spatchcocking a turkey: the art of perfectly roasting a turkey

spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving turkey this year, equally perfect for beginners to turkey roasting & seasoned turkey roasting experts.  by spatchcocking your turkey, you can roast the perfectly juicy, evenly cooked, & flavorful 14-lb turkey in 90 minutes(!!!).  spatchcocking will make your thanksgiving this year a total breeze!spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!

so.  let’s talk turkey. 

does the idea of roasting a whole turkey intimidate you so much that you avoid hosting your family’s thanksgiving dinner or your inner circle’s friendsgiving celebrations at all costs?  


well, this is the year that you’re going to break up with that turkey roasting fear. spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!

& you should hear me out, even if you’re already a seasoned turkey roasting vet.  are you tired of spending a dreadful amount of time artfully planning your oven’s holiday dinner line-up down to the minute??  are you sick of putting in all that effort & still ending up with an overcooked, dried out turkey???

um, yes??

friends, 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.  spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!

ok, are you ready?…here it goes…the big secret…

you HAVE to spatchcock your turkey.

WHAAAAAAAT?!

i know, i know what you’re thinking: “jess, you want me to WHAT my turkey?”

but don’t worry.  this isn’t a dirty trick.

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 that is spatchcocking.spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!

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, & 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 take my word for it.). 

the turkey was actually the only thing that saved friendsgiving from being a complete disaster. 

that year, bon appetit had called out spatchcocking as a miracle turkey cooking method, so chris & i planned on spatchcocking our friendsgiving turkey all along. 

long story short, because we went with spatchcocking our turkey, we didn’t even have to get it in the oven until 1 hour before our guests arrived.  all in the time between the last play of chris’ football game & the first ring of our doorbell for dinner, we had the time to tidy up our apartment, deal with the potato skin mess, squeeze in a target run to grab last minute essentials, & prep the sides we had volunteered to bring to the table.

so let’s cut to the chase.  all you need for spatchcocking a turkey is: 
  1. a 12-14 lb turkey, thawed out & giblets removed (brined too, if that’s your thing)
  2. very sharp kitchen shears (or a good knife would also do the trick!)
  3. nothing else.  that’s it.

whaaaaat?!?  really?!?

yes!  it’s really that simple.  

spatchcocking a turkey simply means that removing it’s back bone, which helps it to sit flatter as it roasts. spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!

& a flat bird is a really, really excellent thing when you’re roasting because:

  1. 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!
  2. it cooks way, way more evenly.  think about it: when you roast a bird with the traditional method, 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 cooked to temperature.  this is exactly why your thanksgiving turkey is always inevitably 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 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.)

so, are you on board yet??

ok, good.

let me walk you through spatchcocking, step by step:

step 1: to begin spatchcocking your bird, you’re going to lay it breast side down on a plastic cutting board (or any sturdy & non-slip surface) & use the kitchen shears or knife to gently snip out its back bone. spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com! spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!

(hold onto that back bone for later!  you’re definitely going to want it for your gravy!)spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!

with it’s back bone removed, you should be able to gently stretch open the cavity of your bird where you just removed the backbone. spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!

step 2: flip your bird, so its breast side is facing toward you again & the open cavity is down on against your cutting board.  press down against the center of its breast bone firmly to crack its chest plate. spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!

voila.  your spatchcock is complete.

at this point your bird should be laying pretty flat.  it’s breasts should be well-aligned with its legs, which may be a little loosey-goosey, & the turkey kind of lays about a bit seductively. spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!

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. 

i, on the other hand, just pretend it’s fat bastard & it’s slurring crazy, borderline offensive statements in a scottish accent.spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!

& i can’t believe i just admitted that.

but it’s true.

