This Traeger smoked spatchcock turkey recipe will be the hit at your holiday gathering! With a warm smoky flavor and a heavenly garlic & herb dry brine, this juicy turkey is both elegant and flavorful.
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When it comes to a special holiday meal, a whole turkey is not only expected but also requires some skill and technique to get it right. How many of us remember bland, dry turkey from childhood Thanksgiving memories? I know I do. Whether you like the breast meat or the dark meat, you are sure to love this recipe.
Several years ago, my husband and I decided it should not be that way! We invested so much time and money into trying different techniques and recipes, and it was all worth it. Every year, we get compliment after compliment on our turkey. So many people did not even know they liked turkey until they tried ours!
Here we will teach you the best way to smoke an entire turkey low and slow but with a method that won’t take all day.
While I love cooking turkey the regular way, it’s good for every host to understand the spatchcock method. The spatchcock technique involves using poultry shears to cut down the sides of the backbone on the turkey to completely remove it, then flip it over to compress the breast bone to crack it to get the turkey to lay flat. A spatchcocked turkey cooks more evenly than a typical whole turkey and reduces the cooking time. This allows you to cook the turkey at a much faster rate which gives you more control over the timing of your holiday meal.
Equipment & Ingredients
As for ingredients, you will need:
- Whole Turkey— I am using a 17 lb turkey, but you could follow this recipe and tutorial for any size turkey.
- Coarse Kosher Salt– It must be coarse salt, not table salt. If your salt is too fine, this will taste far too salty.
- Garlic Cloves– peeled and ready to go!
- Fresh Sage, Rosemary, & Thyme– Believe me, fresh makes all the difference. Spring for fresh herbs. Your kitchen will smell amazing!
How to Spatchcock a Turkey
1. Thaw and Prep Turkey
First, make sure your turkey is thawed. Remove it from the package and put it on a large baking sheet with a rim.
2. Remove Backbone
Flip your whole bird breast side down. Grab a set of poultry shears, start cutting next to the backbone on one end, and work your way down. Repeat on the other side of the backbone. Remove the whole backbone and save it for stock if you wish.
3. Compress Breast Bone
Flip the turkey so it is now breast-side up. With your hands, compress the breastplate so the turkey lays flat on the baking sheet.
Dry the outside of your turkey and the sheet pan it is sitting on with paper towels. Now it is ready for your dry brine or rub!
That’s it! It’s not a tricky technique to understand, but it can be tricky to implement on larger birds. It is handy to have someone help you with it. It is much easier to do with proper meat shears, but if you do not have a pair, you can work your way through with a sharp knife and regular sharp kitchen shears. If your turkey is larger than 12 lbs, I highly recommend spending a few bucks on proper shears.
Brine & Cook Instructions
Now that the turkey is spatchcocked, here is how you prepare it and smoke it:
1. Measure Salt for Dry Brine
Measure out 4 tablespoons of coarse salt (if your turkey is smaller than 15 lbs, use 3 tbsp. If it is larger than 20 lbs, use 5 tbsp).
2. Chop Garlic & Herbs
Peel your garlic cloves. Remove the leaves from your sprigs of sage, rosemary, and thyme. Add the garlic & herbs to a blender cup. Pulse several times to finely chop your garlic and herbs together. Alternatively, you can chop them with a knife.
3. Stir Garlic, Herbs, & Salt
Add your chopped garlic and herbs to the bowl of salt. Stir together to evenly combine.
4. Rub Dry Brine on Turkey
Rub your garlic-herb dry brine all over your turkey, including under the skin. Pull back the skin on the thighs and breast and rub some directly on the meat for flavor. Also rub it on top of the skin, sprinkling more salt on the skin as needed.
5. Refrigerate Turkey
Refrigerate your turkey uncovered for 24-48 hours. This will give the dry brine time to work. The salt will draw the turkey’s juices to the surface, but when given enough time, the juices will be reabsorbed into the meat. A dry brine is essentially when you brine the turkey in its own juices.
6. Preheat Traeger Smoker
When you are ready to start cooking your turkey, preheat your smoker to 225 degrees F. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast.
7. Smoke Turkey
Set your turkey breast side up directly on the grill grates. Smoke the turkey at 225 degrees Fahrenheit until your bird reaches an internal temperature of 140-145 F. Expect about 25 minutes per pound of bird at this temperature. See the recipe notes section if you would like a faster cooking time.
8. Increase Heat
When your bird is around 140 degrees (or if the internal temperature seems to stall before that), turn your Traeger up to 350 degrees. Finish out the cook at this temperature–it will crisp up the skin and help you finish the turkey in a timely manner, helping you bypass a potential stall. When your turkey reaches an internal temp of 165 degrees F, remove it from the grill.
9. Rest Turkey
Allow the turkey to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before carving.
10. Carve & Serve
Carve your turkey on a large cutting board and serve your guests! See the turkey tips section below for some make-ahead tips.
That’s it! I hope you found my directions for this cooking process easy to follow. Making your own memorable holiday turkey is easier than you think!
Hosting is a big job, and even more important than the meal is making sure everyone, including you, has a great time and low stress. You want to make sure you can enjoy your guests without wondering if your turkey will get done on time. Here are some tips for seamlessly cooking this Traeger smoked spatchcock turkey recipe.
If crispy skin isn’t a priority, plan your turkey timing to get done a couple of hours before your guests arrive and utilize a crock pot to keep the meat warm.
