Spatchcock. It sounds like a dirty word, something from the schoolyard. Say it in front of an adolescent, and I’ll guarantee you get a snicker. But there’s nothing dirty about it … unless you’re a turkey. Spatchcocking is the act of cooking a whole bird, in this case the Meleagris gallopavo, or wild turkey, split down the back and flattened on the grill. This technique ensures both the breast meat and legs cook evenly and more quickly than cooking a bird intact. While this cooking process is almost effortless, the prep does take some time as it requires you pluck the bird—no easy task on wild turkeys—and brine it for a day. But, in terms of both tastiness and presentation, it’s well worth the time and effort.
2 gallons cold water
2 ½ cups Kosher salt
1 ½ cups brown sugar
- Heat one gallon of water, along with the Kosher salt and sugar, in a large pot set over high heat. Bring the water just short of the boiling point, stirring vigorously to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove the pot from the heat, add the second gallon of cold water and place the brine in the refrigerator. (For those interested, Hi Mountain makes a great pre-made poultry brine mix.)
- Once cold, add the plucked turkey. If you have a meat injector, you can also inject brine into the thickest parts of the turkey, including the breast and thighs. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
2 tbs. cumin
2 tbs. Hungarian paprika
2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
- Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl.
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
- Mix the vinegar and water together in a spray bottle.
- After 24 hours, remove the turkey from the brine and place on a clean counter or larger cutting board. Using heavy-duty kitchen scissors or game shears, cut down each side of the bird’s backbone so you are able to remove it completely. Flip the turkey over and pull it apart at the back, pressing it down on a firm surface until your hear the ribs crack and the bird is lying flat on the counter with the breast side up. Pat the interior and exterior of the bird dry with a paper towels.
- Sprinkle a generous amount of the rub all over both sides of the turkey. Use your hands to rub it into the surface well. Save a pinch or two of the rub for under the skin on the breasts and thighs. Let the turkey rest as you prepare your grill to medium-high heat.
- Once the grill is hot, place the turkey on the grate, breast side up. Spray generously with the mopping liquid. Grill for 30 minutes, covered. After 30 minutes, spray the turkey with mop again. Flip, spray the interior of the bird with mop and cook breast side down to brown the skin. Flip again after 15 minutes, spray with mop, cover the grill and cook until a meat thermometer stuck in the thickest part of the thigh reads 162 degrees. Time will vary depending on the size of the bird and heat of the grill.
- Once the turkey has reached the desired temperature, remove it from the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes before carving.