How to Spatchcock a Turkey for the Fastest-Cooking, Juiciest Turkey Ever
Featured Recipe: Spatchcock Turkey with Sage & Thyme
There are three things everyone wants in a Thanksgiving turkey: crispy skin, juicy meat and a fast cooking time. Using the spatchcock method to cook your turkey is the fail-proof way to get all that and more. Don't let the name scare you off. Spatchcocking just means removing the backbone and butterflying the bird.
Flattening your turkey out like this gives you more surface area, which means it cooks in half the time of traditional roasting methods, stays moister (the shorter cooking time doesn't allow your turkey to dry out) and gets the skin even crisper (because more of it is exposed to that hot oven air). Plus, this method doesn't require any special equipment like that roasting pan and rack you only use once a year. All you need is a large rimmed baking sheet (but it will work in your roasting pan too) and a pair of heavy-duty kitchen shears.
How to Spatchcock a Turkey
Step 1. Cut Out the Backbone
Using kitchen shears or poultry shears, cut the turkey down one side of the backbone, through the ribs. Make an identical cut on the opposite side to remove the backbone completely. Discard the backbone or turn it into turkey stock (you can even save it in the freezer to make stock another time).
Step 2. Break the Breastbone
Flip the turkey over so it's cut-side down, and, with both hands on top of the breastbone (where the two breasts meet, right in the middle of the bird), push down forcefully with the heel of your hand to flatten the bird. You should hear a crack. You do have to use some strength and push hard, so if you don't want to do this yourself, just ask the butcher at the grocery store or meat shop where you bought your turkey to cut out the backbone and flatten the bird for you.
Step 3. Arrange the Bird
Another benefit of a spatchcock turkey? No twine is required. With this method, there is no need to truss the bird.
Splay the thighs outward so all of the skin is exposed and facing up, and tuck the wings under the body, so everything is lying flat but still compact.
Step 4. Season the Bird
Time to add the flavor! Use your favorite turkey rub and/or seasoning here. We like to use a blend of fresh herbs, such as sage and thyme, with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Loosen the skin and rub the mixture under the skin, all over the meat, to make sure it all gets coated in flavor. Rub any excess mixture on top of the skin.
Step 5. Add Extra Moisture
There are two ways you can cook the turkey: in a roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet, with or without a wire rack. Putting the bird on the wire rack allows all the liquid to drain off the bird, which will make sure it's extra-crispy. However, both methods work well.
Whichever one you choose, you need to make sure you have some moist aromatics underneath the turkey to prevent the fat drippings from scorching (and setting off your smoke detectors). You can use classic Thanksgiving flavors like chopped carrot, onion and celery or go with something fruitier—we like to roast the turkey on a bed of sliced lemons.
Step 6. Roast It Hot and Fast
Roast the turkey in a 450°F oven. The hot temperature gives you that crispy skin and helps the turkey to cook fast (while still cooking it all the way through) without drying it out. Leave the turkey in the oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast (without touching bone) registers 165°F. This takes 9 to 10 minutes per pound, so a 12-pound turkey takes 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. Remove from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes before carving to help retain the juices in the meat for tender, juicy roasted turkey.
Ideas for an Even Better Spatchcock Turkey
Pictured recipe: Cider-Brined Spatchcock Turkey
Brining is a classic way to inject your turkey with tons of flavor and prevent it from drying out while cooking. Combining brining and spatchcocking results in a dream roast turkey that's super moist and delicious.
To brine a spatchcocked turkey, add the turkey to the brine and refrigerate for at least one day before removing the bird from the brine, drying and then butterflying the turkey using the instructions above.
Grilling your Thanksgiving turkey is a genius move, especially if you're working with one oven. Not only does it add delicious, smoky flavor, but it also frees up a lot of space in your oven for tasty side dishes. Spatchcocking the turkey first is essential for grilling a whole bird; this way it can lie flat on the grates for faster, more even cooking. A charcoal grill is also key because you have to use indirect heat to cook the turkey all the way through without burning the outside. The easiest way to create indirect heat is to use a charcoal grill and push all the hot coals to one side, and place the turkey on the opposite side of the grill. That way the coals heat up the grill enough to cook the whole turkey slowly, without blasting one side of the bird with more heat than the rest.
Related: How to Carve a Turkey