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BBQ Spatchcock Tandoori Turkey

I’m always trying to up my game when it comes to Holiday Season turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Yes, I know that regular roasted or deep-fried turkey tastes wonderful but as a pitmaster, I like to incorporate a barbecue theme into my family’s holiday meal. I’ve posted numerous recipes over the years and for this year, I was inspired by Indian cuisine which is one of my favorite foods. Indian food flavors are very complex with hints of turmeric, cardamom, fenugreek, and other exotic ingredients. The flavor base is usually a garlic-ginger paste with fresh and dried chilies, and the sauce is either dairy based (yoghurt), coconut milk, or tamarind water based.

Folks in India don’t normally cook turkey but they have a superbly moist and delicious chicken leg dish that’s marinated in yoghurt and curry spices called Tandoori chicken. The name comes from the tandoor oven the meat is cooked in. This Indian tandoor clay oven is also used to cook breads like nan and meats kebabs on a metal skewer. The radiant heat is very hot like a dome wood-fired pizza oven and you get a fantastic char on the meat without it actually touching the fire. The closest US analogy is the Kamado or Green Egg type cookers.

The typical tandoori chicken process involves the following steps: 1) removing skin from the drumsticks or leg quarter and making deep cuts made into the bone for the seasoning to penetrate, 2) applying dry seasonings including salt, pepper, and garam marsala (a mixture of Indian spices), 3) marinating in a yoghurt and spice mixture of ginger, garlic, and curry powder, 4) cooking it in a tandoor oven and finishing with some char on the meat, and 5) serving it with sliced raw sweet onions, cilantro, and lemon wedges. The unique aspect is that the meat is skinless and the yoghurt mixture tenderizes the meat and locks in the moisture preventing the meat from drying out. The skinless method also means that there is less fat for your health conscious guests.

In my adaptation, I use a Weber kettle to smoke the turkey as I don’t have tandoor. After indirect smoking, you move it to the hot side to get char marks. Rather than trying to source all the exotic spices like fenugreek, cardamon, and garam marsala, I’ve found you can get a fabulous result using a good store-bought curry powder. I replaced the red dye used in the traditional yoghurt marinade with paprika and my All-Purpose rub instead of salt and pepper. If you’re feeling adventurous this Turkey Day and want to do something unique besides the regular turkey day bird with cranberry sauce, you can try this recipe. Or, better yet, cook two turkeys. One my way and the other smoked in your grill using my Tangilicious recipe. Or if you feel really bonkers, you can try this crazy-ass recipe.

  • Total Time: 3 hours 30 mins
  • Yield: 4-6 1x


Units Scale


  • 2 tablespoons good store-bought curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
  • 4 tablespoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 16 oz plain yoghurt
  • 3 lemons cut into wedges
  • 2 sweet onions cut into slices
  • 1 stick melted butter for basting and for final glaze
  • cilantro for garnish


  1. Remove the backbone from the turkey.
  2. Remove skin from breast and leg quarters.
  3. Make deep diagonal cuts all over about 1 inch apart.
  4. Be sure to cut to the bone so the yoghurt spice mix will reach the inside of the meat.
    Tuck the wing tips into the wing or cut them off and save for stock later.
  5. Rub all the surfaces with some lemon juice. This will help ensure a tacky surface for the rub to stick.
  6. Apply enough SYD All Purpose Rub on all exposed surfaces until you cannot see the meat underneath (about a medium-heavy coat)
  7. Let sit uncovered in refrigerator for about ½ hour for a short dry brine effect (optional).
  8. Mix the yoghurt with marinade ingredients. Slather over all exposed surfaces and working the paste into the slits you cut. Let sit in fridge another ½ hour for a deeper flavor.
  9. Heat up your smoker to 275 degrees. Once it gets to temp, add a tennis-sized chunk of apple wood. Wood is optional as the turkey will be smoky even with briquettes. I used Kingsford Blue.
  10. Smoke the turkey indirect until internal is about 150F in the breast and 170F in the thighs.
  11. Wrap the wing tips in foil if they start to burn. About 2-3 hours.
  12. After about one hour, start basting the turkey with melted butter with a silicone brush. Be gentle not to remove the slather.
  13. Remove when done and brush immediately with remaining melted butter.
  14. Squeeze lemon juice all over and wrap the cooked turkey tightly in foil. This secret step with the foil wrap will steam the turkey to ensure the meat is moist and juicy.
  15. Cut into serving sizes. Brush with melted butter. Serve on a platter with lemon wedges and sliced sweet onions. Garnish with cilantro. You can serve it with some basmati rice or nan bread.
  • Author: Harry Soo
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Category: Entree
  • Cuisine: Indian and American