Simple And Delicious Recipe For A Spatchcocked Smoked Turkey
No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without a turkey. Even so, the old standard of roasted turkey can get kind of mundane after a while. Every now and then you'll want to mix it up, but what's a good way to do that?
Smoking is one excellent way to mix it up when it comes to turkey. The only problem is that, given their size, it can sometimes be hard to cook a turkey evenly by smoking (or even fit it into your smoker).
There are plenty of ways to get around that problem, though, one method being spatchcocking. What does it mean to spatchcock a turkey? How do you do it? What else do you need to know to smoke? Let's go over everything you'll need to follow a simple and delicious recipe for a spatchcocked smoked turkey.
Ingredients and Tools
In order to properly smoke a spatchcocked turkey, you'll need to collect a few supplies first. These include:
Smoking the Meat
When you assemble your supplies, you'll finally be ready to start cooking. Like with most turkey recipes, don't expect to get all of this done the day you're eating it, so start early for best results.
Step 1: Brine the Turkey
Brining a turkey is already a great way to enhance its flavor, but it's almost essential when you intend to cook it for such a long period on a smoker. To create an effective turkey brine, fill a large bucket with two gallons of clean, cold water (an effective means of cooling is to use about a gallon and a half of water and make up the difference with ice cubes).
Mix in three cups of brown sugar, two cups of salt, a fourth of a cup of Worcestershire sauce, two tablespoons of black pepper, and a tablespoon of all your dried herbs.
Stir well until fully dissolved. Instead of adding the seasoning to a cold brine, you could also take about a quart of the water and boil it with the seasoning before returning it to the bucket for easier dissolution.
Place the turkey into the brine, cover with the lid, and let rest in a cool place overnight or up to 24 hours.
Step 2: Season the Turkey
Once you've removed your turkey from the brine, pat it dry thoroughly inside and out with paper towels. Discard any remaining brine.
Cut along both sides of the turkey's spine being careful to cut the least amount of meat as possible. Removing any last bits of flesh keeping it attached to the bird, pull out the turkey spine and set aside.
Pull out the wishbone and flatten the turkey down, cracking the breastbone if needed. Save anything trimmed from the turkey in the fridge as parts like the spine can be used to make fantastic turkey stock and gravy.
Rub the spatchcocked bird down with olive oil before mixing together the remaining spices from the list, covering the outside of the meat thoroughly. Simply let it sit out somewhere safe at room temperature as you prepare the next step of the recipe. Also, if you're using wood chips, start soaking them in hot water before moving in.
Step 3: Light the Smoker
After seasoning the turkey, you'll have to preheat the smoker. Fill it up part of the way and light it to get things started, closing the lid so that the heat can build up. After the coals have burnt down some (ten minutes or so), add on more coals and your wood before placing on the grate and closing the lid again. Fill your water tank and let things get smoky.
Shoot for a temperature around 275 degrees Fahrenheit. This is slightly higher than most smoking temperatures, but the turkey can stand up to it given its naturally denser, less fatty meat. When you've gotten it to that temperature, you're ready to smoke.
Step 4: Smoke the Turkey
Place the turkey onto the smoker breast side down and close the lid. Like with all poultry, you'll want to cook it to around 165 degrees Fahrenheit in the breast. With the slow cooking process at a low temperature, you should easily be able to reach this without overcooking any part of the meat.
As the turkey smokes, make sure you're monitoring the levels of wood, charcoal, and water left in the smoker, replacing them as needed. Additionally, maintain the heat consistency by adjusting the air vents, especially when adding more fuel.
Around halfway through cooking (an hour and a half or so), flip the turkey over to let each side cook evenly. Start checking for temperature around this point, too. If you're concerned the outside may be starting to burn, you can wrap the bird loosely in aluminum foil for the duration of the cook.
In total, the cook time for this recipe is around three hours, adjustments made for how well you can maintain the right heat level.
Step 5: Rest the Turkey
Like all meat, turkey needs to rest when first taken off the heat. You can do this simply by wrapping it loosely in foil and letting it sit undisturbed on a flat surface. Alternative, you could wrap the foil package in a clean towel and transfer the whole thing to an empty cooler, helping to retain the heat during a longer rest.
Speaking of resting times, the absolute minimum amount of time you want to rest a turkey is half an hour. However, chefs know that resting a turkey for the same length of time you cooked it can make a world of difference. As such, it's recommended you employ the above cooler technique for the best flavor and juiciest meat.
Step 6: Serve the Turkey
After the arduous task of resting has been completed, you're finally ready to eat. Carve off your favorite portions of the turkey and serve them up next to some mashed potatoes and gravy. While there's a lot to be thankful for in life, one thing everyone will be thanking you for is the delicious dinner they're about to eat.
Now you've got all the skills necessary to cook an unforgettable smoked turkey. By spatchcocking it before it goes on the smoker, you've made it exponentially easier and quicker to smoke evenly, leading to less waiting around and more scrumptious food at the dinner table.
Did you like this recipe? Any tips on smoking turkey or other birds you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments and remember to share this recipe with a friend who might need some tips on smoking their own poultry or just anyone who'd like to know what it means to spatchcock something.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I spatchcock a turkey?
In our humble opinion, yes! You should definitely spatchcock a turkey! When you butterfly your bird, it opens it up quite a bit. That allows it to cook more evenly, which results in juicier breasts and more tender thighs and legs. Not only that, but all the skin is exposed, which means crispy skin on 100 percent of the bird!
Where does the word spatchcock come from?
It’s such a funny word, I know! According to the Oxford Companion to Food, the word is an abbreviation of “dispatch the cock.” That method dates back to Ireland where chickens were most often split in half in order to grill them flat.
How do you spatchcock a turkey?
We have a step-by-step tutorial above, but in short: remove the wishbone, cut out the backbone using poultry shears, and turn the bird over. Then, using as much pressure as you can, flatten the turkey down, cracking the breastbone if necessary. That’s it! Use the backbone to make gravy, if you wish.
How long does it take to smoke a spachcocked turkey?
Just like a regular bird, you’ll want to cook your turkey until it’s 165 degrees F in the breast meat and 175 degrees F in the thickest part of the thigh. That should take about 3 hours, depending on how large the bird is and the temperature of the smoker.
What’s the best way to serve a spatchcocked turkey?
Since it doesn’t look like a traditional Thanksgiving turkey, you may not want to bring the entire spatchcocked turkey to the table. After all, it does look a bit strange! The best way to serve a spatchcocked turkey is to remove the legs, thighs, wings, and breast meat. Slice the breast and thigh meat into edible slices and serve the wings and legs as-is. It will look beautiful when it's arranged on a platter!