Grilled Turkey


Source: Misty Banchero

While this recipe includes a few extra steps, each is essential to a crispy, evenly cooked turkey. Spatchcocking a turkey involves removing the backbone of the turkey and pressing the breast down so it lays flat, ensuring the white and dark meat cook evenly.

Method: Indirect grilling


  • Turkey Brine: Heat these together and cool: 2 gallons (32 cups) water, 1 cup salt, 1 cup dark brown sugar, 1 cup molasses, 1 cup honey (preferably spicy or hot), 1/4 cup low salt or no salt poultry or BBQ rub
  • After the mix, add in: 2-3 springs fresh thyme, 1/4 cup whole peppercorns, 4 bay leaves
  • Extras: 13-16 pound turkey (giblets removed), 1/2 - 1 cup compound butter, olive oil in mister, low salt or no salt poultry or BBQ rub, 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (melted)


  1. Place a 13-16 lb. turkey into a container with the brine. Add the extras, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns. Be sure to let it cool prior to adding the turkey. The brining can be done in a large Cambro plastic container with a lid or with a large, clear, food-safe bag tied up at the top and set into a bucket.
  2. Leave in the refrigerator overnight. If you do not have room to do this, you can use ice in a bucket as long as you are replenishing it as it melts on top of your bag. Poultry should not hit higher than 45 degree F, so if you have to do it that way make sure you are keeping your turkey at 45 degrees or below, monitoring with a meat thermometer.
  3. After chilling overnight, take turkey out of brine and rinse the surface of the turkey skin briefly to remove excess brine. Using paper towels, dry off the bird entirely. Once the turkey is completely dry, get ready to spatchcock the turkey for the grill.
  4. To spatchcock the turkey, remove the backbone with kitchen shears or a sharp knife. Press the chest bone down onto a cutting board until you hear a cracking sound. The breast should lay flat. Do this on both sides to create an even cooking surface.
  5. Once the bird is spatchcocked, tuck the wings behind the neck area so that they lay gently behind the bird. This allows the turkey breast to get full smoke penetration without the wing touching the chest.
  6. Add room temperature compound butter under the turkey skin. Mix butter with herbs of your liking into a compound butter. Parsley and chive, basil butter and garlic butter are popular. I smoked a large head of garlic on the grill and then added the smoked garlic to my butter along with chives.
  7. Make sure the skin surface is dry with a paper towel. Set the turkey onto the baking sheet as you intend to set it on the grill. Tie the legs if you prefer at this point.
  8. Mist olive oil over skin and then generously sprinkle poultry rub all over the front and back of the turkey. Remember that the brining process creates a salty depth of flavor, so when selecting your poultry/BBQ rub I suggest a low salt or salt free rub. After the turkey is completely covered in seasoning, allow the turkey to dry brine in your refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

The Turkey Cook:

  1. After 4-10 hours remove the turkey and get ready to fire up the grill. Set the grill for 250 degrees Fahrenheit. While it’s warming up heat up additional butter for a glaze. I mixed my 1 stick of butter with leftover finely chopped herbs.
  2. Set the turkey on the grill breast upward with wings tucked behind. Keep a meat thermometer close or use a probe. Check on the turkey 1 hour into the cook and make sure you like how the skin is beginning to set. Do not use the butter glaze until the skin is crisp.
  3. After 1-1/2 hours at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer.¬†Turn the grill/smoker up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. If you like crispy skin, the high temps will give you that crisp texture on the outside while keeping it moist inside. Turkey is done when it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit in the turkey thigh and 170 degrees Fahrenheit in the turkey breast. If the skin looks like it’s getting too dark or crispy for your liking, top it with foil gently for the remainder of the cook to make sure it’s fully cooked but no longer browning.
  4. As the turkey gets closer to done temp, brush melted butter on spots that may look dry. When the turkey is done, remove from the grill and let it rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.


One of the hardest things grilling/smoking poultry is trying to get that skin to a crisp texture. The hot and fast temp at the end ensures you get that crisp while still fostering that smoke penetration. If you do not prefer the look or crunch, just keep the temp at 250 degrees for the entire cook.

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