How To Spatchcock A Turkey

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Learn how to spatchcock a turkey for a fast-cooking turkey! This easy technique guarantees a turkey that’s evenly cooked with juicy meat, and flavor-loaded skin. But most importantly, it’s on the dinner table in WAY less time than a traditional roast turkey.

The process is nearly identical to how to spatchcock a chicken, you’ve just got a bigger bird. No biggie, you’ve got this!

Spatchcocked turkey on a baking sheet with orange slices.

Saving time in the kitchen seems to be a common obstacle we all face, especially when it comes to roasting meat. And while my traditional Thanksgiving turkey recipe is the essential, classic turkey recipe, spatchcocking is how you serve up turkey fast.

The name itself may be funny (spatchcock what?), but it’s just another name for butterflied turkey. It’s a simple technique that you’re going to love, and I’ll show you how to do it in 4 simple steps.

How To Spatchcock A Turkey

While this butterflying process isn’t difficult, note that it will take a bit of pressure to crack the bird open. But other than that, here’s how it goes.

First, remove the giblets and backbone. Pat the turkey with paper towels until it’s completely dry (it helps all your marinade and flavor stick). Then place it breast side down.

With a good pair of poultry shears, cut along both sides of the backbone, from the tail to neck, to remove it. You might hit a few bones along the way, so you’ll want to use a bit of force as you cut through them.

Pro Tip: Don’t toss the backbone! Store this in a freezer-safe bag and use it for a homemade turkey stock or gravy.

Removing the backbone from a spatchcock turkey.

Second, open up the turkey. Spread the turkey open and use the tip of a knife to lightly slice alongside the keel bone (the dark bone in the middle of the breast). This will help to flatten the bird, more easily.

Opening up a turkey before spatchcocking

Lastly, flatten the turkey. As mentioned above, this is where you’ll need to use some pressure to flatten the bird. Flip the turkey breast side up and press down with the heel of your hands until you hear a crack.

Pro Tip: Act as if you’re preparing to perform a Heimlich maneuver with full force. That will help get you in the mindset to crack your turkey open!

Flattening a spatchcock turkey with hands.

Time To Roast Your Spatchcock Turkey

At this point, you’ve got a spatchcock turkey. Congrats! Now you can add your favorite spices, rubs, marinades, and flavor enhancers before cooking. I always love a good herb butter mixture, rubbed not just on the outside of the turkey, but also under the skin. So don’t be afraid to really get in there and loosen the skin of the turkey, to load flavor all around.

Want an amazing spatchock turkey recipe? Give my maple orange glazed spatchcock turkey a try! It’s deliciously sweet, incredibly moist, and let’s be honest, has the quite simply the best tasting skin around.

Spatchcock Ahead Of Time

To save yourself some roasting time, you can spatchcock your turkey the day before. Just set it onto a baking sheet and leave it in the fridge uncovered overnight. Rub it with a little salt for a dry brine and allow the cold air to dry up the skin. This results in the ultimate crispy skin.

Prepare For Thanksgiving Day

Remember that turkey can be eaten any time of year, not just as part of your Thanksgiving menu. But if it is Thanksgiving and you need help game planning the big day, here’s a few favorite side dishes to round out your menu.

A spatchcock turkey flat on a baking tray, ready to be cooked.

How To Spatchcock A Turkey

4.91 from 10 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan

Description

Learn how to spatchcocked a turkey! It's an easy technique that'll cook your turkey fast, with tender meat, and crispy skin every time.

Ingredients 
 

  • 10-12 pound turkey
  • good quality kitchen shears

Instructions 

  • Remove the neck and giblets from your turkey and pat it dry with paper towels. Then place it breast side down on your cutting board. Using poultry shears, cut alongside one side of the backbone from the tail to the neck, repeat on the other side, and remove the backbone.
    Cutting the backbone on a spatchcock turkey
  • Spread the turkey open and use the tip of a knife to lightly slice alongside the keel bone (the dark oblong bone in the middle of the breast). This will help to flatten the bird. 
  • Flip the turkey over so the breast side is up. Then flatten it by pressing down with your hands. You'll hear a crack, and it should flatten completely. Your turkey is now spatchcocked and ready to roast, just remember to tuck the wing tips before roasting.
    Using hands to flatten a turkey for spatchcocking

Nutrition

Calories: 771kcal | Protein: 133g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 23g | Cholesterol: 345mg | Sodium: 318mg | Iron: 8mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: how to spatchcock a turkey, spatchcock turkey
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

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About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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16 Comments

  1. I’ve been spatchcocking my turkey fire the past three years – won’t do it any other way now! I put my stuffing in a big roasting pan, lay the turkey on top and roast – the stuffing picks up the juices and wonderful flavors – everyone loves it! My grocer does there hard work for  me, but this is a great explanation of the method. 4 stars

  2. I’d love to try this!  How do I know how long to cook the turkey?  Also, I like to marinate my turkey in a brine the day before cooking.  Do I spatchcock the turkey before or after marinating in the brine?  Thanks so much!5 stars

    1. Hi Jane – you can see the cooking instructions on my maple orange glazed spatchcock turkey recipe. And I’d recommend spatchcocking first, then brining. Hope you enjoy!

  3. Oh nice! I love how much this cuts down on the cooking time for the turkey. Beautiful photo with it slathered in the herb butter too.5 stars