- David Skarin
Buttermilk Brined Spatchcock Smoked Turkey
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
I recently read an article about someone raving about a buttermilk brined turkey. To be honest, I was a skeptic at first, not sure why, but I was. Luckily for me, I’m a curious individual. Otherwise, I may have let this pass me by and believe me, I’m happy I didn’t! This is a shocking easy preparation for one of the best turkeys I’ve ever eaten. You do need to prepare it two days in advance though, which can be a bit of a pain. But again, trust me, it’s worth it. Beauty of this recipe is that it does also allow a heavy amount of customization pending on your flavor profile. You can use a rub on the turkey, although I suggest staying away from anything with a heavy amount of salt as the brine adds the perfect amount of salt. You can add herbs to the baste and bring in a floral note. Whatever your heart desires, you can customize this recipe to fit your wants. Or, you can cook it as is and enjoy!
And don’t get me started on the left over for the best turkey sandwiches. Make sure you also have bread, mayonnaise and a pinch of salt on-hand to dig into one the best day-after turkey sandwiches.
Category: Turkey, Poultry
Cut: Whole Turkey
Weight: 18 pounds
Heat Source: Wood pellets
Wood Type: Traeger Signature Blend
Prep Time: 15-30 Minutes + 48-hour brine
Estimated Cook Time: 3-4 Hours
Actual Cook Time: 3 Hours and 45 Minutes
Total Time: 3.5-4 Hours + 48-hour brine
Estimated Cooking Temperature: 225° Fahrenheit and then 400° Fahrenheit for final 15-30 minutes.
Actual Cooking Temperature: 225° Fahrenheit and then 400° Fahrenheit for final 15-30 minutes.
Cook Date: November 21, 2020
Whole turkey (mine was 18 pounds)
Buttermilk (or every pound the turkey weighs, you need ¼ quart of buttermilk. So, if you have a 12-pound turkey, you want 12*1/4 = 3 quarts. A little more is fine but not less.)
Fine sea salt (this one can get a little tricky as it’s best to use weigh as salt can vary in size but the weight is what dictates the salinity. For every pound the turkey weighs, you want 10 grams of salt. 1 tablespoon of fine sea salt weighs about 18 grams. So, if you have a 12-pound turkey, you need 120 grams of salt. Using the estimate of 1 tablespoon is 18 grams, then you would need 120/18 = 6 and 2/3 tablespoons of salt…math is fun!)
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
Pending on the size of your turkey you can use a 2.5 gallon Ziploc bag for probably 18 pounds or less. Otherwise, you’ll need a food grade bucket or tub.
Thermometer - These are critical tools to have there are two main types. First, instant read thermometer like this one or this one. The Thermapen is worth its weight in gold and one I use almost every day. I know the price tag seems excessive but it's the best in the business for a reason. If you're looking for a dual temperature thermometer for both grill temperature and meat, this is the way to go. I use my Smoke for longer more specific cooks such as this.
Step 1: If you are starting with a frozen turkey, about a week before you plan on serving, remove from the freezer and into the refrigerator. This will start thawing the turkey slowly.
Step 2: Two days before you are planning on serving the turkey, make sure the turkey is fully thawed and spatchcock the turkey. To spatchcock, place your turkey breast side down on a cutting board. Using kitchen shears, cut the backbone out of the chicken. Trim off any remaining ribs. For a video of this, click here.
Tip: You can keep the backbone to make stock or use to help make gravy…or you can discard, your call.
Step 3: After removing the backbone, remove the neck and giblets. If you make your own stock or gravy, set these aside to use, otherwise you can discard.
Step 4: Place the turkey breast-side up, then firmly press down with your hands on the breastbone until you hear the cartilage break and the turkey lies flat. Trim off any excess skin. You want to ensure your turkey lays nice and flat. Again, click here for a video showing this process.
Step 5: Pending on the size of your turkey, you may be able to fit it inside a 2.5 gallon Ziploc bag. My 18 pound turkey fit inside a 2.5 gallon bag but there was very little room for more. If your turkey is over 18 pounds, I do not think it will fit in a Ziploc bag and you will have to use a food grade container.
Step 6: Place your spatchcocked turkey in the bag and add your buttermilk and salt. Seal and place in the refrigerator for 48 hours. I suggest double bagging it and placing it on a baking sheet in the event there is leakage.
Step 7: Turn the bag over every 12 hours or so to ensure even marinating.
Step 8: 2 to 3 hours before you plan on starting your cook, remove the turkey from the bag and scrap off as much of the buttermilk as you can. No need to get every bit off, just do your best. Set on a baking pan and allow the turkey to come to room temperature.
Step 9: Preheat your smoker to 225° Fahrenheit.
Step 10: Place your thermometer is the thickest part of the breast and put the turkey on the smoker.
Step 11: Once the turkey reaches 140° Fahrenheit, melt your butter and increase the temperature to 400° Fahrenheit. Start basting the turkey with the melted butter every 15-20 minutes. (For my cook, this was 3 hours and 15 minutes into the cook.)
Step 12: Once your thermometer is reading 160-165° Fahrenheit, remove the turkey from the smoker and let rest for 20 minutes.
Step 11: Carve the turkey and serve!
Lessons Learned (Note: I will update this section to include your lessons learned from the comment section)