Want a beautiful roast turkey in under two hours? Spatchcock turkey is the answer – flattening out the bird gives you juicy meat and crispy skin, every time.
You should make a turkey this year, even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, and you should definitely, 100% make a spatchcock turkey, because it will be the easiest, fastest, prettiest turkey you will ever make.
Turkey is one of those meats that I love, kind of like a very intense chicken. Yes, they’re big and you will end up with a lot of leftovers, but I think it’s worth it, and how many times a year can you get a big fresh turkey?
What is spatchcock turkey?
Spatchcocking is a fancy way of saying removing the backbone and flattening the bird before you roast it. It’s superior to roasting a bird whole because it makes for even cooking, since the thighs aren’t covered by the legs and the delicate white meat isn’t exposed right up top. It also makes for crispier skin, better presentation, and lets you use the backbone and other bits to make gravy and stock right away.
How to spatchcock a turkey
- Prep. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. It might be best to work in a large clean deep sink or in a large roasting pan. Flip the turkey so that it’s breast side down.
- Remove the backbone. Hold the turkey firmly and use a pair of kitchen shears (you definitely need kitchen shears) to cut alongside the backbone, starting where the tail meets the thigh. Cut all the way up until the turkey is split up to the neck. Push the turkey open slightly and then repeat on the other side, carefully cutting alongside the other side of the backbone. This side may be a bit trickier, so go slow.
- Trim. Trim off any excess fat or skin you might see. I took off the tail and the hood of fat near the neck. You can use the trimmings to make the best turkey gravy ever.
- Flip and flatten. Flip the turkey over so that the breast is facing up and push down on the ridge breast bone, hard. You should hear a couple of cracks and the turkey should be flatter. Tuck the wing tips behind the breast so they don’t burn.
- Season. Place the turkey on your prepared rack and baking sheet and rub with 1 tablespoon of oil. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
How long to cook a spatchcock turkey
- 11-12lb turkey: about 75 mins
- 12-14lb turkey: about 1 hour 25 mins
- 14-16lb turkey: about 1 hour 35 mins
- 16-18lb turkey: about 1 hour 50 mins
- 18-20lb turkey: about 2 hours
Oven accuracy varies so you should always use a meat thermometer, especially with a high stakes thing like turkey, especially as the bird gets bigger. They aren’t expensive and will save you from microwaving pink meat or eating cardboard turkey. We like this one. Once you have one, just get your breast meat to 150ºF and your thigh meat to 165ºF.
Should you brine your turkey first?
Spatchcock turkey is always juicy and delicious anyway so you don’t need to! If you normally brine your turkey, you should keep on doing you – this is no different than roasting the whole bird. If you never have brined a turkey before though, there’s no need to and brining can often end up with saltier meat than you’re used to.
What size turkey does this work with?
It works best with smaller turkeys, not because larger turkeys don’t work as well, but because a big turkey needs a really big oven to lay flat in (not to mention a big baking sheet). If your oven doesn’t fit a full size baking sheet (18″x26″) you might want to stick with the smaller 14lb birds and load up on sides instead.
Reasons why you should make a spatchcock turkey
- When you cut out the backbone, you get to use it to make gravy and stock, right away without having to wait for the drippings off the bird.
- Flattening the bird helps it cook evenly and quickly – I’m talking about finishing a turkey in about an hour and twenty minutes all-in.
- The flatter profile means that all of the turkey skin is facing up, exposed to the heat which means crispier turkey skin. Bonus, the meat is juicier because the skin renders the fat right into the meat, instead of just falling down into the pan.
- Spatchcocking means even cooking. White and dark meat cook at different rates and flattening out the bird so that the legs and thighs aren’t protected underneath the breast means that you’re exposing the dark meat to heat that would otherwise not reach it.
How do you carve the turkey like that?
It’s easier than it looks!
- Break down the turkey by separating the thighs, drumsticks, and wings from the turkey.
- Debone the thigh meat and set aside.
- Remove the breast from the carcass and slice them nicely into even pieces about 1/2″ thick.
- Finally, arrange the breast around the platter. Add the drumsticks and wings to the middle, and fill in the gaps with the deboned thigh meat.
- Save the trimmings for Turkey BBH or Turkey Pho.
Here it is without any garnishes on top:
What about sides and stuffing?
- Mushroom, Rosemary & Thyme Challah Stuffing
- Crispy Duck Fat Oven Roasted Potatoes
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
- How to Make Crispy Air Fryer Roasted Brussels Sprouts
I included a citrus herb butter but you can go ahead and just season with just salt and pepper or whatever you heart desires. Personally, I feel like turkey has a very distinct flavor and doesn’t need too much help, much like a very good roast chicken, but feel free to play around. The important part is spatchcocking, so everything else is just gravy 😉
Adjust your oven rack so that it’s in the middle of the oven. Heat oven to 450°F. Foil line a large deep baking tray. Place the onion, orange, lemon, celery, and rosemary sprigs on the foil, then place a wire rack on top of the vegetables.
Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Flip so that it’s breast side down. Hold the turkey firmly and use a pair of kitchen shears to cut alongside the backbone, starting where the tail meets the thigh. Cut all the way up until the turkey is split up to the neck. Push the turkey open slightly and then repeat on the other side, carefully cutting alongside the other side of the backbone. This side may be a bit trickier, so go slow.
Trim off any excess fat or skin you might see. I took off the tail and the hood of fat near the neck.
Flip the turkey over so that the breast is facing up and push down on the ridge breast bone, hard. You should hear a couple of cracks and the turkey should be flatter.
Place the turkey on your prepared rack and baking sheet. Tuck the wing tips behind the breast and rub with 1 tablespoon of oil. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to the oven and roast, for about an hour and twenty minutes, rotating halfway, or until the deepest part of the breast is 150°F, and the thighs are at least 165°F.
While the turkey is roasting, blend or food process the rosemary citrus butter ingredients together. At the 50 minute mark, carefully and evenly brush on the rosemary citrus butter. If at any point the turkey skin starts to look too brown, you can tent it with foil and then remove the foil at the end to get the crispy brown skin. When the turkey is cooked, remove from the oven and let rest for 15-20 minutes.
How to carve a turkey
Using a medium sized knife, remove the legs by cutting through where the thigh meets the body. Find the joint between the thigh and the drumstick and cut through the joint. Find the joint of the wing near the top of the turkey’s breast and working the knife through it, removing the wings. You can leave the wings whole or spilt them by cutting along the joints.
Remove the breasts by slicing down the center, near the breast bone, using the tip of your knife to follow along the shape of the bone while peeling the breast away slowly. As you continue to slice, the breast should fall away in one piece. Repeat on the other side. Slice the breast into evenly thick pieces. Remove the thigh meat away from the bones, saving all the bones for stock or soup. Arrange everything on a platter and garnish with oranges, lemons, and rosemary. Enjoy!
inspired by Serious Eats