Spatchcocked Turkey

Spatchcocked Turkey is a game-changer when it comes to preparing the bird for the big feast.

There are so many reasons that spatchcocking has become our preferred method for cooking the turkey for our holiday feasts, but the most important one is taste. We’ll explain the how’s and why’s and you can see for yourself!

A large white platter of cooked and carved spatchcocked turkey with cranberries next to it.

HOW TO SPATCHCOCK A TURKEY

All spatchcocking means is having the backbone removed from a turkey or a chicken and flattening the bird. It’s essentially the same thing as butterflying the bird.

The easiest way to spatchcock a bird (turkey or chicken) is to have your butcher do it. But, it’s really not difficult to do yourself.

All you need are some sturdy kitchen shears and a boning knife. Turn the bird on its breast, and cut along one side of the backbone.  You’ll have to put a little muscle into it, especially near the legs, but keep working it, and you can get it done.  Repeat on the other side of the backbone, and then just pop it right out.

Now, flip the bird back over, and locate the wishbone near the top of the breastbone.  Use a sharp boning knife to cut around it, and then just pop it right out.   This is not 100% necessary, but it does make it easier to carve a little later on.

Watch us show you how to cook a spatchcocked turkey and make amazing gravy!

PREPARING THE SPATCHCOCKED TURKEY

Even if you have your butcher remove the backbone for you, still place the bird on a large cutting board, skin-side up, and press down with the palms of your hand.

You want the turkey to be a flat as possible.

EXPERT TIP: Spatchcocking the turkey allows the bird to cook much, much more evenly, because it’s flat. No more dried out thighs, or under-cooked breast meat!

Two hands pressing down on an uncooked turkey that has been spatchcocked.

VEGETABLES ARE IMPORTANT WHEN SPATCHCOCKING

Now, it’s time to pull out your roasting pan. No rack is needed!

Put the mirepoix (roughly cut carrots, celery and onion) in the pan with a few sprigs of fresh thyme and a couple bay leaves, this will all serve as the rack for roasting the turkey.

EXPERT TIP: The mirepoix does a couple of very important tasks when spatchcocking. First, it imparts delicious flavor into the turkey as it is cooking. It also releases steam, which helps make the bird super juicy.

Two hands placing cut carrots, celery and onion in a large roasting pan.
Two hands placing a spatchcocked turkey into a roasting pan on top of mirepoix.

HOW TO SEASON THE SPATCHCOCKED TURKEY

Another amazing feature in spatchocking is that because you are roasting the bird in a flat position, with skin on the top, all the drippings go right into the meat.

More flavor. And even more juicy.

EXPERT TIP: If you like to brine your turkey, no problem! Brine the spatchcocked turkey as you normally would, and then just follow the instructions for cooking the spatchcocked bird. See our brine recipe in our Perfect Turkey recipe. You can also inject flavoring into the bird at this point, too.

But folks, this method produces such a flavorful bird, you’ll be great with just a little oil, salt and pepper spread all over the spatchcocked turkey.

Two hands pouring oil onto an uncooked turkey in a roasting pan.

HOW LONG TO COOK THE BIRD

We told you there were a lot of advantages to spatchcocked turkey. Here’s another big one: It cooks in about half the time as non-spatchcocked bird.

Because the bird is flattened, there is more surface area, and the bird simply cooks quicker. This is great because it saves you time, but it also keeps the bird from drying out in the hot oven! We start with a quick 30 minutes at high temperature (425 F) and then lower to medium (350 F) for about another hour. Use an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast to ensure you reach 165 F.

EXPERT TIP: We recommend going with a medium-sized bird when spatchcocking, around 11 to 14 lbs. Ready for another benefit? Because of the flat cooking process, you can easily fit two birds on two racks in your oven. Big gathering for the big feast? No problem!

An uncooked spatchcocked turkey in a large roasting pan.
A roasted spatchcocked turkey in a large roasting pan.

HOW TO MAKE THE BEST GRAVY

Whatever you do, make sure you hold onto the backbone (be sure to ask your butcher for it), because it will help produce the most delicious gravy you’ll ever have.

We’ve included the steps for making the gravy in the recipe.

You can make the gravy in advance, or you can make it when the turkey is roasting.

Gravy being poured out of a gravy boat onto sliced turkey on a plate with dressing and beans.

HOW TO CARVE THE TURKEY

Once the turkey is finished, let it rest for about 30 minutes. In fact, the turkey is so delicious, it can rest for an hour or so before carving and serving. This will give you time to bring all the other sides, such as:

Now, to carve, start with the legs. Move the leg back and forth, and cut along where the joint is.  Then do the same for the hip/thigh and wings.  Cut the breast meat away from the breastbone, and then cut into 1/2-inch slices.   Also, cut the dark meat from the thigh, and slice as well.  Arrange on a platter and be ready to impress!

A cooked and carved spatchcocked turkey on a large white platter with a fork next to it.

