Make your next holiday turkey a star with this spatchcock turkey recipe. This quick and easy technique butterflies the bird for evenly cooked juicy meat and extra crispy skin.
Thanks to this spatchcock turkey recipe, our Thanksgiving and holiday dinners have become an absolute breeze.
If you are new to this method, Spatchcocking or butterflying refers to preparing a whole chicken or turkey for cooking by removing the backbone and then flattening it to create a flat surface and butterfly-like shape.
Compared to a classic Thanksgiving turkey, cooking the poultry using this method is extra speedy and cooks the meat more evenly, so every bite is juicy, tender, and moist.
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Why this recipe works
- Easier to cook AND season. Trust me, it’s so much easier to rub every inch of a flattened turkey compared to the whole bird intact.
- Never overcooked and dry. Our biggest worry when cooking traditional Thanksgiving turkey recipes was overcooking the breast meat while waiting for the things and leg to cook. Not here, though! The flat, even shape ensures that every piece cooks to temperature in the same time frame.
- Crispy turkey in a flash. Not only is this method so much faster, but it also exposes the turkey skin to the heat, resulting in beautifully golden and crispy exterior.
We love cooking turkeys using this method over traditional means. If you’d rather serve individual cuts than the whole bird, you’ll love my baked turkey drumsticks, turkey tenderloin, and turkey wings too.
You don’t need much besides a few seasonings and the bird itself to make a spatchcock turkey. Here are the ingredients:
- Whole turkey. While this method works for any turkey, I find a turkey weighing 11-13 lbs to be the perfect size to feed a crowd (6-8 people) and fit in the oven easily.
- Turkey dry rub. I like to season turkey with coarse kosher salt, brown sugar, poultry seasoning, and smoked paprika. Plenty of other spices and herbs go well with turkey, which you can find below.
How to spatchcock a turkey
Learn how to spatchcock a turkey with these easy steps:
Thaw and remove the giblets: Once the turkey is thawed, reach into the neck cavity and carefully pull out the bag of giblets.
Remove the backbone: Place the turkey breast side down with the neck cavity facing you. Carefully cut along one side of the backbone through the ribs and bones. Repeat on the opposite side, then remove the backbone.
Flatten the turkey: Turn the turkey over so the breast side is facing up. Gently apply pressure to the breastbone with the palm of your hand to flatten the bird.
How to roast a spatchcock turkey
Once your turkey is butterflied, it’s time to cook! Here’s how it’s done:
Season and refrigerate: Rub the turkey seasoning blend all over the bird, then place it in the fridge.
Roast the turkey: Place the turkey on a roasting rack set inside a roasting pan filled with a few inches of water. Roast the turkey in the oven until the thigh meat is cooked through.
Rest, carve, and serve: Tent the turkey with foil and set it aside to rest before carving and serving.
Can I smoke this?
Did you know that if you own a smoker, you can easily use this method to make a smoked spatchcock turkey? It’s so hands-off, the meat is juicy, and it has a lovely smokey flavor.
Once the turkey is spatchcocked, here is how to smoke it:
- Preheat your smoker to a temperature of 225°F.
- Place the spatchcocked turkey directly on the smoker grates, breast-side up, then close the lid.
- Smoke the turkey for approximately 2 1/2- 3 hours, or until the thickest part of the breast registers 165°F (74°C).
- Once fully cooked, rest the turkey for 15 minutes before carving.
Remember to use mild flavored wood chips in the smoker, like apple wood chips or alder wood chips.
Tips to make the best recipe
I know it can be intimidating working with such a large bird, but follow these tricks for success every time.
Use sharp shears: Sharp kitchen or poultry shears are key for making a clean, continuous cut along the backbone.
Use the giblets and backbone: Save the turkey giblets and backbone to make homemade turkey gravy and stock. If you don’t plan to use them immediately, refrigerate or freeze them until you’re ready. I like to use the stock in my turkey soup.
Don’t skip refrigerating! The seasoned turkey should sit in the fridge for 8 to 24 hours. This helps dry out the skin (yielding crispy golden skin) and gives the seasonings time to seep into the meat. I find 12 hours (overnight) to be the happy medium.
Baste the bird: I always baste the turkey in its juices to keep the meat moist and flavorful as it’s roasting. Trust me, the flavor difference is noticeable.
Rest and carve with care: Let the roasted turkey rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving for the best results. I find carving from the center outwards to be the easiest way to keep the slices of meat intact. Also, removing the legs and wings first makes it a breeze.
To store: Wrap the leftover carved turkey in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container, then refrigerate for 3 to 4 days.
To freeze: Leftover cooked turkey freezes well for 2 to 3 months.
To reheat: Reheat the leftover spatchcock turkey on a baking sheet, covered, at 325°F. You can also zap it in the microwave.
Serve this turkey with
Frequently asked questions
The roasting time may vary depending on the size of the turkey, but an 11 to 13-pound turkey generally takes between 70 to 90 minutes to roast in a 450°F oven.
The best way to check for doneness is with a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh as it’s roasting. You’ll know the turkey is ready to come out of the oven when the juices run clear and the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
- Remove the giblets from the turkey then cut the backbone and flatten it. Once flat, pat dry with a paper towel.
- In a small bowl, mix salt, brown sugar, poultry seasoning, and paprika. Rub over the turkey. Refrigerate uncovered 8 hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place turkey on a rack in a roasting pan with one cup of water.
- Roast 70-90 mins or until the thigh meat reaches 165°F.
- Tent with foil and rest 15-20 minutes before carving.
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