Spatchcocked Turkey


As the centerpiece of our gluten-free pre-Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to do a turkey on the Big Green Egg. Spatchcocking (butterflying) is a great way to grill poultry. By removing the bird’s backbone and flattening it,  the bird cooks faster and more evenly so you don’t have to worry that the breasts will dry out before the thighs are done.

The Bird

1 whole fresh turkey, 12-16 pounds (I used a brined, natural bird)
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
2-4 tablespoons poultry seasoning or rub (I used John Henry’s Texas Chicken Tickler)

Clean and rinse the turkey, then pat it dry. Cut off the tail and any large bits of fat or loose skin (save along with the neck, backbone, and giblets for making gravy).

Place the bird in front of you with the breast side down and the tail facing you. Spatchcock the bird by cutting up through the ribs on one side of the backbone with either a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp chef’s knife. The bottom couple of ribs are the worst to cut through. Once you are through those it goes pretty easily. Repeat on the other side and remove the backbone.

Flip the bird over and press down on the center of the breast with your thumbs while opening it up with your fingers until you hear the kneel bone crack and the bird lies flat.

Rub both sides of the bird with olive oil and season with the rub, making sure to work some under the skin. Refrigerate the turkey for a least an hour uncovered to let the skin dry out a little. This helps keep the skin crispy.

The Cook

Set your grill up for 4 hour indirect cook over medium heat (350°F). On the BGE this means using about half a fire box full of lump charcoal, an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat, and a drip pan to catch the fat. I added a good-sized chunk of guava wood for smoke.


Put the turkey on the grill skin side up and close the lid. Cook undisturbed for 1 hour. Check and rotate the grill if necessary to even out any hot spots. Close the lid and cook until the turkey reaches 160°F in the breast. Figure  about 10 minutes per pound total cooking time. This 14.2 pound bird was done in just about 2 1/2 hours.

Remove the turkey to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. To serve, cut the legs from breast at the hip joint. Separate the drumsticks from the thighs (because nothing says Thanksgiving like gnawing on a big ol’ drumstick).

Find the joint connecting the wing and breast, and cut through it. Remove both wings. Cut the breast  meat into two pieces, slicing along either side of breastbone. Slice the breast meat across the grain.

3 thoughts on “Spatchcocked Turkey”

  1. Thanks! Those bottom couple of ribs are a bit of a bear. I’d use either a bigger set of kitchen shears or a meat cleaver next time to get it started. The rest of the back bone is went just about like a chicken does.

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