This easy to follow, champagne brine recipe is an elegant and tasteful way to make this turkey the star of your holiday table.
I love the idea of grilling a turkey (yes, even in November in the Midwest) because not only will the flavor be incredible but the much needed oven space is also a huge plus!
My favorite way to prepare chicken for the grill has been to butterfly or spatchcock it and I really wanted to do this with the turkey too. The process of spatchcocking simply involves removing the back bone and cracking the rib cage so the entire bird lays flat.
This allows for faster cooking time (generally) as well. The full recipe for how I made this turkey in champagne brine is below. I highly recommend trying your own turkey out on the grill this year too (oven directions are included too)!
For the Brine-
- Medium-Large Size Cooler (I find this works best when you have a 10lb turkey or larger) or Large Stock Pot
- Large Pot
- Knife & Cutting Board
For the Turkey-
- 1 Metal Skewer
- Twine (optional but helpful)
- Kitchen Scissors
- Meat Thermometer
How To Brine A Turkey-
Why brine a turkey? Well, dry or liquid brining allows for the salt and the liquid to help break down some of the muscle tissue in the bird and allows for it to retain more moisture.
Brining is a method that I had only just tried a few years ago when I was living in Miami. My chef friend, Andrew, made a champagne brined turkey for our Friends-giving one year and I was blown away with how incredible it tasted.
He gets the credit for this idea and hopefully he knows how indebted I am to him, because a juicy champagne turkey is my favorite thing now come Thanksgiving.
This is my interpretation of that brine he made, so I hope you all like it as well (because champagne…duh). I start by prepping my bird to start. Remove all the inside “goodies” (neck, bag of organs, giblets, etc). I discard mine.
Rinse the turkey and either spatchcock it prior to brining or do it after (I did it before, just to get it out of the way). Directions for the spatchcock and the grill set up are below. I start by creating my salt water mixture first. The last few years, I have been following the Cook’s Illustrated (a component of America’s Test Kitchen).
For a bird that is 10-12 lbs, they recommend 2 gallons of water to 1 cup of table salt. Because I added champagne, I don’t use quite as much water to start (just to get the salt to dissolve). Begin by adding 8 cups of water and the 1 cup of salt into a pot and bring to a simmer.
Once it simmers and it dissolves, I remove it from the heat and either cool it with an ice bath or pretend to have patience and let it sit till it reaches room temperature.
To prep the cooler (or container to brine the bird in), line it with a food grade safe plastic bag (I used the plastic liners for my crock pot). To the cooler, I add enough champagne (I used 3 bottles of the cheaper Brut from Trader Joe’s, the cooled salt water mixture, and halved lemon rinds (and the juice).
This gives me about 2 gallons of liquid for my 11 lb. turkey. I add in some whole peppercorns, fresh thyme and fresh rosemary. I keep the brine fairly simple with flavors because I plan on smoking it too. According to America’s Test Kitchen (they are awesome my friends), they recommend not brining for more than 12 hours.
Because life got a little hectic here, I brined mine for 24 hours and I thought it still came out tender, juicy, and delicious. When the brining is done, discard it. Give the bird a good rinse and pat it dry. I like to let mine dry up a bit so the skin gets crispy before I grill it.
How To Spatchcock A Turkey-
The spatchcock turkey is honestly super easy to make in my opinion. I think a spatchcock bird can be just as beautiful on your holiday table as a whole bird too. To spatchcock the bird, I use a really good pair of kitchen scissors to cut along either side of the backbone.
Remove this piece and either grill to make with your gravy or discard it. I rinse the bird after this to remove any of the blood and juice that’s been sitting inside the carcass.
Move it to a clean work surface and place the turkey face up. Next, use your hands and body weight to push down on the breasts/rib cage to crack and flatten it. I then move it to a baking sheet and place a large metal skewer through the bottom of the turkey, going into each leg.
This helps keep the legs intact when transferring from the grill to a cutting board, etc. I don’t usually tie the legs together for a spatchcock chicken but this bird was laying a bit awkward so I decided to wrap a bit of twine around the legs to help it lay flat. Use your judgement here to do what works best for your bird.
When it comes to smoking the bird, I like to actually smoke it at a higher temperature to get the skin really crispy (I do this if I roast in the oven as well). This works best with smaller birds in my opinion so keep that in mind if you have a large turkey.
Set the grill to indirect heat and bring it up to 425 F. I place the bird directly on the grates and promptly close the lid. Using a thermometer is the ONLY way to ensure the bird is full cooked to 165 F. I grill with my digital thermometer that has an alarm when the bird reaches a set temperature.
This helps prevent constant opening of the grilling (which will impact the temperature so don’t do this every 15 minutes). The higher temperature I find gets the skin perfectly crispy and keeps the turkey very juicy. I remove it around 155-160 F and let it rest for a good 15-20 minutes.
During this time it should reach a resting temperature of 165 F. Slice the Smoked Spatchcock Turkey in Champagne Brine to your preference and dig in!
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Smoked Spatchcock Turkey in Champagne Brine
- 1 Turkey I like to stick to a 12 lb bird or smaller
- 1 cup Salt use any kind you prefer
- 8 cups Water
- 3 Bottle Brut aka the champagne
- 4 Lemons juiced (keep the rinds)
- 6 Fresh Rosemary Stalks
- 6 Fresh Thyme Stalks
- 1 Tbsp Whole Black Peppercorns
- Olive oil
- 1. In a large pot, combine the 8 cups of water and the salt. Bring to a boil until the salt dissolves. Remove the heat and cool with an ice bath or with patience…
- 2. In a large cooler or container lined with food safe plastic, combine the champagne, the salt water, the lemons (halved and juiced), peppercorns, and the fresh herbs.
- 3. Before submerging the turkey, remove the innards (bag of organs, neck, etc.). Give it a good rinse to remove excess blood and then submerge it. Place in the fridge or on ice in the cooler. Keep the bird below 40 F for 12 hours.
- 4. Remove the bird from the brine and rinse it thoroughly. Pat it dry with paper towels.
- 5. To remove the back bone to spatchcock a turkey, use good kitchen scissors and cut along either side of the spine/back bone. Remove the spine, and discard or cook to use for gravy or stock.
- 6. Place the bird cut side down on a cutting board or pan. Use your hands and body weight to press on the breast
bone/meat to crack the ribs. This helps flatten the bird. Use a metal skewer and place it across and through each turkey leg to stabilize them during grilling (prevents the legs from falling off when removing it from the grill). Lightly oil the turkey skin to help with browning.
- 7. Preheat the grill to 425 F and set the grill for indirect heat. Place preferred wood on the coals for smoking.
- 8. Set the whole turkey across the grill grates and insert a digital thermometer. Keep the grill closed and open very little if possible.
- 9. Cook the turkey till the thickest part reaches about 155-160 F. Remove from the heat and allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes to let the juices settle. The resting temperature should reach 165 F.
- 10. Slice the turkey breast and divide up the meat for serving.