Grilled Spatchcock Turkey with a Yucatan Dry Rub is the perfect alternative turkey recipe to the traditional sage, rosemary and thyme version in the oven. You will love making this one for Thanksgiving or any time you want to pull a little Mexican flavor into your cookout.
Spatchcocking a turkey is so easy you will want to start hunting down those small turkeys in the store all the time. It is packed full of flavor and since it is brined, it is guaranteed to be tender and juicy.
Heck, let’s just spatchcock all birds! Smoked Turkey, Grilled Turkey, Smoked Chicken and Grilled Cornish Hens.
You know we love to grill and find the best ways to make the meat as tender and juicy as we can and part of that is doing the leftover test.
We really prefer to have leftovers in the refrigerator overnight and test it the next day. If it can pass the “microwave leftover test” then we are extremely happy kids over here.
This one passed with flying colors. I microwaved it the next morning and it was still fork tender and incredibly juicy. If that isn’t a testament to the recipe, I don’t know what is.
🍽️ Why This Recipe Works
After trial and error we chose to make a Yucatan rub dry. In earlier versions, we added liquids to make this a paste, but it just got messy and gloppy. The dry rub worked perfectly and tasted phenomenal!
Easy – We love a good and easy recipe to whip out on the grill.
Delicious – The Yucatan rub is packed full of flavor that you will want to use on other poultry. It goes great on grilled wings! Make sure to make a large batch of the rub so you have leftovers.
Creative – This recipe gives your Thanksgiving table a new level of creativity. Whether it is a crazy year where you just want something different than the same ol’, same ol’ or you’ve become empty nesters (like us) and decided Thanksgiving is a time to mix it up and have fun. Heck, we don’t have to follow the rules anymore.
Meal Prep – Meal prep this by making the rub days ahead of time. You can even clean up the turkey and butterfly it the day before. Just cover it and pull it out in the morning (or afternoon since this is such a quick grill).
Turkey – You will need a smaller turkey that will fit on your grill. Remember that it will be spread out in a butterflied position. We have a large Big Green Egg and used a 8.5 pound bird. We still had some room to go. I don’t think we could go over 10 pounds though.
Brine – This is a simple brown sugar and Kosher salt wet brine. The turkey only needs to soak for about 3-4 hours, so plan accordingly.
Yucatan Dry Rub – This is a great Mexican rub that pulls some of your favorite flavors to create a rub that can be used on just about anything. We have now used it on wings and loved it, so thighs are next. I may make it for the Pico de Gallo Chicken to really change up Taco Tuesday.
Brine the Turkey
Step One: To make the brine, combine the water, salt and brown sugar and heat over medium heat to dissolve sugar and salt. Allow it to cool.
Step Two: Rinse off and clean the turkey. Remove anything that is left inside the turkey. Immerse into the brine and make sure it is fully covered. Brine for about 3-4 hours.
Step One: Combine all the ingredients into a bowl and stir.
Yucatan Dry Rub
Step One: Combine all the ingredients into a bowl (make sure to add the achiote rub from above as part of it!) and stir. Set aside.
Prepare the Turkey
Step One: Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it well under cold water. Pat it dry and cut off any excess flaps of skin. It’s time to butterfly it.
Step Two: Use kitchen shears (or poultry shears if you have them) and cut along both sides os the spine of the bird. You may need push hard when you get to the leg bones. Remove the spine and set aside for making gravy.
Step Three: Place the wings underneath the neck of the bird and swing the legs of the turkey outwards with the breast side up.
Place your palms on the breastbone and press down hard. It will make a loud cracking sound as the breastbone breaks and it will force the entire bird to lie flat. Sometimes one press will do it, other times you may need to repeat it a few times until it lies flat.
Step Four: Heat the grill to 350 degrees using indirect heat. I added the plate setter to the Big Green Egg. Gas grillers will shut off the center burners.
Step Five: Spray a little olive oil on the turkey and then cover it with the Yucatan Dry Rub. Make sure to cover all of the sides.