When you remove your turkey from your Traeger grill to rest, simply turn a slow cooker on Low to heat up. After the turkey has rested, you can move your slow cooker to “Keep Warm” and then carve your turkey, putting each piece of meat into the crockpot to stay warm until you’re ready to eat.
The meat will stay juicy, tender, and flavorful. The only thing you’re sacrificing is the crispy skin. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to keep skin crispy in the crockpot.
If you do want to preserve the crispy skin, plan your turkey to get done about 30-45 minutes before your guests arrive. That way, if it gets done on time, it can rest and be ready to carve when people arrive and you can start the meal right away.
But if your meat stalls, which can happen with large pieces of meat sometimes, it will buy you some time to get the temperature turned up to 350/375 degrees F to get it moving again, and your guests can chat and get settled while the meat finishes and rests. For best results, don’t skip the rest—the rest is very important for tender, juicy meat.
225 F is a low temperature for smoking turkey, so it will also take longer than some of the recipes cooked at higher temperatures. However, 225 gives the best smoke flavor in my experience which is why we like to smoke that low for a good duration of the cooking time.
All of our recipe testing averaged 25 minutes a pound for a spatchcocked turkey at 225 degrees F. If you want to smoke it faster, increase the temperature to 275 F and plan on 10-15 minutes per pound at that temp.
Another way to speed the cook along is to turn up the temperature to 350 or 375 F earlier than directed in the recipe card. You can turn it up when you reach an internal temp of 100-110 degrees F.
Because of all the variables that can affect the cooking time of your turkey, I highly recommend a high-end meat thermometer such as the Meater+. It really helps you tailor your cooking temps as needed with its real-time cooking updates on your meat via the app. If you cook large pieces of meat on the regular, it’s a worthwhile investment.
As for your leftovers (if there even are any), store leftover turkey meat in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It is best eaten within 3-4 days.
Nutritional Information for Smoked Turkey
Per 4 ounces of this Traeger smoked spatchcock turkey recipe:
- Calories: 119
- Protein: 27.9 grams
- Fat: 2 grams
- Carbs: 0
You should spatchcock the turkey before brining it. It will allow the brine to penetrate more of the meat.
Dry brining is our favorite brining method for turkey! Turkeys are large and finding the fridge space to do a wet brine is challenging, not to mention messy. We find that dry brining produces a beautifully juicy and flavorful turkey without all of the hassle of a wet brine.
At 225 degrees F, plan 25 minutes per pound for a spatchcocked turkey. While some say it goes faster, large turkeys sometimes stall on the smoker. 25 minutes per pound will ensure you make it through a stall without starving your guests. If you want to cook it faster, turn up the heat to 275 F and plan around 15 minutes per pound.
Delicious Thanksgiving Sides
The perfect accompaniment for this Smoked Spatchcock Turkey is my Thanksgiving Fruit Salad with Wild Rice and Glazed Pecans!
For some healthier veggie-based sides, try my Orangey Spiced Brussels Sprouts and my Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potato Squash. This Kale Salad with Pomegranates is also a beautiful addition to your holiday table.
Other Traeger Recipes
Want some other Traeger recipes?
If a traditional turkey isn’t your thing, try our Traeger Ribeye Roast (Prime Rib) for your special holiday meal.
This recipe for the best smoked chicken would be a great choice for more intimate family gatherings where a large bird isn’t needed.
Another family favorite is this chipotle-orange smoked pork sirloin. While not a traditional Thanksgiving recipe, it will be delicious for another point during the holiday weekend.
Did You Make This Recipe?
Please leave a comment and review! It means the world!
Traeger Smoked Spatchcock Turkey Recipe with Dry Brine
- 1 Pellet Smoker Grill such as Traeger
- Poultry Shears
- Large Rimmed Baking Sheet (for turkey to rest upon in the refrigerator)
- 15-17 lb Whole Turkey see recipe notes if your size is different
- 4 tbsp Coarse Kosher Salt
- 5 cloves Garlic large
- 3 sprigs Sage Leaves
- 2 sprigs Rosemary Leaves
- 5-6 sprigs Thyme Leaves
- Measure out 4 tbsp coarse kosher salt into a small bowl.
- Peel your garlic cloves. Pull the leaves off of your herb sprigs and add them, along with the garlic, to your blender cup. Pulse until they are finely chopped. Alternatively, you can do this with a good knife.
- Add your garlic-herb mixture to the bowl of salt and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Spatchcock your turkey–Place turkey on a large rimmed baking sheet, back-side up. Cut down each side of the backbone using poultry shears & completely remove it from the turkey. Flip your turkey over and compress the breast to break the breastbone so the turkey lays flat.
- Thoroughly dry your turkey and the pan with paper towels.
- Massage your salt & herb dry brine into the turkey. Pull the skin up from the thighs and breasts and rub some of the brine directly onto the meat, and rub some generously on the outer skin. If you find you run a little short on the salt, you can sprinkle some plain coarse salt on the skin in areas that need more.
- Refrigerate uncovered for 24-48 hours to allow the dry brine enough time to work.
- Preheat your pellet grill to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast. Place your spatchcocked turkey directly on the grill grates. At 225, expect around 25 minutes per pound. See the recipe notes section in the article if you want to speed this time up.
- Once your turkey reaches 140 degrees, kick the heat up to 350 for the final part of the cooking. This will get the skin crisp and get your turkey finished in a timely manner.
- When your meat thermometer reads 165 degrees F, remove your turkey from the grill and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.