Spatchcock or Separate?

Lee Ingraham

TVWBB Fan
I've been practicing my turkey game for the past few weekends on young bone-in skin-on turkey breasts that I've been deboning and skinning. Great results, wife loves it, best sandwich meat ever. This has been great for the small turkey breasts, but I'm trying to decide what I should do on the big bird for Thanksgiving. I've been considering separating the wings and legs, cooking those on the top grate to help baste the skinless, boneless breasts below or spatchcocking to give bone-in skin-on a try. This would be a practice turkey (the wife has requested turkey every weekend since I've started this, so I doubt she'll mind). Anybody have suggestions? Do I have any size issues to worry about with an 18.5" WSM?
 

Jim C in Denver

TVWBB Super Fan
After years of test driving all the different turkey methods, I've firmly settled on always cooking the bird in pieces. Whether on the grill, in the oven or otherwise.

Easier to wet or drine brine pieces rather than one big mass. Pieces allows the dark and light to each be cooked differently/correctly. Also much easier to carve a hot bird that is already broken down into pieces. I do still flatten/spatchcock the breast by removing the backbone.

Besides, I strangely enjoy the Zen of butchering the turkey (see link below).

 

JimK

TVWBB Olympian
After years of test driving all the different turkey methods, I've firmly settled on always cooking the bird in pieces. Whether on the grill, in the oven or otherwise.

Easier to wet or drine brine pieces rather than one big mass. Pieces allows the dark and light to each be cooked differently/correctly. Also much easier to carve a hot bird that is already broken down into pieces. I do still flatten/spatchcock the breast by removing the backbone.

Besides, I strangely enjoy the Zen of butchering the turkey (see link below).


That's one of the most relaxing videos I've ever watched. :)
 

Dwain Pannell

TVWBB Hall of Fame
I must be the old dawg here. I prefer a whole turkey for that Norman Rockwell moment and carving it with every around the table.

I can see the utility in deboning or cooking pieces but there’s more to the event such as presentation than just cooking pieces.

Just the way we do it I guess
 

JKalchik

TVWBB All-Star
Dwain, that's just about the sole reason, IMHO, to cook a whole bird. Okay, that and deep frying. But otherwise, it's either spatchcocked or broekn down further. When grilling, baking, roasting, smoking, it flat-out cooks more evenly and in about half the time.
 

Timothy F. Lewis

TVWBB Hall of Fame
I have done so many whole birds over the years I love doing them for the “Rockwellian” presentation but, I discovered that lifting the whole breast off and slicing that makes for better slicing. For some reason no one seems to really care for the dark meat aside from myself.
This year I will grill a brace of whole bone in breasts and maybe a fatty, this will be a delicious Thanksgiving, not a full a table as in years past but, it will still be good as all my family has kept healthy and safe!
 

ChristopherC

TVWBB Super Fan
Chris, couple questions...

You mention 325+ on the WSM lid. Would this be similar to 325 at the top grate probed? I know that there might not be room for a probe on the top grate.... Just wondering.

Also, when piercing the skin with a skewer in the fatty deposit areas, are there specific spots to target (just not aware of the specific fatty deposit areas...and want to know what to look for or whereabouts these are)?

Thanks! Gonna try this.


A turkey in the 12-14 pound range can be spatchcocked and cooked on the 18.5" WSM. Larger and you'll run into trouble with space.

 

Jim C in Denver

TVWBB Super Fan

Tim -- you will like this video. Watching this video is an annual TG tradition for me. A butcher shows how he carves and presents a cooked turkey.

Among other things, I notice that I move a lot more dark meat now that (i) I cook it better since I roast in pieces and (ii) I know how to remove the thigh bone and slice/present the dark meat better.
 

Tracy Seelhammer

New member
A turkey in the 12-14 pound range can be spatchcocked and cooked on the 18.5" WSM. Larger and you'll run into trouble with space.

I have a question, and I'm wondering if I'm way out in left field.
I just stumbled upon a Food&Wine article titled "Spatchcocked Smoked Turkey Recipe" that is authored by Rodney Scott, and it said:
Pat turkey dry with paper towels, and place turkey, breast side up, on a large cutting board. Using a chef’s knife, carefully cut turkey breast in half lengthwise, cutting straight through breastbone. Open up turkey, and press to flatten; pat inside dry with paper towels.

From your photos and from EVERYTHING ELSE I'VE EVER READ OR HEARD about spatchcocking, the BACK is split and the breast is kept as one whole piece.
Have you or anyone else split the breast side of the bird instead of the back?
 

Timothy F. Lewis

TVWBB Hall of Fame
I have a question, and I'm wondering if I'm way out in left field.
I just stumbled upon a Food&Wine article titled "Spatchcocked Smoked Turkey Recipe" that is authored by Rodney Scott, and it said:


From your photos and from EVERYTHING ELSE I'VE EVER READ OR HEARD about spatchcocking, the BACK is split and the breast is kept as one whole piece.
Have you or anyone else split the breast side of the bird instead of the back?
That’s a completely different concept for me, which makes no sense, why on earth would anyone really do that?
“You can tie your donkey off to the Queen Mary but, why?” My Dad.
 

Chris Allingham

Administrator
Staff member
Tracy, that is backwards from every spatchcocked turkey recipe I've ever seen, including from very reputable sources like J. Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats, Cook's Illustrated magazine, etc.

Now, if your only tool was a chef's knife, Scott's approach might be the only way to do it. The bones on either side of the backbone are too thick for a chef's knife, so you'd have to resort to Scott's method.
 

JKalchik

TVWBB All-Star
I agree with our esteemed leader and Timothy, remove the backbone, not the breastbone. This keeps the white meat in the center of the mass, leaving the dark meat around the edge to protect it and cook to a higher temp.

Cutting down the ribs along the backbone is a job for poultry or kitchen shears, possibly a butcher's meat cleaver. I will not use my chef's knives to cut bone, period (yes, I'm a little persnickety about that.)
 

Chris Allingham

Administrator
Staff member
You mention 325+ on the WSM lid. Would this be similar to 325 at the top grate probed?
Yes.

when piercing the skin with a skewer in the fatty deposit areas, are there specific spots to target
These areas, low on the breast and thigh. The fat is in those yellowish areas. You can also poke a few holes in the front end of the breast (not shown in this photo). You don't have to be super precise, you're just trying to create exit points for fat to render out.

whole-turkey-salted-10.jpg
 

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