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 Spatchcock Turkey, Smoked Chicken, and Grilled Spatchcock Cornish Hens are also delicious. Using the smoker will add a deeper flavor to the meat but it also takes more time. Grilling is the next best thing!
You know we’re big fans of grilling 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 an 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 that ensures even the white meat will turn out juicy. 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, a sharp knife, or poultry shears if you have them, and cut along both sides of the backbone. You may need to 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 breast bone and press down hard. It will make a loud cracking sound as the breast bone 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. For a gas grill shut off the center burners and set the others to medium-high heat. The bird needs to cook over indirect heat.
Step Five: Spray a little olive oil on the turkey or brush it with melted butter 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. You can set up a drip pan or aluminum foil under the turkey to collect drippings and avoid flare-ups. We don’t usually have this issue (perhaps this is more useful if you’re using a charcoal grill). 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. Close the lid and grill for another 50 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 170 in the thigh (in the breast area, the internal temp will be 5 to 10 degrees lower and that’s perfectly normal). Make sure the probe of your instant-read thermometer doesn’t hit the bone as it will give an inaccurate reading. For an 8-9 pound bird, it took a total of 1 hr 30 min for it to be fully cooked.
Step Eight: Place the spatchcock turkey on a wire rack with a sheet pan underneath. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting. This allows the juices to stay and redistribute inside the bird instead of leaking 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. Also, you can tuck the wing tips under the turkey to prevent them from drying out.
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 halfway 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 on the first turkey we made, but it was noticeably salty, even with rinsing a lot.
After wet brining, rinse the bird several times and rub it to get in all those crevices. Make sure to rinse and repeat several times.
You can opt for a dry brine like we did for our smoked whole chicken. This method requires the turkey to rest in the fridge overnight after seasoning. Place it on a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet (a sheet pan also works) and refrigerate it uncovered until the next day.
If using a charcoal grill, make sure the coals are pushed to one side of the grill so they are not directly under the turkey.
Add a special flavor with mild wood chips such as apple or cherry just like you would for a smoked turkey.
Additions And Substitutions
This recipe is incredibly versatile. With so many herbs and spices that go well with turkey, the first thing you can change is the wet brine. We kept things simple with just brown sugar and Kosher salt but feel free to add your favorite flavors to the brine.
Bay leaves, garlic, whole peppercorns, and fresh thyme or rosemary are some of the classics worth trying at least once!
If you feel like experimenting, the ingredients below are often used for dry rubs and you can mix and match your favorites:
- Salt & black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Brown sugar
- Chili powder or flakes
- Cayenne pepper
Grilled turkey meat is a team player so it goes well with so many BBQ sides! Make it a feast with these grilled steakhouse potatoes, or go for grilled sweet potatoes in foil if you’d like a lower-carb meal.
Also, these BBQ chicken sides are great with other poultry, turkey included so you have even more options to choose from.
I try to have at least one barbecue sauce when serving the turkey because it’s always met with such enthusiasm by friends and family.
Making your own is incredibly easy and I wholeheartedly recommend you try our whiskey BBQ sauce, a cherry bourbon BBQ sauce for a tangy kick, or this smoked pumpkin bourbon BBQ sauce for an amped-up smoky flavor.
For Thanksgiving, having a couple of traditional side dishes is also a good idea. Mashed potatoes topped with fresh parsley, green beans, cornbread, homemade cranberry sauce (ours is also smoked!), sweet potato casserole, and these smoked asparagus bundles, are some of my personal favorites!
🦃More Grilled Turkey Recipes
As long as you follow all the steps, grilling turkey is so easy and the meat will always turn out juicy.
I love turkey for its affordable price and versatility! When you have some time on your hands, try a whole grilled turkey without butterflying it. With each method of preparation comes a unique taste.
When time is of the essence, grilled turkey legs are a faster option that will be welcomed by dark meat fans. A grilled turkey burger is also an excellent choice when you want to grill something fast.
👩🍳 Recipe FAQs
The spatchcock turkey needs to reach 165ºF in the deepest area of the breast 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.
No. The spatchcock turkey needs to cook on indirect heat with the lid closed. This will ensure the bird cooks evenly. In fact, it’s better to refrain from opening the lid too often. Doing this will repeatedly lower the cooking temperature and the turkey will need a longer time to cook.
If you are using an instant-read thermometer you’ll be able to know at all times the doneness level of the turkey and you won’t have to open the lid.
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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.
Jason’s been firing up the grill for over 30 years after graduating from the US Coast Guard Academy. His love of finely-grilled steak and chicken led him to buy his first Weber grill to put on his apartment patio in 1992. Each military move led to a new grill (a mixture of gas and charcoal) until he fell in love with the Big Green Egg in 2008. Since then, he has added another 4 grills to the collection. Yes, he has a problem. Jason loves smoking in the ceramic BGE with exotic woods including olive wood from Egypt and hard to find varieties such as sassafras and orange wood. Jason takes the term “foodie” to a whole new level, jumping at the chance to take food tours and cooking classes during foreign travels. These have provided inspiration to incorporate new ideas into recipes when he gets back home. He has been featured in Fox News, Parade, Yahoo News, Kansas City Living and more. After retiring from the military and moving to southwest Florida, he has focused grilling and smoking locally sourced meats and fish (read: he likes to catch his own fish!)