Serve a grilled spatchcock turkey at your next holiday dinner and impress your friends and family with a delicious twist on a classic Thanksgiving tradition. We’ll show you exactly how to butterfly and grill a turkey step-by-step for a perfect, evenly-cooked bird that’s tender and juicy with a beautifully crispy skin.
What Makes This Recipe So Good
- First things first – why should you spatchcock a turkey? Surely it can’t make that much of a difference? Wrong. It can make a huge difference. Spatchcocking, or butterflying, a whole turkey helps the bird cook faster and retain more moisture while still getting a nice, crispy skin. By removing the backbone and breaking the breastbone, you flatten the turkey and create a larger, more level surface area which allows the turkey to cook more evenly.
- You can cook a butterflied turkey a number of ways, including a more-traditional oven-roasted method. Grilled spatchcocked turkey, though, puts a really nice spin on the classic Thanksgiving entrée, imparting the bird with a delicious smokiness on top of the flavors in the compound butter rub. Using the grill also frees up valuable oven space. More room for all the delicious sides and desserts you’re planning to serve with your turkey!
Want to grill a turkey breast instead of, or in addition to, a whole turkey? Check out our recipe for Grilled Turkey Breast.
- When you choose your pan, you need to account for the size that the turkey will be, not the size that the turkey is. Spatchcocked turkey lays flat, making it substantially wider than a whole turkey. I recommend using a turkey that’s between 12 and 18 pounds whole – birds larger than that may not fit in even the extra-large disposable pans. If you need a larger turkey to feed your whole group, don’t panic. You can use a non-stick baking sheet instead of a disposable pan. Just be sure to wrap it in foil first to protect it on the grill. That also makes it easier to collect the turkey drippings you’ll need for your gravy.
- With this method, you’ll end up with moist, juicy turkey meat even without brining the bird first. That being said, you’re welcome to brine it first. Or, if you really want to yourself some time and effort, buy a turkey that’s already brined. Want to try your hand at brining? Check out this recipe for a traditional overnight turkey brine or this recipe for a faster 4-hour turkey brine.
- Your actual process for a grilled spatchcock turkey may differ slightly from mine. It just depends on the type of grill you’re using. I used a gas grill with 4 burners, which meant I could turn off the middle burners to cook my turkey over indirect heat. If your grill has 3, 5, or 6 burners, indirect heat might be a little tricky. That’s especially true if you’re cooking a large turkey. It doesn’t matter which burners you turn off, the important part is the same – cook the turkey over indirect heat. Direct heat is too much for a turkey (or most bone-in meats) and you’ll likely burn the bird. Be sure you place the turkey as much as you can on the turned-off burners.
Don’t Forget the Side Dishes!
- Whipped Sweet Potatoes
- Keto Cranberry Sauce
- Potato Mousseline
- Texas Roadhouse Green Beans
- Savory Southern Cornbread Stuffing
- Creamy Scalloped Sweet Potatoes
For the Turkey
- 1 medium to large whole turkey 12 to 18 pounds, thawed if frozen
- 1 medium onion roughly chopped
- 16 lemon wedges 2 lemons
- 1 stick unsalted butter softened
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped poultry herb blend store-bought or make your own (see Notes)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
For the Gravy (Optional)
- 1 cup reserved turkey drippings divided
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock or turkey stock
- ½ teaspoon salt more or less to taste, see Notes
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper more or less to taste
- food-safe gloves optional
- large disposable aluminum pan or large baking sheet, see Notes
- Aluminum foil
- large cutting board
- heavy-duty kitchen shears
- Paper towels
- Small bowl
- whisk or fork
- gas grill see Notes
- turkey baster or large spoon
- Internal meat thermometer
- Small saucepan optional
- whisk optional
- large sharp knife
To Spatchcock the Turkey
- Remove neck and giblets from turkey and discard or save to use in other recipes. Remove and discard pop-up turkey timer. Completely wrap large baking sheet or large disposable pan in two layers aluminum foil, covering front, back, and all sides of pan. Set pan aside if using cutting board.
- Place whole turkey breast-side down on cutting board or foil-wrapped pan. Locate backbone in center of turkey.
- Starting at turkey tail, use kitchen shears to carefully cut through turkey skin and rib bones along entire right side of backbone. Repeat on left side of backbone. Once backbone is fully detached on both sides, remove bone and discard, or save bone to make turkey stock.
- Carefully cut on either side of breast bone, partially cutting through wishbone.
- Flip turkey over so open side rests on cutting board and breast-side faces up. Place both hands on turkey breast. Carefully press down on turkey breast with as much force as possible until breast bone pops or cracks loudly and turkey lays flat.
