How to Spatchcock Turkey

I’m sharing step-by-step instructions along with tips and tricks for how to spatchcock turkey the easy way. The results are so juicy and delicious you’ll never what to roast a whole turkey again!
An overhead image of a roasted spatchcocked turkey in a roasting pan surrounded by fresh herbs and lemons and orange and grey plaid napkins.

Try some of my other awesome turkey recipes: Roast Turkey Thighs for Two, Orange Rosemary Whole Roast Turkey and Citrus Brown Sugar Smoked Turkey Breast.

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So you want to know about what it means to spatchcock a turkey! First off, good decision- it’s seriously easy now that I’ve been converted, I’ll never go back to roasting a whole bird! So I knew I had to write a blog post to share alllll the info and simplify it for you!

What is a spatchcock turkey?

A good place to start is first understanding what this means. Spatchcocking is a method where you  open up turkey (or other poultry) by removing the backbone so that it lies flat. This occurs prior to cooking. Some people also refer to it as butterfly-ing the turkey, which is a good descriptor (although technically the term butterfly with relation to cooking refers to cutting a through a chicken breast horizontally, almost all the way through, so that it opens like a book).

An overhead image of hands beginning to remove the backbone from a turkey.

Why should I spatchcock my turkey?

The primary reason this method works so well is because it promotes more even cooking. When you’re roasting a whole turkey, the breast tends to cook faster than the thighs, which often causes them to dry out. But when the bird is flattened it cooks more evenly, providing a perfectly cooked, juicier bird- even the light meat!

Another benefit is that it cooks faster, so it allows you to get dinner on the table quicker by cutting the cooking time in half and frees up precious oven space for cooking other items in your Thanksgiving feast! Added bonus: since the skin is all on top, you get even more of that perfectly golden brown crispy skin that we all fight over! And the backbone can add even more delicious flavor to your gravy!

An overhead image of hands cutting the backbone out of a turkey.

Tips for this spatchcock turkey recipe

  • Often your butcher or meat counter employee with spatchcock the bird for you if you’re buying a fresh bird- it never hurts to ask! Make sure they save the backbone, gizzards and neck for you to make gravy. I like to remove the wings as well to use in my gravy but you can also have them leave the wings on.
  • You’ll want to use a really sharp knife, but I prefer super sharp kitchen shears.
  • Even though it’s flat with the majority of the meat on top, make sure you season the bird on both sides and under the skin as well- and use butter! It make it even more moist since you’re adding additional fat.
  • When cooking, keep an eye on it, and if any of the skin is browning too fast, cover only that part so it doesn’t burn.
  • This will cook a lot faster than a whole turkey, so keep an eye on the temperature.
  • Be sure to let your bird rest for 20-30 minutes. This will all the bird to finish cooking and the juices to redistribute within the meat.

An overhead image of a roasted spatchcocked turkey on a cutting board with hers and lemons surrounding it.

How long does it take a spatchcock turkey to cook?

Mine took around 90 minutes in the oven but always go by temperature, not time. You’ll want to place a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh to check the temperature. I remove the bird once it has reached 161 degrees, as it will continue cooking while it rests and reach 165 degrees.

What is the safe temperature for consuming a turkey?

165 degrees is considered the safe temperature for poultry. You’ll want the breast to be this temperature. Don’t be alarmed if the thigh is a lot higher in temp (around 180). It cooks faster but the meat is more tender. And when taking the temperature, insert the thermometer into the thickest past of the breast and make sure you aren’t touching any bone.

An overhead image of two hands opening up a turkey once the backbone is removed

What about the wings?

Many people leave them on and tuck them before cooking. I prefer to remove them and use them for gravy.

Should I remove the wish bone?

This is optional but it will make carving the breast meat easier later on, so I encourage it.

An overhead image of cutting out the wishbone from a turkey.

Helpful tools:

  1. Chef’s knife or Kitchen shears
  2. Cutting board
  3. Roasting Pan
  4. Thermometer

An overhead image of two hands pushing down on the turkey breasts to flatten the bird.

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How to spatchcock turkey
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 30 mins
Resting time
25 mins
Total Time
2 hrs 15 mins
 

I'm sharing step-by-step instructions along with tips and tricks for how to spatchcock turkey the easy way. The results are so juicy and delicious you'll never what to roast a whole turkey again!

Course: dinner, Main, Main Course, Main dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: spatchcock turkey
Author: Jessy Freimann, The Life Jolie
Ingredients
  • A clean surface, I like to use a sheet pan covered in parchment
  • 11-14 pound turkey, any larger won't fit into a pan. If you're feeding more people, I recommend using 2 smaller turkeys.
  • Sharp kitchen shears, a sharp knife will also work, but I find shears easier to work with
  • Sharp paring knife
Instructions
  1. Begin by patting the turkey dry with a paper towel to make it easier to work with and less slippery.

  2. Remove neck and gizzards from the carcass and set aside for gravy.

  3. Optional- Use a sharp knife to remove the wings by cutting them at the joint for easy removal (go right around the "knuckle"). I like to use the wings for the gravy ,but if you'd like to leave the wings on, be sure to tuck the wing tips under the bird before roasting.

  4. Flip the turkey breast-side down with the legs pointing away from you.

  5. Use the kitchen shears or a sharp knife on one side of the back bone to carefully cut away, all the way down to the other end.

    An overhead image of hands beginning to remove the backbone from a turkey.
  6. Repeat on the other side until you remove the back bone completely. Set the backbone aside for gravy.

    An overhead image of hands cutting the backbone out of a turkey.
  7. Turn the turkey so that the legs are facing you. Gently run your knife down the center of the inside of the breast bone. This is optional but it makes flattening easier later.

    An overhead image of two hands opening up a turkey once the backbone is removed
  8. This next step is optional but I highly recommend doing it for easier carving of the turkey breasts once cooked. You can remove the wishbone by carving along it with a paring knife and gently pulling it out. This is located at the front of the turkey (on the side that doesn't have the legs).

    An overhead image of cutting out the wishbone from a turkey.
  9. Flip the turkey over so the breast side is up and lay it flat.

  10. Take both hands and firmly push down on the breasts to fully flatten. You will hear a crack but don't be alarmed, this is supposed to happen.

    An overhead image of two hands pushing down on the turkey breasts to flatten the bird.
  11. Season to your taste and bake at 425 degrees until the thickest part of the breast reaches 161 degrees, around 90 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for 20 minutes before carving. Serve immediately.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

When removing the backbone be mindful of the thigh bone, which comes around the middle of the backbone. You want to be low enough and close to the center so that you can cut through that. Sometimes it's helpful to cut halfway down either side of the backbone before completing your cutting.

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