Follow me... for flavor, fun & frolics
with FOOD

Smokey Grilled Bourbon Turkey

So another Thanksgiving has come and gone.  This year was different – I didn't obsess, I didn't worry, I didn't create a network diagram of the order of cooking all the things, I just invited friends, ordered a turkey online and laughed when the universe delivered an empty box on Monday morning. I went with the flow. 


I also, this Thanksgiving and holiday season, find myself in a new relationship with someone who amazes me at every turn with his caring, brilliance and superb appreciation for flavor in food and wine (so like my own) – and instead of there being any expectation or apprehension or attachment to things going a certain way – it is just about things being joyful. 

The curve ball empty box the universe provided resulted in only an 11 lb turkey being at my table instead of the 14 lbs of planned bird. But it was a perfect size to spatchcock (something I've always wanted to do) and put on my new 48,000 BTU gas grill – screw roasting the bird, non-traditional all-the-way this year, with a side of cranberry lime pie. Take that universe.

Meanwhile, next door to my new town home a tiny construction crew demolished two houses within feet of my grill deck and covered everything in a small coating of strange smelling dust. Yum.

IMG_3305Fun times in transitional neighborhood living.  I was not phased however, I just dusted everything off and got it ready for the big day. I was looking forward to a day of friends, conversation and food futzing with good people. 


I did stick to my plan of a three day dry brine/dry rub. Because I believe in the power of a dry brine for a full flavor bird. I made up my own recipe this year – meant to compliment a bourbon butter orange baste and the grilling process.  I also might have been trying to impress people with my flavor prowess. I definitely impressed myself.


Paprika Angel's Special Smokey Turkey Dry Brine Rub  

(apply three days ahead of time)

1 Tbsp pink sea salt

2 Tbsp smoked sea salt

1 Tsp smoked pepper salt

3 Tbsp smoked paprika

1 Tbsp garlic powder

1 Tbsp sumac

1 Tbsp ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

Rub turkey in juice of one lemon.

Rub turkey in 1/4 cup bourbon.

Apply dry rub to turkey by massaging into the skin until every part of the bird is covered inside and out. Place bird in pan and cover with plastic wrap or other convenient substance.  Let sit in refrigerator for three days.


Three days after the application of the rub take the turkey out of the refrigerator at least two hours before roasting or grilling. To spatchcock the turkey cut out its backbone (I used a kitchen shears, but a poultry shears would probably be easier) then turn it over and press down on the breast until you hear the crack of the bone.  It is a very satisfying feeling when the bird spreads out on the cutting board. I had to stand on a stool to get leverage.

Bourbon Citrus Butter Baste

1/2 cup bourbon

Juice of 1.5 navel oranges

Juice of 1 large lemon

1 cup of butter

1 Tbsp sumac

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp smoked salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Cook all together over low heat to melt butter and blend flavors.


When the turkey is spatchcocked and ready to grill – make sure your grill is ready to go cleanliness and fire wise and place the bird in the center of the grill bone side down, breast side up. Baste the bird before you turn on the gas burners to ensure you are safe and flames do not jump up and burn you.  


For the first 15 minutes grill the bird in the center of the grill then move to indirect heat, basting every 15 minutes or so.  It will take 90 minutes to two hours to grill your spatchcocked bird.   As you baste test it with a meat thermometer to see if it reaches 165 degrees as you get close to the 90 minute mark. 

 Then creatively carve and enjoy with family and/or friends.  I served mine with a dry rose' and fun.



Leave a Comment

Love the blog?
Let's keep in touch!

Receive new blog posts from Angel in your email.