Foolproof Spatchcock 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, and better presentation, and lets you use the backbone and other bits to make gravy and stock right away.
How to spatchcock a turkey
- 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.
- 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 site may be a bit trickier, so go slow.
- 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.
- 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.
- Season. Place the turkey on your prepared rack and baking sheet and rub it with 1 tablespoon of oil. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
How long to cook a spatchcocked 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.
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 that – 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.
Reasons why you should make a spatchcocked turkey
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: