Pulled Turkey Sandwiches

These tasty sandwiches are reminiscent of classic pulled pork. The main sauce is inspired by Carolina barbecue, but we also drizzle on a little sweet sauce made with bourbon. Pickled cabbage and onions add a little zing and a lot of crunch on top.

Butterfly or spatchcock — whichever you prefer to call it, I’ve been an advocate of cooking chicken this way for years. The key is flattening it out so you can use higher heat. The bird cooks faster resulting in moist and tender meat and a nice crisp skin. A butterflied turkey delivers the same results, and it takes just 75 minutes to roast a 13 pound bird. This will give you more time to visit with guests.

By Russ Faulk, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet
Serves 12
Image of Pulled Turkey Sandwiches

  • 1 12 to 14 pound turkey
  • Extra virgin olive oil

For the Barbecue Rub

  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

For the Pickled Cabbage and Onion

  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup honey
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 Savoy cabbages, thinly sliced
  • 2 red onions, thinly sliced

For the Carolina Sauce

  • 1 cup turkey stock (see instructions for making your own as the turkey roasts)
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup prepared Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce (I use Cholula Chipotle Hot Sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Salt to taste

For the Sweet Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup bourbon whiskey (I use Maker’s Mark)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons Colman’s mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 12 sandwich rolls

For even more flavorful results, load wood chunks or limbs into your Hybrid Fire Grilling Drawer off to one side to roast your turkey with a live wood fire.


Prepare the grill for indirect cooking at 450°F to 500°F.

Remove the neck and gizzards from the cavity. Reserve the neck. Discard the gizzards. Rinse the turkey inside and out with cool, running water. Pat dry.

Use sturdy kitchen shears to remove the backbone, cutting through the ribs on each side. I find it easiest to work halfway down each side from the tail opening and then finish from the neck opening. Reserve the backbone.

Open the turkey from the back until the breast bone "pops." Next, cut the thick membrane down each side of the keel bone from the inside to release it. Pry out the keel bone completely and reserve it. The turkey should now lie flat. Point the thighs toward the center with the ends of the legs facing out at the tail. Tuck the ends of the wings up and over the shoulders. (See this quick video on grilling a butterflied turkey).

Generously brush the turkey with olive oil inside and out. Make the barbecue rub by combining all 5 ingredients. Sprinkle the rub over the turkey inside and out. Use it all.

Place the turkey on the grill in the indirect zone with the skin-side-up and the breasts pointing toward the fire. Close the hood and roast at 450° to 500°F for about 75 minutes.

While the turkey is on the grill, you can make a quick stock for use in the Carolina sauce. Using stock in the sauce helps ensure the pulled turkey is moist. Place the reserved neck, backbone and keel bone in a stock pot. Fill the pot with water until it is just below the level of the turkey parts, at least 2 cups. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer while the turkey roasts.

After starting the stock, prepare the pickled cabbage and onion. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Place the cabbage and onion in a bowl and pour in the hot liquid. Toss together and let rest for at least 30 minutes while all the other activities continue. The vinegar will turn the red onion much brighter in color while this “quick pickling” is taking place.

Remove the turkey from the grill when the internal temperature reads 160°F. Let it rest uncovered (on a carving board or in a tray to collect the juices) for at least 15 minutes while the internal temperature coasts up to about 170°F.

While the turkey is resting, prepare the two sauces. For the Carolina sauce, strain the turkey stock and discard the solids. Combine all of the ingredients and bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally to combine. Reduce the heat and keep warm until the turkey pulling is complete. Whisk together all of the ingredients for the sweet bourbon barbecue sauce in another pot and simmer over medium heat for up to 30 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Pull the turkey by cutting away larger pieces of meat from the bones and then using your fingers to break it down into small pieces. If you plan on serving it right away, put the turkey into a pre-warmed dish. Pour in any juices that you can collect from the turkey as you go. Tear up and include any crispy bits of skin, but discard any parts of the skin that did not become crisp. Working your way through the whole turkey should take about 15 minutes. Toss the pulled turkey with the Carolina sauce.

Strain the pickled cabbage and onions and discard the liquid.

For serving, place pulled turkey on a sandwich roll and drizzle on a little sweet bourbon barbecue sauce. Top with pickled cabbage and onions and enjoy.