Step Six: Place the turkey on a pizza peel (that was the easiest way for me to carry it to the grill) and slide it onto the grill grate breast side up. Set a timer for 50 minutes and check to see how it’s doing.
Step Seven: Using the pizza peel, slide it off the grill grate and then flip it over. Grill for another 50 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 170 in the thigh. Make sure the probe doesn’t hit the bone as it will give an inaccurate reading. For an 8-9 pound bird, it took a a total of one and half hours for it to be fully cooked.
Step Eight: Allow the spatchcock turkey to rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting. This allows the juices to stay and rest inside the bird and not run out.
🍗 Expert Tips
Put the bird on the grate with the breast side up to allow it to cook for the first half of the grill. The underside of the bird is mostly bones when it is spatchcocked.
Before you get started, find containers that fit your bird for brining so it will be fully covered. If you don’t have one large enough, flip the bird over half way through. I found that my crock pot insert was the perfect size.
We don’t suggest brining this one overnight, as the bird is so small that the brine became overpowering. We tried the overnight brine one the first turkey we made, but it was noticeably salty, even with rinsing a lot.
After brining, rinse the bird several times and rub it to get in all those crevices. Make sure to rinse and repeat several times.
Change up the rub and use any creations you have in your pantry or your favorite homemade ones. We love the Dry Rub for Ribs and the Brisket Dry Rub.
👩🍳 Recipe FAQs
The spatchcock turkey needs to reach 165 degrees to be eaten safely. I recommend using a digital thermometer because it’s fast and accurate.
After the spatchcock turkey has cooled down, place it in a container with a sealed lid. It will last in the fridge for 4-5 days. It’s also a great option to freeze the leftover meat. It can be stored in a freezer bag or container and will last around 3-4 months.
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Grilled Spatchcock Turkey with a Yucatan Dry Rub
- 3 tbsp Paprika
- 1 tsp Dried Oregano
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- ½ tsp Cumin
- ½ tsp Aleppo Pepper
- ½ tsp Coriander powdered
Yucatan Dry Rub
- ½ cup Achiote Rub from above recipe, use all
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 3 tbsp Dried Oregano
- 1 tsp Onion Powder
- 1 Lime zested
- 1 Lemon zested
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Pepper
Turkey and Brine
- 1 Turkey 8-10 pounds
- 1 cup Kosher Salt
- ½ cup Brown Sugar
- 1 gallon Water
- Spray Olive Oil
Brine the Turkey
- To make the brine, combine the water, salt and brown sugar and heat over medium heat to dissolve sugar and salt. Allow it to cool.
- Rinse off and clean the turkey. Remove anything that is left inside the turkey. Immerse it into the brine and make sure it is covered. Brine in the refrigerator for about 3-4 hours.
- Combine all the ingredients into a bowl and stir.
Yucatan Dry Rub
- Combine all the ingredients into a bowl (make sure to add the achiote rub from above as part of it!) and stir. Set aside.
Prepare the Turkey
- Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse well under cold water. Pat dry and cut off any excess skin.
- Use kitchen shears (or poultry shears if you have them) and cut along both sides of the spine of the turkey. It may be a little tough to do near the leg bones. Remove the spine and use it for making gravy.
- Place the wings underneath the neck of the bird and swing the legs of the turkey outwards. Place the turkey on a solid surface with the breast facing up. Use both palms and press down hard on the breastbone of the turkey to make it crack and lay flat. Sometimes one press will do it and other times we have had to repeat that several times. You will notice the turkey will now lay flat.
Grill the Turkey
- Heat the grill up to 350 degrees using indirect heat.
- Spray a little olive oil on the turkey and then spread the Yucatan Dry Rub to thoroughly cover the turkey.
- Place the turkey on a pizza peel (or other method to carry it to the grill) and slide it onto the grill grate with the breast side up. Set timer for 50 minutes.
- Using the pizza peel, slide it off of the grill grate and then flip it over. Cook for another 50 minutes or until the temperature reaches 170 in the thigh. Make sure the metal probe doesn't hit the bone as it will give an inaccurate reading.
- Allow the turkey to rest 10-15 minutes before cutting.