- If using cutting board, transfer spatchcocked turkey to foil-wrapped baking pan, laying turkey flat with breast-side facing up. Tuck wing tips under turkey breast to prevent burning, and rotate drumsticks so knees of bird face in with bones of drumsticks pointing out.
To Grill the Turkey
- With grill lid closed, preheat grill to medium-high, approximately 375° to 400° Fahrenheit.
- Pat turkey completely dry with paper towels. Place chopped onion and lemon wedges in pan surrounding turkey on all sides.
- Add softened butter, finely chopped herb blend, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper to small bowl. Whisk ingredients together until fully incorporated.
- Use hands to generously coat all sides of turkey with herb-butter mixture, gently massaging butter into and under turkey skin. Use fingers to break skin membrane, forming pockets to push butter into.
- When grill is preheated, turn off middle burners, leaving only left and right side burners on. Reduce side burners to medium-low, approximately 275° to 300° Fahrenheit. See Notes for other types of grills.
- Place pan with turkey on middle burners. Close grill lid and cook turkey 35 minutes.
- After 35 minutes, carefully open grill lid. Use turkey baster or large spoon to transfer drippings from pan onto surface of turkey, repeating as many times as needed to cover entire surface. Close lid and cook 15 additional minutes.
- After 15 minutes, carefully open lid and repeat basting process. Close lid and continue cooking in 15 minute increments, thoroughly basting turkey after each 15 minute period.
- When turkey has cooked for 90 minutes total, check internal temperature with meat thermometer inserted into thickest area of turkey breast. Continue cooking if needed, checking internal temperature every 5 minutes, until meat thermometer reads 160° Fahrenheit. Note: Total cook time averages anywhere from 1 ½ hours to 2 ½ hours. Actual cook time will depend on size of turkey.
- When internal temperature reaches 160° Fahrenheit, carefully remove pan and turkey from grill. Reserve turkey drippings from pan to use in gravy (optional). Transfer turkey to clean cutting board, immediately cover turkey tightly with aluminum foil, and let turkey rest 20 minutes. While turkey rests, prepare gravy if desired.
To Make the Gravy (Optional)
- Heat small saucepan over medium heat. When pan is warm. add ½ cup reserved turkey drippings. Stir occasionally until drippings are warmed through.
- Sprinkle all-purpose flour over turkey drippings in saucepan. Whisk vigorously until ingredients combine to form thick paste, approximately 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low.
- Slowly pour in 2 cups chicken stock and whisk until mixture is smooth. Continue whisking until mixture is heated through.
- Stir in another ½ cup turkey drippings, whisking until ingredients are combined. Simmer uncovered 3 to 5 minutes or until gravy has thickened, then taste and season with salt and black pepper as needed.
- After turkey rests 20 minutes, carve turkey (see Notes) and serve immediately with prepared gravy and desired sides.
- Baking Sheet: Make sure your baking sheet is NOT non-stick!! Non-stick pans aren’t safe to use in grills because of their non-stick coating.
- Grill: I tested and perfect this recipe on a gas grill with 4 burners. You can use any type of grill, though – the important part is that you grill the turkey over indirect heat.
- Herb Blend: If you can’t find a prepackaged poultry blend, you can purchase rosemary, sage, and thyme individually. Chop sprigs of each herb at the same time, then use 2 tablespoons of the chopped blend in your compound butter.
- Salt: If your turkey was brined before being butterflied and grilled, you may not need to salt the gravy.
To Carve the TurkeyCarving the turkey will make the meat cool quickly, so I recommend only carving half of the bird at first unless you know you’ll need the entire bird right away. Have the rest of your sides ready to go so you can serve dinner as soon as the turkey’s carved.
- Use sharp knife to carefully separate leg from turkey where thigh connects to rest of bird.
- Separate drumstick from thigh. Set drumstick aside.
- Separate wing and breast from same side of turkey. Set wing aside.
- If carving entire bird at once, repeat above steps with other side of turkey.
- Position knife next to breastbone. Carefully cut downwards vertically, separating breast meat from breastbone. Repeat until meat from both turkey breasts has been removed from bones.
- Place turkey breast(s) skin-side up on cutting board. Position knife perpendicular to turkey breast(s), at slight angle. Carve turkey breast(s) into quarter-inch or half-inch thick slices as preferred.
- Repeat process with turkey thighs, twisting bone as needed to separate bone from meat.
- Serve immediately.
Number of total servings shown is approximate. Actual number of servings will depend on your preferred portion sizes.
Nutritional values shown are general guidelines and reflect information for 1 serving using the ingredients listed, not including any optional ingredients. Actual macros may vary slightly depending on specific brands and types of ingredients used.
To determine the weight of one serving, prepare the recipe as instructed. Weigh the finished recipe, then divide the weight of the finished recipe (not including the weight of the container the food is in) by the desired number of servings. Result will be the weight of one serving.