all sides and cook it much faster.

Step 1: Spatchcock (Butterfly)

Remove the turkey from it's packaging.

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Remove giblets, neck, pop-up timer and any plastic or hardware that is holding the legs together.

Place the turkey on your cutting board with the backbone facing up and neck end toward you.

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Using a pair of heavy duty kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbone to completely remove it from the turkey.

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Turn the turkey breast side up and press down with both hands to flatten it.

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Step 2: Brine Overnight

Make a simple turkey brine using 1 gallon of cold water, 1 cup of coarse kosher salt. You can also add ¾ cup of dark brown sugar. (the sugar is optional but I think it adds a lot to the brine).

Pour the salt into the water and stir until it becomes clear again. Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves.

Place the turkey in a plastic, glass or stainless steel container and pour the brine over the bird to cover.

Please note: Depending on what container you use, you may require more than 1 gallon of brine. Just double or triple the brine recipe as required.

Place a lid or cover on the container with the bird and the brine and place it in the refrigerator overnight. If the container is too large for the fridge, you will need to ice it down and ensure that it stays at or below 39°F for food safety purposes. 8-12 hours is recommended brining time for best results.

Please see my Turkey FAQ if you have questions about why you should brine or how it benefits the turkey.

Step 3: Rinse and Dry

When the turkey is finished brining, discard the brine and rinse the turkey really well under cold water. Sometimes this is best done outside if possible.

Dry the inside and outside of the turkey with clean paper towels.

It doesn't hurt to place the turkey in the fridge uncovered for about 2 hours to allow the skin to dry further. This helps the skin to end up with a good “bite through”.

While the drying process is occurring, make up the herb butter (recipe below)

Step 4: Make the Herbed Butter

Herb Butter

  • 1 stick of butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup thyme, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sage, chopped
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 TBS Jeff's Texas Rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub)

You can put all of this into a food processor and get a nice mixture if you like. I opted to just chop everything by hand and then fold the ingredients into the butter. Cutting the butter into smaller pieces first helps with this.

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If you make this ahead of time, you can form it back into a log and wrap in plastic wrap to keep it fresh.

When ready to use, leave out on the counter for an hour or two to soften.

Step 5: Apply Herbed Butter

Split the butter into (2) parts and put half of it under the skin and half of it on the outside of the skin.

In order to get it under the skin, you will have to loosen the skin first.

Work your hands between the skin and the meat tearing the membrane loose as you go. Do this carefully and patiently and you will be able to completely loosen the skin from the breast meat and even the thighs and legs. Leave the skin attached around the edges (except for where your hand entered) to help hold in the butter and herbs.

Once the skin is loose enough, stuff some of the herbed butter in the breast area, the thighs, and the legs. Pat it down from the outside to spread it out a little more.

Apply the remaining herbed butter on the outside of the skin. If it does not want to stick, microwave it a little to make it more fluid and apply with a silicone brush. (it tends to stick to your hands better than the turkey skin).

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Step 6: Season with Texas Rub

Completely coated with herbed butter, give it a good sprinkle all over with my Texas rub recipe (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) for perfect seasoning throughout.

Don't forget both sides of the wings, thighs and legs.

Step 7: Smoke Time

Set up your smoker for cooking at about 225-240°F.

If your smoker has a water pan, it's a great idea to use as this helps to reduce the drying effect of the heat.

Make sure you have enough smoking wood to last for at least 2 hours.

When the smoker is preheated and ready to go, it's time to cook some turkey!

Place the turkey on a cookie sheet to carry it out to the smoker or you can use a Bradley rack and just leave it on there while it cooks.

Place the spatchcocked turkey skin side up and let it smoke cook for about 4 hours at 225-240°F.

Monitor the temperature of the breast at it's thickest part and when it reaches about 155-160 it's time to move it from the heat.

The carryover cooking will take it on up to about 163-165 and it will be incredibly juicy, tender and flavorful.

Step 8: Rest and Serve

Quickly tent some foil over the bird and leave it for about 10-15 minutes to rest before carving.

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To carve, remove the leg quarters then separate the thigh from the leg. Remove the wings then remove the breast meat in one big section by cutting along the carcass as you pull back on the breast meat. Slice the breast meat into pieces and you are ready to eat.

Alternative Seasoning Mixture

Another really nice seasoning mix is as follows:

Stir well to combine.

Use half of this mixture on the inside of the turkey and the other half on the skin side and even some up under the skin if possible.

Good stuff!

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Jeff’s Smoking Meat Books

smoking-meat-book-coverSmoking Meat: The Essential Guide to Real Barbecue – The book is full of recipes and contains tons of helpful information as well. Some have even said that “no smoker should be without this book”!

