Spatchcocked vs Whole Smoked Turkey On A Pellet Grill/Smoker

Hi, I’m Chris. I started back in 2007.

I’ve previously produced my main article on how to smoke/roast a turkey on a pellet grill/smoker, along with my associated brand-specific articles for Traeger, Pit Boss, Camp Chef etc. However, besides cooking to a safe temperature and choosing the best pellets etc, there is another decision to make. Do you want to spatchcock your turkey or keep it as a whole intact bird for the cook? Well, there are pros and cons to each, and I encourage you to watch the video.

Jeff from Dead Broke BBQ showing the pros and cons of spatchcocked turkey vs a whole intact turkey on a pellet grill/smoker

Disclaimer: Hey! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or other sites are affiliate links, and I earn a commission if you make a purchase.

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Short On Time? Go With A Spatchcocked Turkey

Just so we’re clear, and everyone is on the same page, a spatchcocked turkey is where you remove the spine and crack the chest bone so the bird can be laid flat over the cooking surface.

What this does is increase the surface area of the turkey which is exposed to the higher temperatures of the cooking chamber. As a result, a spatchcocked turkey will cook faster.

As we’ll discuss below, that faster cooking time has its own pros and cons, but in the simplest terms, if you want to cook your turkey for Thanksgiving/Christmas as quickly as possible, spatchcocked is the way to go.

You will also typically find with a spatchcocked turkey, its easier to get more crispy skin. However, a spatchcocked turkey has some potential negatives as well…

Less Smoke Flavor & Drier Turkey Meat?

So as we have established above, a spatchcocked turkey will cook faster than a whole intact turkey on your pellet grill/smoker. But a faster cooking time comes with some potential negatives.

While a spatchcocked turkey has a larger surface area exposed to the smoke from your pellet grill/smoker, that faster cooking time means its exposed to the smoke for a shorter period of time.

Therefore, if you are actually looking for a more pronounced smoke flavor in your turkey, you may want to keep it as a whole intact bird and accept the slower cooking time as a price worth paying.

Furthermore, even if you wet brine a spatchcocked turkey, it is still more at risk of drying out as opposed to a whole intact turkey for a couple of reasons.

Partly because of the larger surface area the spatchcocked turkey is exposed to higher temperatures. However, its also because a whole intact bird can also be stuffed with fruits/vegetables.

Those fruits and vegetables will be steaming within the whole intact turkey as it cooks, helping to keep the turkey meat moist while it cooks.

Therefore, if you are going for a spatcocked turkey due to time limitations, I would probably recommend a water pan to try and offset the risk of dry turkey meat. The water pan also aids smoke absorption.

Are You Looking For That Traditional Presentation?

While I personally eat turkey all year round, I know many people will only smoke/roast a turkey for Thanksgiving/Christmas. As such, to some people, presentation really matters.

If you really want to present a whole intact turkey with all the trimmings to family and friends for that traditional appearance, then that answers the question for you really.

While it is possible to nicely present a spatchcocked turkey, its not going to have that traditional presentation as a whole intact bird.

Conclusions On Spatchcocked vs Whole Smoked Turkey

This was never intended to be a very long article. My main article on how to smoke a turkey on a pellet grill/smoker really goes into all the specific details you’ll need.

I just wanted to share the video above and add a few of my own quick points on the spatchcocked vs the whole turkey debate.

Quite simply, a spatchcocked turkey will cook faster and will generally give you more crispy skin. However, it can have less smoke flavor and be drier than the meat of a whole smoked turkey.

That’s it! Thanks for reading. I hope the above information/videos have guided you on your path to smoking an excellent turkey.

As always, please check out my Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide to learn more about all the different makes/models of Pellet BBQs now on the market. 🙂

PelHeat Pellet Grill/Smoker Database

Research/compare over 240 pellet grills/smokers on sale today

Chris -

Hi, I’m Chris. I started back in 2007. This website is intended to be an educational resource on BBQ pellets, pellet grills & smokers. I hope you find the information useful.

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