This turkey day, shorten cook time and get juicy, flavorful meat by spatchcocking your bird. Spatchcocking is removing the backbone and flattening the turkey so it roasts evenly in half the time. With just kitchen shears and 5 minutes of prep, you can have crispy-skinned, tender turkey with no under or overcooked parts. The simple technique guarantees moist, delicious results every time.
Let's get right into it because that is why you are here. And if you're ready to cook, check out the spatchcock smoked turkey recipe.
How to Spatchcock a Turkey
You are really just cutting out the backbone and flattening it out.
- Remove the Backbone
Using sharp poultry shears cut along each side of the backbone, staying as close to the backbone as possible. Start on one side, then flip it around 180° and cut the other side.
Use two hands on the shears if it's difficult to cut. Save the backbone for your turkey stock and gravy.
- Flip and Flatten
Flip the turkey over so it is breast-side up. Using the heels of your hands on the upper portion of the breast, give a firm press to flatten the breastbone.
It might take a few tries to fully crack the breastplate. If you are having trouble breaking it, you can use a sharp knife and make a small incision through the top of the breastplate. See photo for example.
After it is spatchcocked, I like to trim any excess skin that might be around the neck that can hang down and potentially burn in the smoker or grill.
What You'll Need
- Poultry Shears or a Very Sharp Chef's Knife - If you don't have sharp poultry shears, it can be done with a sharp chef's knife, but it is much more difficult.
- Large Cutting Board - Since you are spreading a large turkey out, it needs to be a big size board. You can also use a large sheet pan if you don't have a big enough cutting board.
- Nitrile Gloves make for easy clean-up
Advantages of Spatchcocking
Spatchcocking offers several advantages over roasting a whole turkey. The flattened shape makes it easier to dry brine as you can access both sides of the turkey. By removing the backbone and flattening the bird, the turkey cooks evenly, the skin gets crispy, and the roast time is reduced by half.
You can even add stuffing underneath where all the flavorful juices will drip down into it. The breasts and legs cook at the same rate, preventing the white meat from drying out while the dark meat finishes. Air circulation all around the flattened turkey helps the skin get incredibly crispy and browned.
Cooking the Spatchcocked Turkey
Once it is spatchcocked, it's ready to be smoked, grilled, roasted or even in an air fryer. To give your turkey stuffing even more flavor, you can place your stuffing and the bottom of the roasting pan and completely cover it so all the juices drip right into the stuffing.
Approximate Smoking Cook Time at 250° F: allow 11 to 13 minutes per pound when smoking at 250°F. A 14-pound turkey will take about 2 ½ to 3 hours.
Approximate Roasting Time at 325°F: Allow 18-20 minutes per pound when roasting a spatchcocked turkey at 325°F. A 14-pound turkey will take 4 to 4 ½ hours to roast fully.
More Delicious Turkey Recipes
How to Spatchcock a Turkey
- Poultry Shears
- 1 whole turkey
- Remove the backbone: Place the turkey breast-side down on a cutting board. Using sharp poultry shears, cut closely along one side of the backbone from the tail to the neck.Turn the turkey around and repeat on the other side of the backbone to cut it out completely. Save the backbone for making turkey stock.
- Flip and flatten the turkey: Turn the turkey over so the breast side is facing up. Using your palms, press down firmly on the breastbone to flatten the turkey. You may need to apply pressure a few times to crack the breastbone.If you have trouble breaking the breastbone, use a sharp knife to make a small incision along the top of the breastbone before pressing down.Continue pressing until the turkey is flattened evenly. The turkey is now ready for seasoning and roasting or smoking.
- After spatchcocking the turkey, use a sharp knife to trim off any loose neck skin that may hang down. This excess skin can potentially burn when cooking the turkey.
- I highly recommend dry brining the turkey for 24 hours prior to cooking it for best results.