Food & Recipes

Why You Should Spatchcock Your Turkey This Thanksgiving

Flattening your turkey before you cook it will save you time.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are just weeks away. If you’re preparing the turkey for the first time, you may be in panic mode. Even if you’ve roasted the turkey countless times before, spatchcocking your turkey could save you from hours of unneeded holiday stress!

First, what in the world is spatchcocking? It’s a technique used to cook poultry where you first split and then flatten the bird. Opening up the bird allows you to cut down on cook time and expose more skin for roasting.

Spatchcocking can cut your cooking time almost in half (for example, a 10-pound turkey could be cooked in an hour and 45 minutes at 350 degrees rather than three or more hours when cooking the bird whole).

Spatchcocking a turkey entails removing the backbone, which then allows you to flatten or “butterfly” the turkey before roasting. If done right the breasts will end up thicker and juicier, and the skin will be crispier since all of the skin is evenly exposed to the heat.

Here are step-by-step instructions to follow if you want to try spatchcocking this year:

1. Find The Right Bird

Instead of one big turkey, Cooking Light suggests using a 12- to 14-pound turkey. If you’re serving a big group, cook two birds. You can stack them on separate racks and swap their positions halfway through.

Something New For Dinner says a bigger bird would require a much larger oven. While it saves time, spatchcocking can take up a lot of real estate!


2. Cut Along The Backbone

Place the bird breast-side down, then use kitchen sears to cut along both sides of the backbone. You will also be cutting through some rib bones. Use a sharp knife for those tough spots. Bonus tip: You can also ask your butcher to do this work for you.

3. Prepare For The Oven

Once you have the backbone out (you may want to save it to make turkey stock for gravy), flip the bird over and flatten it out as much as you can. All Recipes says you should hear a cracking sound as you’re flattening. Season your turkey with salt, pepper and olive oil along with whatever herbs you prefer (the New York Times’ Mark Bittman recommends garlic and fresh tarragon or thyme).

Cook for an hour and a half or longer (based on the size of the turkey) at 350-450 degrees, making sure to rotate the pan every 30 minutes. Remember every oven cooks differently, so it’s most important to check the internal temperature of the thigh, which should hit 165 degrees.

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No more brining your turkey one day in advance and then cooking for hours!