Spatchcock Turkey


It’s that time of the year again, Christmas time and what better way to celebrate than with a spatchcock turkey. Unfortunately my wife and I are unable to spend Christmas together this year. Fortunately she was able to obtain a 4 kilogram turkey through work.

So instead of missing each other on Christmas day, we celebrated earlier, with each other and friends for a delicious barbecued spatchcock turkey.

So this Sunday just been, Wellington managed to put on a great day with minimal wind so we got to spend the afternoon outside on the deck enjoying the summer sun and each others company.

Here is my guide for the perfect spatchcock turkey for Christmas, Thanks Giving or any other holiday. Enjoy.

Preparing the Turkey

spatchcock turkey preperation

A 4kg turkey is a hefty bird and I don’t see why you would prepare and cook the turkey any other way than spatchcocking it. It decreases the cooking time dramatically, reduces stress and makes sure that you are going to eat on time, as planned.

Now, I’m not sure about you, but here in New Zealand we really only get turkey around this time of the year and they are always frozen, so ensure you start defrosting your bird a day or two before you intend to cook it so you’re not left disappointed.

To spatchcock a turkey simply remove the bird from its packaging, remove the neck, giblets, heart, liver etc and set aside. Flip the bird, cut out the spin with some meat scissors, flip it again, slice the breast bone, snap to flatten and cut off any extra skin and set aside. Trim all the yuck stuff of the rib cage and discard.

I like to spatchcock my turkey well ahead of cooking time. I will season the outside of the bird with salt and pepper and put in the refrigerator before cooking. This helps crisp up the skin and can be done the night before.

The last thing I like to do before cooking is to whip up some herb butter to rub under the skin across the flesh. Very simple mix together in a bowl butter and finely chopped fresh herbs, I used rosemary, thyme and chives.

For detailed instructions read my post on how to spatchcock and roast a chicken over here.

With the bits and pieces you set aside – use these for the gravy.

Spatchcock Turkey Gravy

homemade smoked vege gravy

I like to do this in a disposable aluminum pan. With the bits you set aside from the bird, neck, heart, giblets skin etc add in onions with the skin on, a stalk of celery and a couple carrots, chopped up to 2cm bits. Throw in some fresh thyme and rosemary – or whatever other herbs you have fresh in the garden and then one part apple juice and two parts water.

homemade gravy grill

Now, simply slot the gravy pan in the grill on the indirect side under the food grate and use as the drip pan – while the turkey is cooking all the good stuff will add to the gravy mix throughout the cook.

homemade gravy pot

When the turkey is done, carefully remove the pan from the grill and separate the liquid from the solids. You’re left with rich flavourful liquid – don’t bother adding flour unless you absolutely feel its neccessary. The thin liquid will penetrate the meat while adding flour will cause it to sit on top of the meat. Read more about gravy science over at amazing ribs.

Spatchcock Turkey Stuffing

homemade spatchcock turkey stuffing

When you spatchcock a turkey you’re left with no cavity to stuff with extra goodness. No problem. Prepare and cook the stuffing separately. Sausage meat, breadcrumbs, onions, garlic, fresh herbs and pine nuts in a roasting dish is all you need. Either cook it in the oven or in the barbecue.

Barbecue Prep

Prepare your barbecue for medium indirect heat using the 2-zone setup. You want your grill at around 180°C / 356°F. When your coals are ready, bank them to the side and place your gravy drip pan to the over before placing the food grate.

A hand full of wood chips or chunks once the turkey is in will be enough to get a great smoke taste. for my bird, I used a handful of Pohutukawa chips for that extra New Zealand Christmas touch.

Smoking the Turkey

grilling spatchcock turkey

Now for the fun part. You’ve done your prep, got your gravy pan ready, your stuffing is ready to be cooked and the barbecue is at the perfect temperature. Grease up the grill grates and transfer the bird over, breast side up with the legs facing the coals.

Insert the probe of a digital thermometer into the thigh and keep an eye on that temp. You want to cook the bird until it reaches 80°C / 180°F in the leg and 70°C / 160°F in the breast. For this 4kg spatchcock turkey it took around an hour and a half but your cooking time will vary so keep an eye on that temperature.

Around halfway in flip the bird so the breast side is over the gravy pan and keep going. When it’s ready the skin will be a nice deep brown colour.

Don’t forget to cook the stuffing during this time. It will take 50 minutes in the oven at 180°C / 360°F.

Carving the Turkey

smoked spatchcock turkey

The time has finally come, hours preparing and cooking the turkey has finally paid off. When the turkey gets to the desired temperature remove it from the barbecue and rest for around 5-10 minutes.

While the turkey is resting, finish off the gravy. Carefully remove the pan from the barbecue and in the sink using a sieve or strainer over a pot, pour the contents in and separate the solids from the liquid. Like I said earlier, don’t bother adding flour – just use it as a drizzle to penetrate the turkey flesh.

carved spatchcock turkey

To carve the turkey, I like to separate the wings by disjointing, use a sharp knife to help and then removing the legs. Some people love the barbaric nature of a nice turkey leg and chewing on a wing is just incredible. For the breasts simply remove each from the breast bone and slice to your liking. Easy as.

Merry Christmas

That’s it from me this side of Christmas, I may put up a post sharing our Christmas meal as it will be recipes from the blog itself and then will sneak in another post before the new year. Thanks for the support this year and hope you continue visiting in the new year. Happy holidays.