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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
- 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 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.
The carryover cooking will take it on up to about 163-165 and it will be incredibly juicy, tender and flavorful.
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.
Youtube is your friend if you need help with the carving– with the videos available online, you can learn to do it quite proficiently and everyone will be amazed at your skills!