how to spatchcock a turkey & roast a turkey this thanksgiving! a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving, friendsgiving, or holiday dinner turkey. by spatchcocking your turkey, you can roast the perfectly juicy, evenly cooked, & flavorful turkey in less than 2 hours total & free up your oven for delicious pies & sides. spatchcocking will make your thanksgiving this year a total breeze!
so. let’s talk turkey.
let’s make this year the year that you break up with your turkey roasting fear. you know…the little voice in the back of your head that tells you that roasting a whole turkey is so intimidating that you should avoid hosting your family’s thanksgiving dinner or your inner circle’s friendsgiving celebrations at all costs?!
the voice that tells you that no matter how hard you try, your turkey is going to be overcooked & dreadfully dried out?
the voice that starts to quiver when you think about how the heck you’re going to coordinate your oven’s holiday dinner line-up?
um, yes?! we’ve all been there, trust me.
(& even if you’re a seasoned turkey roasting vet – you still need to hear me out…this is gonna change your turkey roastin’ life. i promise.)
today is your day. i’m cluing you in on my secret to prepping & perfectly roasting a whole, 14-pound turkey (like a boss!) in 90 minutes.
ok, are you ready?…here it goes…the big secret…
you HAVE to spatchcock your turkey.
i know, i know what you’re thinking: “uh…jess, you want me to WHAT my turkey?”
but don’t worry. this isn’t a dirty trick. i promise.
spatchcocking is a super simple & super effective technique of breaking down your your turkey that speeds up the cooking process (like, a ton) & results in a more evenly cooked bird every darn time. i swear to you that it will change your turkey game for good.
sound too good to be true?
it’s not. pinky promise.
i know you’re still skeptical. after all, just how daunting it is to perfectly roast a finicky turkey is the topic of pretty much every magazine article & cooking show out there this time of year.
& i completely understand the skepticism. i’ve been there too.
but then i lived through the miracle of the spatchcock.
the first time i ever even thought about attempting to roast a whole turkey was a few years back. chris & i volunteered to host friendsgiving at our place for the first time ever. & as the hosts of the dinner, per our friendsgiving tradition, chris & i were responsible for providing the turkey.
that particular friendsgiving day, i will totally admit, was not one of my shining moments as a then-girlfriend-slash-roommate. i got up early to begin prepping for our dinner, while chris slept in pretty late & watched a football game that went into the mid-afternoon hours…& i’m pretty sure you see where this is headed, but as our guests’ arrival time crept closer & closer i got completely overwhelmed. angry words were exchanged (#whoops 😬), tears of frustration were shed (#doublewhoops 😬), & there may or may not have been an incident involving a ton of peeled potato skins & our garbage disposal (ehrm, don’t ever try to put potato skins through your garbage disposal. just don’t. take my word for it.).
the turkey was actually the only thing that saved our inaugural friendsgiving from being a complete disaster.
that year, bon appetit called out spatchcocking as a miracle turkey roasting method, so chris & i planned to spatchcock our friendsgiving turkey all along.
to spatchcock a turkey simply means that you remove it’s back bone, which helps it to sit flatter as it roasts.
& a flat bird is a really, really excellent thing when you’re roasting because:
- it has a larger surface area, which reduces roasting time by over 100%. a 14-lb bird takes about 90 minutes to roast when it’s spatchcocked versus the traditional turkey roasting rule of thumb of about 13 minutes per pound (totaling to just over 3 hours!!). talk about saving some time & giving yourself the flexibility to use your oven for other treats & dishes!
- it cooks way, way more evenly. think about it: when you roast a bird conventionally, its breasts are disproportionately exposed to the heat source. despite this, you have to continue to roast it until its legs (which are hiding under its body!) are fully cooked. & this is exactly why thanksgiving turkey is always dry: part of it roasts faster than the rest; as you wait for the thing to finish roasting, the white meat completely overcooks. a flat bird (via the spatchcock) sits with its breasts & legs at about equal thickness, & this facilitates in much more even cooking that results in a perfectly juicy bird. (every. friggin. time.)
& now that you’re on board, i’m going to walk you through how to spatchcock your turkey, step by step:
#1. the cast of characters for the spatchcock.
all you need to spatchcock your turkey is:
- a 12-14 lb turkey, thawed out & giblets removed (& brined, if that’s your thing)
- very sharp kitchen shears – though, a good knife also does the trick! (these are the shears you’ll see in this tutorial – i absolutely swear by them! – & this is my favorite knife – also shown in this spatchcock tutorial.)
- a roasting pan (like this one i use – you don’t need anything fancy here!)
- nothing else. that’s it.
yes! it’s really that simple.
#2: start the spatchcock by snipping out that back bone!
(hold onto that back bone for later! you’re definitely going to want it for your gravy!)
