How to spatchcock a turkey?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: June 27, 2024

Spatchcocking a turkey is a fantastic way to ensure even cooking, achieve a crispier skin, and reduce the overall cooking time. Whether you're a seasoned chef or a home cook looking to try something new, spatchcocking can elevate your turkey game. This guide will provide detailed instructions and tips on how to spatchcock a turkey effectively. Let's dive in!

What is Spatchcocking?

Spatchcocking, also known as butterflying, is a technique where the backbone of the poultry is removed, allowing it to be laid out flat. This method ensures that the meat cooks more evenly and quickly. It originated in Ireland and has become popular among chefs and home cooks alike.

Benefits of Spatchcocking a Turkey

  • Even Cooking: Flattening the turkey ensures that both the white and dark meat cook at the same rate.
  • Crispier Skin: More surface area is exposed, resulting in a crispier skin.
  • Reduced Cooking Time: Spatchcocking can reduce the cooking time by up to 50%.
  • Better Flavor: Allows for more even seasoning and marinating.

Tools You'll Need

  • Sharp kitchen shears or poultry scissors
  • Large cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Paper towels
  • Baking sheet or roasting pan
  • Wire rack

Step-by-Step Guide to Spatchcocking a Turkey

Step 1: Prepare the Turkey

Begin by thawing your turkey completely if it’s frozen. A good rule of thumb is to thaw the turkey in the refrigerator for 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds. Once thawed, remove the turkey from its packaging and take out the giblets and neck from the cavity.

Step 2: Position the Turkey

Place the turkey breast-side down on a large cutting board. The backbone should be facing up. Ensure you have enough space to work comfortably.

Step 3: Remove the Backbone

Using sharp kitchen shears, cut along one side of the backbone from the tail to the neck. Repeat on the other side to completely remove the backbone. Keep the backbone for making stock if desired.

Step 4: Flatten the Turkey

Turn the turkey breast-side up. Using the palms of your hands, press down firmly on the breastbone to flatten the turkey. You should hear a crack as the breastbone breaks, allowing the turkey to lay flat. If needed, use a knife to score the cartilage for easier flattening.

Step 5: Dry and Season

Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Dry skin ensures a crispier finish. Season the turkey generously with salt, pepper, and any other desired herbs and spices. Rub the seasoning under the skin and inside the cavity for maximum flavor.

Cooking the Spatchcocked Turkey

Roasting Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 450°F (232°C).
  2. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet or use a roasting pan with a rack.
  3. Lay the spatchcocked turkey flat on the rack, tucking the wings under the breast to prevent burning.
  4. Roast the turkey for about 1.5 to 2 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) at the thickest part of the breast and thigh.
  5. Let the turkey rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.

Grilling Method

  1. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat (around 375°F to 400°F).
  2. Place the turkey skin-side up on the grill grates. Close the lid.
  3. Grill for about 1.5 to 2 hours, checking occasionally to ensure even cooking.
  4. Use a meat thermometer to check for an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).
  5. Let the turkey rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.

Tips for Perfectly Spatchcocked Turkey

  • Dry Brining: For extra flavor, dry brine the turkey by salting it and letting it sit uncovered in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours before cooking.
  • Use a Thermometer: Always use a meat thermometer to ensure the turkey is cooked through without overcooking.
  • Basting: Occasionally baste the turkey with melted butter or pan drippings to keep it moist.
  • Resting: Allow the turkey to rest after cooking to let the juices redistribute throughout the meat.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  • Not Drying the Turkey: Ensure the turkey is thoroughly dried to achieve crispy skin.
  • Improper Seasoning: Don’t skimp on seasoning; it’s crucial for flavor.
  • Ignoring Rest Time: Skipping the resting period can result in dry meat.
  • Using Dull Shears: Sharp shears make the process much easier and safer.

Advanced Techniques and Variations

Herb Butter Under the Skin

For an extra layer of flavor, mix softened butter with herbs and garlic. Gently lift the skin and rub the herb butter directly onto the meat before seasoning the exterior.


Marinate the spatchcocked turkey overnight in a mixture of your favorite flavors. Popular choices include citrus-based marinades or spicy blends for a unique twist.


For a smoky flavor, consider smoking the spatchcocked turkey. Use a smoker or add wood chips to your grill. Maintain a lower temperature around 225°F to 250°F and cook until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C).

Carving the Spatchcocked Turkey

  1. Place the rested turkey on a cutting board.
  2. Remove the legs by cutting through the joint connecting the leg to the body.
  3. Separate the drumsticks from the thighs.
  4. Carve the breast meat by slicing along the breastbone and cutting into thin slices.
  5. Serve the carved turkey on a platter, garnished with herbs and citrus if desired.

The art of spatchcocking a turkey not only transforms your culinary technique but also enhances the overall dining experience. By mastering this method, you're well on your way to impressing family and friends with a perfectly cooked bird that boasts flavor, texture, and visual appeal.

Related Questions

How to carve a turkey?

Carving a turkey can seem like a daunting task, but with proper preparation and technique, you can achieve professional-looking results. Whether it's for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any special occasion, knowing how to carve a turkey is a valuable skill. This guide will walk you through each step, from preparation to serving, ensuring your turkey is carved beautifully and efficiently.

Ask Hotbot: How to carve a turkey?

What temperature to cook a turkey?

Cooking a turkey to perfection requires careful attention to temperature, both of the oven and the internal temperature of the bird. Ensuring that the turkey is cooked at the right temperature is crucial for both safety and taste. Undercooking can lead to foodborne illnesses, while overcooking can result in dry, unappetizing meat.

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How long to cook turkey?

Cooking a turkey is both an art and a science. The time it takes to cook a turkey depends on various factors including the weight of the bird, whether it is stuffed or unstuffed, and the cooking method used. This guide will delve into these variables and more, ensuring your turkey is perfectly cooked.

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How to brine a turkey?

Brining is a culinary technique that involves soaking meat in a solution of water, salt, and other seasonings. This process helps to enhance the flavor and moisture content of the meat, ensuring a juicy and flavorful result. When it comes to preparing a turkey, brining can make a significant difference, especially for large birds that are prone to drying out during cooking.

Ask Hotbot: How to brine a turkey?