#notashamed

step 3: butter, butter, butter.spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!

yep.  you’re gonna get all up in every nook & cranny of your spatchcocked bird & butter it up.  spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com! spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com! spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!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. 

step 4: roast, roast, roast.

about an hour before your guests arrive, pop yo’ bird in a 450 degree oven & roast undisturbed for about 30 minutes.  after 30 minutes you’ll drop the heat of the oven to 350 degrees & let it continue to roast for another 60 minutes, basting it in its lemony, buttery, herbaceous juices every 20 minutes.   don’t have a turkey baster?  use a spoon.  same thing. 

step 5: rest, carve, serve, eat, drink, be merry.spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!

what more can i say?  ’tis the season!

spatchcocked roasted turkey with lemon herb butter
Serves 16
whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
1 hr 30 min
Total Time
1 hr 45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
1 hr 30 min
Total Time
1 hr 45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 12-14 lb turkey, thawed (& brined too, if that's your thing!)
  2. 2 onions, quartered
  3. 3 carrots, quartered
  4. 2 lemons, sliced (& zested, for lemon herb butter below)
  5. 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  6. salt & pepper
for the lemon herb butter
  1. 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  2. 2 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
  3. 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  4. 2 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  5. zest of two lemons
  6. 1 tsp salt
special equipment
  1. very sharp kitchen shears (but a good knife will work too)
  2. large roasting pan (a disposable one will get the job done!)
thaw your turkey!
  1. 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.
prep your lemon herb butter
  1. in a bowl, mix together the room temperature butter, sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon zest, & salt until combined. set aside.
spatchcock that bird! (& see above for visuals of what the process looks like)
  1. remove neck & giblets from turkey.
  2. place turkey breast side down on a sturdy surface.
  3. using a sharp knife or very sharp kitchen shears, carefully snip along each side of its spine until the spine is detached.
  4. once the spine is removed, use your hands to stretch open the ribs of the turkey.
  5. 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.
time to roast
  1. preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. using your hands, spread the butter onto the turkey, between its skin & meat. this will help keep your bird nice & juicy, & full of flavor.
  5. pat the bird dry with a paper towel, & slather it up with olive oil, salt, & any remaining herb butter you have.
  6. roast the turkey at 450 degrees for 30 minutes.
  7. after the first 30 minutes have passed, baste the turkey with its juices & reduce heat to 350 degrees.
  8. 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.
  9. let turkey rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.
  10. carve, serve, & enjoy!
Adapted from bon appetit
Adapted from bon appetit
plays well with butter http://playswellwithbutter.com/
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spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!spatchcocked roasted turkey via playswellwithbutter | whether you've been roasting turkey for years or you're hosting your first friendsgiving dinner this year, spatchcocking is a miracle method for roasting your thanksgiving 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 other delicious pies & sides. learn more about spatchcocking at playswellwithbutter.com!have you ever roasted a turkey?  what are your secrets, tips, & tricks?  share them with a comment below – i’d LOVE to chat!

About jess

i help modern gals turn everyday moments into celebrations with recipes that are just as easy as they are elegant.

12 Comments

  1. JESS! This is a total gamechanger. Like I feel like I could go buy a turkey today and invite people over this weekend and totally knock Friendsgiving out of the park! Your bird looks epic.

    And I absolutely love the description of the bird – “the turkey kind of lays about a bit seductively” – ha!

    • ellie, it IS a total game-changer. i’ve made turkey 3 times so far this year & there will be 2 more in the next week. it. is. so. damn. easy. lemme know if you try girl!

  2. You are fantastic!!! Man, now I really wish i was hosting Thanksgiving!!! And yes, I am dying at your wit nad humor. Killing it GF.

  3. This is the most comprehensive, most amazing tutorial ever! Girl you have major skillz!

  4. This looks AMAZING! Loved your easy step-by-step guide. I’ve never roasted my own turkey but you are making me really want to try. Also… let’s talk about how gorgeous your turkey turned out! Magazine worthy!

  5. Girl, you just killed this post. AMAZING tutorial. I have never cooked a turkey before (always too scared). Love the step by step photos!

  6. I wish I had a friendsgiving to host this year to make this, it looks amazing! I made my first turkey 2 years ago and it wasn’t the best. We cut it and then had to put it back in the oven since it wasn’t completely done haha. I’m gonna send this to my friend whose house we are going to!

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