#3: score the turkey’s chest bone.
with its back bone removed, you should be able to gently stretch open the cavity of your bird, where you just removed the backbone.
carefully run the blade of your knife down the chest bone, as shown here. the goal is to score the bone with the blade of the knife, making it easy for you to crack it in just a second when you spatchcock your turkey. it will make a slight scraping sound when done properly! we like to repeat this two or three times, to make the spatchcock super easy. just be careful with the knife – it’s sharp & you don’t want it to slip!
#4: spatchcock that bird!
at this point, you should be able to stretch the cavity of the bird completely open, until that chest bone snaps. this takes a little bit of effort, so just put some weight behind it. if the cavity of your turkey has sharp pieces sticking out, you can use a kitchen towel to cover them & protect your hands.
voila. your spatchcock is complete!
at this point the turkey should be laying pretty flat. its breasts should be well-aligned with its legs, which may be a little loosey-goosey & seductive looking. (this is the only complaint i’ve ever heard about spatchcocking – some people think it results in a bird that looks a little too provocative. buuuut if you ask me, since you’re gonna carve it anyway, who really cares?!)
#5: butter, butter, butter.
yep. you’re gonna get all up in every nook & cranny of your spatchcocked bird & butter it up. i use a lemon herb butter using lemon zest, sage, rosemary & thyme (& you can find in the exact recipe below), but you can make any flavor combination you like.
as you can see here, we’ve kind of perfected our technique of buttering a spatchcocked turkey. we like to grab a few tablespoons of butter with our fingers, insert it under the skin (right on top of the meat!), and use our free hand to push the butter onto the meat, spreading it across the turkey. give it a try – super easy!
#6: roast, roast, roast.
about an hour before your guests arrive, pop yo’ spatchcocked bird in a 450 degree oven & roast, undisturbed, for about 30 minutes. after 30 minutes, drop the heat of the oven to 350 degrees. continue to roast the turkey for another 60 minutes, basting it in its lemony, buttery, herbaceous juices every 20 minutes.
don’t have a turkey baster? buy one here – it’s like $4.
orrrrr…just use a spoon. it’s the same thing.
#7: rest, carve, serve, eat, drink, be merry.
what more can i say? ’tis the season!
if you loved learning how to spatchcock a turkey, here are a couple more holiday recipes perfect for thanksgiving or friendsgiving!
- the dreamiest pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust
- autumnal roasted butternut squash hummus
- bourbon ginger cider cocktails
- 1 12-14 lb turkey, thawed (& brined too, if that's your thing!)
- 2 onions, quartered
- 3 carrots, quartered
- 2 lemons, sliced (& zested, for lemon herb butter below)
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- salt & pepper
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
- zest of two lemons
- 1 tsp salt
- very sharp kitchen shears (but a good knife will work too)
- large roasting pan (a disposable one will get the job done!)
- one last reminder to thaw your bird. a bird that is still frozen will not cook in time for dinner. it just won't happen. the general rule of thumb is thawing in the fridge, 24 hours per every 4 pounds. so for a 12-14 lb bird you'll want to start thawing a little over 3 days in advance to your big holiday dinner.
- in a bowl, mix together the room temperature butter, sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon zest, & salt until combined. set aside.
- remove neck & giblets from turkey.
- place turkey breast side down on a sturdy surface.
- using a sharp knife or very sharp kitchen shears, carefully snip along each side of its spine until the spine is detached.
- once the spine is removed, use your hands to stretch open the ribs of the turkey.
- flip the bird so it is breast side is facing you & place your hands on the center of its breasts, on its breast bone. use your hands & body weight to apply pressure to its chest plate, ultimately cracking the bone. *if you have difficulty cracking the chest plate of the turkey, you can flip it back over and run the tip of a sharp knife over the bone from within the open cavity. these score marks can help ease up any resistance.
- preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- arrange onions, carrots, & lemons on the bottom of the roasting pan. no need to muss & fuss over this - it can be as rustic as you like. (your guests won't even see!) at this point you can also toss in the neck &/or spine of the bird to roast along with the turkey - it will help add flavor to your gravy.
- lay your spatchcocked turkey over the onions, carrots, & lemons so the open cavity is open toward the bottom of the pan & the breasts are facing up toward you. gently tuck its wing tips underneath its breasts to prevent burning.
- using your hands, spread the butter onto the turkey, between its skin & meat. this will help keep your bird nice & juicy, & full of flavor.
- pat the bird dry with a paper towel, & slather it up with olive oil, salt, & any remaining herb butter you have.
- roast the turkey at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.
- after the first 30 minutes have passed, baste the turkey with its juices & reduce heat to 350 degrees.
- continue to baste turkey every 20 minutes for one hour, or until the thickest part of its thigh registers at 175 degrees on a meat thermometer. as you pull out the turkey & baste in 20 minute intervals, it may be helpful to rotate the roasting pan each time you put it back into the oven for even browning.
- let turkey rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.
- carve, serve, & enjoy!
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have you ever roasted a turkey? what are your secrets, tips, & tricks? share them with a comment below – i’d LOVE to chat!