With more than 1000 reviews on Amazon.com and a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars, it comes highly recommended and is a Bestseller in Barbecuing & Grilling books on Amazon.

AmazonBarnes & Noble | German Edition

smoke-wood-fire-book-coverSmoke, Wood, Fire: The Advanced Guide to Smoking Meat – Unlike the first book, this book does not focus on recipes but rather uses every square inch of every page teaching you how to smoke meat. What my first book touched on, this second book takes it into much greater detail with lots of pictures.

It also includes a complete, step-by-step tutorial for making your own smoked “streaky” bacon using a 100 year old brine recipe.

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Printable Recipe

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Print Recipe
4.61 from 23 votes

Spatchcocked Turkey with Herbed Butter

In this smoked turkey recipe, I will show you how to speed up the process of smoking a turkey by butterflying it, commonly called "spatchcocking the turkey". This causes the turkey to cook a lot more evenly, makes it easier to carve and often helps the skin to get more crispy especially if you are able to cook it a little hotter than normal smoking temperatures.
Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time4 hrs
Total Time12 hrs 45 mins
Servings: 6 +

Ingredients

  • 12-14 lb turkey ((, minimally processed))
  • Turkey brine (((recipe below)))
  • Herbed butter (((recipe below)))
  • Jeff's Texas rub

Instructions

Step 1: Spatchcock (Butterfly)

  • Remove the turkey from it's packaging.
  • Remove giblets, neck, pop-up timer and any plastic or hardware that is holding the legs together.
  • Place the turkey on your cutting board with the backbone facing up and neck end toward you.
  • Using a pair of heavy duty kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbone to completely remove it from the turkey.
  • Turn the turkey breast side up and press down with both hands to flatten it.

Step 2: Brine Overnight (optional)

  • Make a simple turkey brine using 1 gallon of cold water, 1 cup of coarse kosher salt and ¾ cup of dark brown sugar. (the sugar is optional but I think it adds a lot to the brine).
  • Pour the salt into the water and stir until it becomes clear again. Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves. Double or triple the brine recipe as required.
  • Place the turkey in a plastic, glass or stainless steel container and pour the brine over the bird to cover.
  • Place a lid or cover on the container with the bird and the brine and place it in the refrigerator overnight or 8-12 hours.

Step 3: Rinse and Dry

  • When the turkey is finished brining, discard the brine and rinse the turkey really well under cold water.
  • Dry the inside and outside of the turkey with clean paper towels.
  • Place the turkey in the fridge uncovered for about 2 hours to allow the skin to dry further.
  • While the drying process is occurring, make up the herb butter (recipe below)

Step 4: Make the Herbed Butter

  • Combine 1 stick of softened butter, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 1/4 cup chopped thyme, 1/4 cup chopped chives, 1/4 cup onion, 5 garlic cloves, 2 TBS Jeff's Texas Rub
  • If made ahead, allow it to soften to help with the application.

Step 5: Apply Herbed Butter

  • Split the butter into (2) parts and put half of it under the skin and half of it on the outside of the skin.
  • Work your hands between the skin and the meat tearing the membrane loose as you go. Do this carefully and patiently and you will be able to completely loosen the skin from the breast meat and even the thighs and legs. Leave the skin attached around the edges (except for where your hand entered) to help hold in the butter and herbs.
  • Once the skin is loose enough, stuff some of the herbed butter in the breast area, the thighs, and the legs. Pat it down from the outside to spread it out a little more.
  • Apply the remaining herbed butter on the outside of the skin.

Step 6: Season with Texas Rub

  • Season the entire turkey skin side and meat side with my Texas rub for perfect seasoning throughout.

Step 7: Smoke Time

  • Set up your smoker for cooking at about 240°F.
  • If your smoker has a water pan, it's a great idea to use as this helps to reduce the drying effect of the heat.
  • Make sure you have enough smoking wood to last for at least 2 hours.
  • Place the spatchcocked turkey skin side up and let it smoke cook for about 4 hours at 240°F.
  • Monitor the temperature of the breast at it's thickest part and when it reaches about 158-160 it's time to move it from the heat.

Step 8: Rest and Serve

  • Quickly tent some foil over the bird and leave it for about 10-15 minutes to rest before carving.
  • To carve, remove the leg quarters then separate the thigh from the leg. Remove the wings then remove the breast meat in one big section by cutting along the carcass as you pull back on the breast meat. Slice the breast meat into pieces and you are ready to eat.

Video

20 Comments

  1. Virginia November 29, 2021 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    What is that pan called you have under your turkey? For the life of me I can't seem to come up with the appropriate search terms to get that one!!

