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Spatchcock Roast Turkey Recipe

Posted November 16, 2017 by Stephanie
Spatchcock Roast Turkey Recipe |

Spatchcock Roast Turkey Recipe |

You should make a turkey this year, even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. 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! I used to know this dude in university whose family ate a turkey every month. I never asked him how they cooked it but I’m guessing roasted?

They were Taiwanese and I think it was a Taiwanese thing? Okay, I just googled it. Apparently Taiwanese turkey rice is a thing! Which is funny because I totally made turkey rice – kind of a Hainanese style turkey – with our leftovers. Anyway, there’s plenty of time to talk about leftovers after Thanksgiving. I should be focusing on telling you about spatchcocking, which is my favorite way to make turkey.

Spatchcock Roast Turkey Recipe |

Spatchcock Roast Turkey Recipe |

Spatchcock Roast Turkey Recipe |

Spatchcock Roast Turkey Recipe |

Spatchcocking, if you haven’t heard, is just a fancy way of saying removing the backbone and flattening. There are several reasons why it’s superior to roasting a bird whole.

Reasons why you should spatchcock:

  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.
  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.

I don’t really know why you wouldn’t want to spatchcock, unless maybe you’re obsessed with bringing a whole turkey to the table to carve. Personally, when I was growing up, my mom always always carved the turkey before putting it on the table so we never had that awe inspiring moment when the whole bird was brought out. Because I’m a control freak, I like carving before presenting, just so you don’t end up with a hacked away at carcass – you’ll end up with neater bones (better for repurposing into, let’s say, turkey pho) and a prettier presentation.

Spatchcock Roast Turkey Recipe |

Anyway, here’s how you do it! 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 Roast Turkey Recipe
serves 10-12

Rosemary Citrus Butter

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


  • 1-2 onions, quartered
  • 1 orange, halved
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 10-12 rosemary sprigs
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 whole turkey, the smallest you can find, about 11-12 lbs
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

slightly adapted from Serious Eats

Blend or food process the rosemary citrus butter ingredients together. Set aside.

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. Tuck the wing tips behind the breast. Place the turkey on your prepared rack and baking sheet 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. 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.

To carve: start out by removing the legs by cutting through to 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 even slices. Remove the thigh meat away from the bones, saving all the bones for stock or soup. Arrange everything on a platter. Enjoy!

Spatchcock Roast Turkey Recipe |


  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:

    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. 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:

      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:

    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:

    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 :)

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