Ready to make the best turkey you will ever serve (and eat!) for your Thanksgiving feast? Now you can! Go for it…and HAPPY TURKEY DAY!

And when you make this amazing Spatchcocked Turkey, be sure to take a picture, post it to Instagram, and tag @howtofeedaloon and #howtofeedaloon!

A cooked and carved spatchcocked turkey on a large white platter with a fork next to it.

Spatchcocked Turkey

Roasting a Spatchcocked Turkey will produce the best tasting turkey (or chicken) you or your loved ones will ever try. The benefits are endless, with the best one being the taste. Once you try spatchcocking, you'll never want your turkey prepared another way. It's even better than fried! If you are feeding a large group, you can do this technique to 2 birds...and they'll both easily fit into the oven, because they are flat!
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Course: Entree
Cuisine: Thanksgiving
Keyword: Butterflied turkey, How to Spatchcok a Turkey, Spatchcock, Turkey
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 130kcal

Equipment

  • Roasting Pan, Kitchen Shears (if removing the backbone yourself)

Ingredients

FOR THE TURKEY

  • 2 onions roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 stalks celery roughly chopped
  • 4 - 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 12 lb turkey spatchcocked (or butterflied) - backbone removed
  • 2 tbsp oil or softened butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE GRAVY

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Backbone from the spatchcocked bird chopped into pieces (use a chef's knife to cut, or ask your butcher)
  • Giblets and neck from the turkey
  • 1 onion peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk celery roughly chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 5 cups stock chicken or turkey
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp flour

Instructions

PREPARE THE TURKEY

  • Pre-heat the oven to 450°F.
  • Place the turkey on a large cutting board, skin-side up, and press down with the palms of your hands to further flatten the bird.
  • Scatter the onions, carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaves across the pan. Place the turkey, skin-side up, directly on top of the vegetables in the pan.
  • Pat turkey dry with paper towels and rub all over with 1 tablespoon of oil. Season liberally the the skin with salt and pepper.
  • Tuck wing tips behind the back.
  • Transfer the turkey to oven and roast for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350°F. Continue roasting until an instant read thermometer inserted into the the breast reaches 165°F., about one hour longer.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to rest on a new baking sheet at least 15 - 20 minutes before carving.
  • Carefully pour any collected juices from the the roasting pan through a fine mesh sieve in a measuring cup. Skim off fat and then save the juices for pouring into gravy (recipe below).
  • Care turkey and serve with gravy!! ENJOY!!

MAKE THE GRAVY

  • Heat the oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
  • Brown the backbown, neck and giblets until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the onions, carrots and celery and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Add the turkey or chicken stock, and then the thyme and bay leaf and simmer for 45 minutes.
  • Strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve/strainer into a large measuring cup and discard the solids.
  • Melt butter over medium-high heat in a medium sauce pan.
  • Add flour and cook, stirring constantly until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.
  • Whisking constantly, add strained stock in a thin, steady stream until it is fully incorporated.
  • Simmer and cook until thickened, about 10 - 15 minutes longer.
  • Pour drippings from roasted turkey into the gravy and mix.
  • Keep gravy warm then serve with roasted turkey.

Video

Notes

Most butchers will spatchcock the bird for you.  If he/she is not aware of the term, ask to have the backbone removed and the bird butterflied. And be sure to ask for the backbone (for the gravy)!
Large turkeys (over 14 lbs) don't do as well when spatchcocking.  If you are feeding a crowd, you can easily fit two spatchcocked turkeys into your oven (because they are flat!)
You can brine the bird before preparing for roasting, no problem!  You can also inject with seasoning before roasting, too.
The gravy can be made in advance, or while the bird is cooking.
Carving Instructions:
  1. Use a sharp knife to cut the legs from the body at the point where thigh meets the breast.
  2. Cut through the leg joint, moving back and forth, to separate the drumsticks from the thighs. 
  3. Hold drumstick and slice meat off bone, if desired. 
  4. Slice thigh meat off the bone, angling you knife as you cut. 
  5. Carve both breasts from the breastbone and rib cage.  Slice breast meat crosswise into slices. 

Nutrition

Calories: 130kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 631mg | Potassium: 251mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 9405IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 34mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe? Take a Picture!Mention @HowToFeedALoon or tag #HowToFeedALoon!

POST UPDATE: This recipe was originally published in November, 2016, but was updated with new improvements to the recipes, new photography, and a fabulous new video in November, 2019!

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2 Comments

    • Hi Terence! Sorry for the delayed response. I would think that could be difficult because most turkey fryers have you place the cavity of the turkey around a central upright rod. With no backbone, that could be difficult. Fried turkey, however you do it, is fantastic. Without seeing your fryer, I’m not 100% sure, but my guess you’d be better off to not spatchcock a turkey that you plan to fry. Spatchcocking is best for roasting, smoking, or grilling. Hope this helps!

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