    • Jeff Phillips November 30, 2021 at 4:00 pm - Reply

      It's a stainless steel pan with a rack.. I found mine on Amazon at https://smoking-meat.com/ss-pans-with-racks and use them for everything to keep my smoker cleaner AND to reduce cleanup. It also makes it super easy to move the food to and from the smoker.

  2. Mike November 22, 2021 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    Jeff, how long do you think the smoking time might be on a larger bird (around 22-24 lbs)?

  3. Jaanai November 21, 2021 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    Thus sounds amazing. How much more would the cook time be for a larger bird? Approximately 20 lbs.

  4. Jessica November 8, 2021 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    I would like to try this over the holidays, it sounds amazing. What type of wood is best for smoking a turkey or what kind id you use Jeff, it really does make a difference and I know nothing about what wood goes best. Thank you in advance.

    • Jeff Phillips November 8, 2021 at 6:44 pm - Reply

      Jessica, I've used fruit woods, hickory, pecan, quite a few different ones and they all do have their own flavor profile. My all time favorite is pecan.. not as strong as hickory or mesquite but still let's you know it's there a little more than fruit woods. The best fruit wood I've used on turkey is mulberry but that's sort of hard to find unless you just happen to have a mulberry tree that you can trim for smoking wood.

  5. Mark Holman December 28, 2020 at 9:32 am - Reply

    5 stars
    Offered to smoke a turkey for someone in the neighborhood and threw in some ribs as a bonus. The feedback: “ That was the best turkey and best ribs we've ever had. My family and I thank you for a wonderful Christmas meal.” Can’t go wrong with your rubs and recipes.

  6. Steve Crispin November 15, 2020 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    5 stars
    I've done this twice and it was outstanding both times. The cool thing about this is you can follow it to the T and it will be great, but if you want to ad lib with the seasonings, you can create your own recipe. The process is damned near perfect.

  7. Popeye July 31, 2020 at 9:05 am - Reply

    5 stars
    Love the fact it cuts the smoking time down as compared to smoking the bird whole.

  8. Bill Fotheringham Jr. December 1, 2019 at 10:41 pm - Reply

    5 stars
    Yet another winner! Been spatchcocking for years in the oven, but using the pellet grill is so simple, delivers a great bird and frees up oven space.Very high reward for really not much work on cooking day. Most folks at our table had never had a smoked bird before, it was a huge hit. Jeff’s recipes are dinner table tested and always turn out perfect for me.

  9. Phil November 22, 2019 at 11:12 pm - Reply

    5 stars
    Love this recipe Jeff!.. melting the herb butter a bit helped a lot.. Did a 13 lb bird and my electric smoker did the trick in 2 hours! Couldn't believe it came out right that quickly.. 160 degrees on the dot!.. maintaining 240 all the way.. Doing another on TG of course :)

    Thanks!

  10. Jax November 12, 2019 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    5 stars
    Jeff,

    I have been following your recipes for several years now. I have the site and the time and temperature chart bookmarked for quick reference. In all the years I have never butterflied a turkey, but it sounds like an idea way of making sure for a crispier skin. Thanks so much for all the info you provide for us.

  11. Albert November 22, 2017 at 2:51 pm - Reply

    I have Fig trees in my yard and thought about using some for smoking. Has anyone ever tried it? I would love to know

    • Jen November 24, 2021 at 8:19 am - Reply

      How much longer for a larger bird? About a 25 lb!

  12. How to prepare and cook a spatchcock turkey | This Mama Cooks! On a Diet™ November 23, 2016 at 11:18 am - Reply

    […] Spatchcocked Turkey with Herbed Butter from Smoking-Meat.com […]

  13. Bonnie brasel March 22, 2016 at 10:56 pm - Reply

    How much wood chips is needed to last 4 hrs for the turkey? Will 13 lb require 4.5 hrs? Thank you

  14. Paul Beardsley December 16, 2015 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    5 stars
    Jeff could smoke a larger turkey by cooking it the Spatchcock way could go as large as 20lb

  15. Richard December 13, 2015 at 6:49 am - Reply

    5 stars
    Followed directions exactly, 14 pound bird was done in 4.5 hours and was outstanding.

  16. Matthew December 11, 2015 at 7:22 pm - Reply

    Smoked the turkey following your instructions. I've smoked many in the past 30 years, but the spatchcock method was outstanding! I'll be doing it with chicken as well. the herbed butter was on point as well. thanks for sharing.

  17. Ed November 26, 2015 at 8:22 pm - Reply

    5 stars
    This was a new one for me and it was a hit! I checked my internal temp at 3 hours and it was already 195! Thankfully the brine and herbed butter saved the bird, (and my butt) Keep the recipes coming.

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