Give Thanks For The Ultimate Spatchcock Turkey Recipe

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and we’ve got the perfect smoked turkey recipe to impress your family and friends!

First developed a few years ago for a demo I did at the Taste of Atlanta, this spatchcock (butterflied) turkey gets a boost of flavor from the sage butter and citrus-herb salt before hitting the smoker or grill for the perfect dose of smoke and flame.

Note that while spatchcocking the turkey means you won’t have that giant Norman Rockwell-esque bird to present to your guests, it does ensure that the dark and white meat are cooked to perfection as the heat from the smoker or grill is evenly dispersed across the entire surface of the bird. I have also found that the spatchcocked bird cooks much faster than a whole one, giving you more time to relax and enjoy the company of your guests!

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This Thanksgiving, ensure that the star of the show is cooked to perfection thanks to this recipe for grilled spatchcock turkey.

Course. Dinner. Entree. Main Course.

Cuisine. American.

Makes. 1 turkey.

Takes. 20 minutes to prep and 2 1/2 hours to cook

Serve with. Pumpkin ale.


Citrus and Herb Salt

1/4 cup Morton’s kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon lime zest

1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

Sage Compound Butter and Turkey

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

2 cloves garlic, minced


One (12-14 pound) turkey, thawed 

2 tablespoons canola oil


1) Prep. Prepare the herb and citrus salt by combining the salt, thyme, rosemary, lemon zest, lime zest, and garlic in a coffee/spice grinder or food processor and pulse until all of the ingredients are completely combined. Set the flavored salt aside until ready to use.

2) For the compound butter, combine the butter, sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and garlic in a small mixing bowl and blend well. Set aside until ready to use.

3) To spatchcock the turkey, use poultry shears or heavy-duty kitchen shears to cut along both sides of the backbone. Remove the backbone. Turn the turkey over and flatten it by pressing down on the breasts with your palms. You may hear the breast bone crack, which is fine.

4) Gently work the sage compound butter under the skin of the turkey, massaging it with your fingers to spread it over the breasts and into the thighs and legs. Rub the outside of the turkey with the canola oil and season with the herb and citrus salt.

5) Fire up. Prepare a smoker for indirect cooking. Alternatively, you can set up a charcoal grill for indirect cooking by placing a chimney full of pre-heated charcoal briquets on one side of the grill's charcoal grate in order to create direct and indirect cooking zones. Set a disposable aluminum half pan on the side opposite the charcoal and add approximately an inch of water to the pan. This will help catch the drippings so that they can be used later for gravy. Adjust the smoker or grill vents to bring the temperature to about 325°F and add 2 to 3 chunks of your favorite smoking wood to the charcoal for flavor. Replace the main cooking grate. On a gas grill, adjust the temperature knobs so that one half of the grill is off and the other half is heated enough to maintain a temperature of approximately 325°F on the indirect side. If possible, set an aluminum half pan under the main cooking grate on the cool side of the grill in order to catch drippings for gravy. 

6) Cook. Place the spatchcocked turkey skin side up on the indirect side of the grill, positioning it so that the legs are facing the heat source.

7) Cover the grill and allow the spatchcocked turkey to cook until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F, approximately 2 1/2 hours (Note: Your cooking time will depend a lot on the outdoor air temp, the thickness of the breasts, and the unique characteristics of your grill or smoker. It is best to use a remote temperature probe such as the ThermoWorks Smoke so that you can monitor the internal temperature of the meat while preparing the rest of the meal and enjoying the company of your guests).

8) Serve. Remove the turkey from the grill, carve, and serve immediately.

Clint Cantwell

Clint Cantwell is's Senior Vice President, charged with creating recipes, writing articles, shooting photos, and a little bit of everything else. Cantwell was was named one of the "10 Faces of Memphis Barbecue" by Memphis Magazine and was the winner of Travel Channel's "American Grilled: Memphis".



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