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.

spatchcock turkey thanksgiving dinner | www.iamafoodblog.com

How to spatchcock a turkey

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Spatchcock Turkey | www.iamafoodblog.com

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.

spatchcock turkey dinner | www.iamafoodblog.com

Reasons why you should make a spatchcock turkey

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

spatchcock turkey on a platter | www.iamafoodblog.com

What about sides and stuffing?

air fryer brussels sprouts | www.iamafoodblog.com

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 ;)

happy turkey-ing!
xoxo steph

spatchcock turkey recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Spatchcock Turkey Recipe

A beautiful roast turkey in under two hours with juicy meat and crispy skin, every time.
Serves 8
4.84 from 6 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 20 mins
Resting Time 20 mins
Total Time 2 hrs

Ingredients

Spatchcock Turkey

  • 1 medium onion peeled and quartered
  • 1 orange halved
  • 1 lemon halved
  • 2 stalks celery roughly chopped
  • 10-12 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 11lb-12lb whole turkey or the smallest you can find, see notes
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Rosemary Citrus Butter

  • 1/4 cup butter room temp
  • 1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves only
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 orange zested
  • 1 lemon zested
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Special Equipment

  • Meat thermometer
  • Kitchen Shears

Instructions

  • 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.
    the best turkey | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • 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.
    removing turkey backbone | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Trim off any excess fat or skin you might see. I took off the tail and the hood of fat near the neck.
    trimming turkey fat | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • 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.
    spatchcocking turkey | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • 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. 
    how to make spatchcock turkey | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • 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.
    Spatchcock Turkey | www.iamafoodblog.com

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.
    deconstructed spatchcocked turkey | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • 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!
    spatchcock turkey recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

Notes

See blog post for cooking times for other size birds.
inspired by Serious Eats

Estimated Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Spatchcock Turkey Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 609 Calories from Fat 216
% Daily Value*
Fat 24g37%
Saturated Fat 9g56%
Cholesterol 232mg77%
Sodium 394mg17%
Potassium 1019mg29%
Carbohydrates 10.2g3%
Fiber 2.7g11%
Sugar 5.4g6%
Protein 84.9g170%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Spatchcock Roast Turkey Recipe | www.iamafoodblog.com

More thanksgiving

22 Comments

  1. Love this way of cooking turkey! Saves so much time!! Also your sparkly nails are on point

  2. Bernadette says:

    Do you brine the turkey at all before the day you plan to roast it?

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi bernadette,
      no brining needed because the skin helps flavor as it drips down, but you could do a brine, if that’s what you usually do!

  3. Dian says:

    5 stars
    I spatchcocked a 12 lb.turkey last week – my first time! I’ve done chicken before, so I had the idea. That turkey was the best ever. Simple, under the skin seasoning, brushed the skin with butter. Oh, My! Done in 75 minutes. Whats not to love?

    1. Stephanie says:

      right?! spatachcocking is the BEST!

  4. 5 stars
    I love a good spatchcock (LOL!!) but really, SUCH a good way to roast things – I am guessing it’s never come into major mainstream play because everyone bows down to the big ass browned turkey sitting like a glistening rump on a platter?? Spatchcock would also be a HILARIOUS band name, made up of a food bloggers … Steph this looks delicious!! Please invite me over for turkey rice (or chicken rice!!) XO

    1. Stephanie says:

      mmmmmmmm turkey rice party!!!!

  5. Diane says:

    Bought an 18 lb turkey, but sounds like you don’t recommend this method for big one?

    1. Stephanie says:

      i definitely think it would work well with a larger turkey but because i haven’t done this recipe with one, i can’t recommend it. but, if you do try it, start checking the turkey at the 1.5 hour mark. it will most likely take longer – as long as you have an instant read thermometer and you get the breast to 150°F and the thighs to 165°F, you should be good.

    2. Tom says:

      Bigger the bird the bigger the pan needs to be to lay flat. And yes cook time will increase some. I always spatchcock (sometimes debone). Only way to cook a turkey in my opinion.

  6. Naomi says:

    Such a beautiful dish to make in such a low amount of time! Looks amazing!

  7. m c says:

    how about stuffing?

    1. Stephanie says:

      hi!
      i usually make a variation on the stuffing that i have in this post!

  8. Brenda says:

    Ooh, Can’t wait till xmas so I can make this.looks scrumptious.

  9. Brenda says:

    Wish xmas was here already , been waiting to make this for ages. Looks scrumptious

  10. Kathleen says:

    I’m definitely going to try this, but what really made me stop to comment is that I’ve never seen such a gorgeous turkey platter!

  11. Lila Cawood says:

    This is beautiful! I’ve been thinking about trying spatchcocking my bird this year and you’ve sealed the deal for me! Can’t wair!! One question—how much butter do you use in the citrus herb butter? I read over it twice and didn’t see butter as an ingredient?
    Happy turkey day to you & yours!!

    1. Stephanie says:

      oops, it’s a 1/4 cup! i’ll change the recipe!

  12. Frederick Jackson says:

    5 stars
    This year I made the turkey this way. Sooo good. The surprise ….the best breast meat I’ve ever tasted in 60 yrs of cooking turkey. 90 minute cooking time. Great for our smaller number at the table. .

    1. Stephanie says:

      awesome! yay for spatchcocking and for the best breast! :)

  13. Linda M says:

    5 stars
    I have done chickens many times (to roast them on our grill) but had never spatchcocked a turkey until this year. We had a 17# turkey and it was amazing! Took about 2 hours to reach perfection…skin crispy and all sections of meat were juicy and tender. Only way I will roast turkey from now on.

    1. Stephanie says:

      yay! so happy that your thanksgiving was wonderful :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *