Here at Team Traeger, we have cooked enough turkeys over the years to feed every pilgrim on the Mayflower. We were fully convinced that we had done it all. Brine, dry brine, rub, stuff, smoke, roast... you name it. We've cooked it. We thought we knew the very best way to prep that glorious bird and please every palate. Then, one fateful Tuesday we were roasting up this spatchcocked chicken and the thought dawned on us that the method would likely translate well to a turkey as well. Turns out, we weren't the first people to think of it (thanks for the buzz kill, internet) but we were the first to perfect it because we threw that flattened turkey on our Traeger. We all know that wood smoke makes everything more delicious.
For any of you reading this post and thinking, "why take the extra step to spatcock the turkey?" I give you the three best reasons any cook would want (especially on Thanksgiving.) Flavor, Time, and Space.
First, FLAVOR: A spatchcocked turkey has many advantages when it comes to flavor. Think about a traditionally cooked turkey. The smoky flavor coming from your Traeger circulates around the bird, penetrating it only from the outside while the large surface area inside goes un-smoked. Now imagine a flattened bird on your grill grate. The smoke is touching every available inch of your turkey, adding that extra hint of flavor from the bottom to the top and all around. A flat bird also ups the juiciness factor. How many times have you cooked a turkey and dried out the breast meat while trying to get the thighs up to the perfect temperature? With a spatchcocked turkey, cooking the thighs and breast meat takes the same amount of time because the heat is more evenly distributed throughout the bird. A flat bird also keeps the juices right where they should be. No juices from the breast running down into the back of the bird. The breast stays nice and juicy and the thighs are perfectly tender.
Second, TIME: A flattened bird cooks in almost half the time of a traditional turkey. There are several methods for cooking a turkey on your Traeger, and they all work well for a spatchcocked turkey. We cooked ours slowly at 225 degrees to up the smoke flavor but you can also roast at 350 degrees and still get great flavor in a lot less time. A 12-14 lb bird will take approximately 2.5-3 hours at 225 degrees but only 1.5-2 hours at 350 degrees. Talk about a time saver on the busiest cooking day of the year! Our general guide is to cook your spatchcocked turkey for 11-12 minutes per pound at 225 degrees or 6-7 minutes per pound at 350 degrees.
Last of all: SPACE: Let's face it, a big bird needs a big space to cook and real estate on our grill grate is at a premium around the holidays. When we spatchcocked our turkey, it took up a little more space across the surface of the grill but opened up the top space in the grill. We used the extra rack in our Texas and were able to put three sides on the top rack to cook along with the turkey and still had enough space on the grill grate to roast several sweet potatoes as sides.
Below you'll find our method for cooking a spatchcocked turkey. It involves a brine, a simple salt and pepper rub, and basting during the slow smoke but you can switch out any of these parts for flavors your family likes. Just follow the guide above for proper cooking time and you'll be all set!
Traeger's Thanksgiving Smoky Spatchcocked Turkey
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Brine Time 8-16 hours
Cook Time: 2.5 hours
Serves: 12-14 people
12-14 lb fresh turkey (make sure it hasn't been previously injected with a brine solution)
For the brine:
16 cups cold water
2 cups apple cider
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
For the rub:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly cracked black pepper
For the basting liquid:
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey and discard or set aside for giblet gravy, if desired. Flip the bird breast side down on a large cutting board or baking sheet and remove the backbone completely using heavy duty kitchen shears, an electric knife, or a sharp butcher's knife.
Turn the bird breast side up and spread apart the legs. Press heavily on the breastbone of the turkey until you hear a cracking sound and the turkey flattens out.
Combine all of the ingredients for the brine in a large container and stir until all of the sugar and salt crystals have dissolved. Place the turkey in the brine, cover, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours (up to 16).
When ready to cook, start the Traeger grill on Smoke with the lid open for 4-5 minutes to establish the fire. Close the lid and turn the temperature setting up to 225 degrees. Allow the grill to preheat for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the turkey.
Remove the turkey from the brine and dry throroughly with paper towels. Drizzle with olive oil and rub with your hands to cover all of the skin with the oil. Season liberally with kosher salt and cracked black pepper.
In a small bowl, combine the butter, lemon and sage butter basting liquid. Set aside.
Place the turkey directly on the grill grate, breast side up and close the lid. Roast at 225, basting with the butter mixture every 30 minutes for approximately 2.5 hours or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the breast meat reads 160 degrees F.
Remove the turkey to a large cutting board or serving platter and allow to rest for at least 25-30 minutes before slicing and serving. Do not tent the turkey with foil during the resting period or the skin will get soggy. Drizzle with any of the additional basting liquid before serving, if desired. Enjoy!
Smoky Spatchcocked Turkey.docx (14.83 kb)