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The Spatchcock Turkey Guide

This method of cooking a turkey will make your life easier, save you time, and give you amazing results. I’ll show you how to spatchcock a turkey using my step-by-step guide. You’ll never go back to roasting another turkey any other way!

The Spatchcock Turkey Guide

Do you have your turkey yet?

This year I decided to bring a refreshing twist to my spatchcock turkey recipe. I traditionally wet brine, roast, and bake my bird but not this year. This time, I followed the Serious Eats guide for dry brining and spatchcocking my turkey. Lately, I’ve been obsessing over the spatchcocking method for all of my poultry. And I am so pleased with how amazing the results so far have been. So, it only made sense that I use this method for the most important bird of the year – Thanksgiving Turkey.

Large Turkey

Turkey Buying, Prepping, & Cooking Tips:

  • Size. Turkey’s math is easy. You can calculate how much you will want for each guest. Typically, you can count one pound of turkey for each adult and half a pound for each child. However, when using the spatchcock method to roast your turkey, I suggest you use a turkey of about 12-15 lbs. This site will help you get the right estimate on what size turkey you should buy. I’ll will be using a 15 lb turkey.
  • Thaw. According to USDA recommendation, you give every four pounds of turkey 24 hours to defrost the bird inside the refrigerator. You can also take the turkey out and quicken the process significantly but that is less safe and can promote the development of harmful bacteria.
  • Temperature. When cooking a turkey the traditional method, keep the temperature at 325°F to 350°F. Higher temperatures will dry the bird and overcook it. But if your turkey is split and flattened, cook it at 450°F for 20 to 25 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 400°F and roast until all parts of the turkey until the breast’s internal temperature is 150°F and thighs are 165°F.
  • Time. The cooking time depends on how big the bird is, how cold it is, the oven’s temperature, and whether you stuffed it. The general rule is to cook 15 minutes for every pound for an unstuffed turkey & 20 minutes per pound for a stuffed turkey at 325°F. I strongly recommend using a meat thermometer to ensure the turkey is done.

When cooking a spatchcocked turkey, cooking time will also depend on the type of pan you use. Since you will be able to cook it at higher temperatures, the turkey will take less time to prepare. The 13- and 15-pounders will cook between 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minutes.

golden color of spatchock turkey

What is spatchcocking?

Spatchcocking comes from the phrase “dispatch the cock” and means to split the whole bird open, remove the backbone, and flatten it from the back. Not to be confused with butterflying. Though the process is similar, there is a significant difference between the two. However, in a butterflied turkey, you split part of the turkey meat like the breast or thigh, not the whole bird.

Benefits of Spatchcocking Turkey

  • Even cooking.  The flatted shape from spatchcocking a turkey ensures that every part cooks evenly.  Resulting in tender moist meat and crispy skin all around
  • Enriching flavors. The turkey drippings will help you prepare a gravy that is superior in taste. You can also use the discarded bone to enrich the flavor of the gravy.
  • Crispy skin. Spatchcocking a turkey also keeps the meat moist, provides a juicier texture, and crispier bites. It happens because once the turkey is flattens, all the skin faces upward, keeping meat at the bottom exposed and allowing uninterrupted dry heat to reach it.
  • Cooking time. The thinner profile drastically lowers cooking time. The first time I used the method, I was amazed. I would typically cook the whole turkey at 325°F to prevent overcooking and drying the outer layer. But with the split and flattened bird, I was able to cook at a higher temperature, around 450°F, and voila! Quick and easy!
breaking the chest boned of turkey

How to spatchcock turkey?

The method of spatchcocking turkey might come off as intimidating; remember, you can hear the bone break? But it is really easy to do. Plus, it saves a lot of time. So, how do you flatten the bird on a baking tray? Use hard-wearing poultry shears or the Stanley Aviation Scissors. If you have neither, invest in the pair. Trust me. It will be worth it.

aviation scissors
  • Start with the chest-side down – using the scissors or shears, cut along both sides of the backbone. Be prepared for a little elbow grease. You can discard the bone, better yet, set it aside to use in the gravy.
  • Now, cut in the center, along the breast bone. Flip the turkey, so it lies chest-side up, and begin to fold it apart. Press hard at the turkey breast until you hear the bone break under your palm.
Breaking the chest bone
  • Pull the thighs to flatten it further and cut the wing tips off.
  • Dry with a paper towel to get my now flattened turkey ready for my butter compote.

Benefits of Dry Brined Turkey

  • Extra moisture. Dry brining makes cooking spatchcock turkey a simple task by eliminating the fuss of measuring adequate water, dissolving salt and sugar, and using more space. 
  • Adds flavor. A dry brine also yields a richer and intense taste by imparting flavor directly into the turkey because of the closer binding between the meat and spice mixture.

How to dry brine a turkey?

For this turkey, I mixed unsalted butter, Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, yellow curry powder, and just a bit of salt.

Mixing the butter marinade
  • There are four main pockets that I always try to separate the turkey’s skin from the meat; they are above the breasts and thighs. 
  • Once I separate the meat from the skin in those areas, I stuff each pocket with the butter compote.
Separating skin from turkey mat
  • Once I separate the meat from the skin in those areas, I stuff each pocket with the butter compote.
  • I left just a bit of the butter mixture out to smother it over the top of the bird.
  • On a rimmed baking sheet, with a wire rack, add your fresh herbs and vegetables. 
  • Then place the dry brine turkey flat on top of the wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet with the veggies & fresh herbs, chest up.
  • Be sure to move the oven racks down so that the turkey sits in the middle when it goes into the oven and gets this; it’s done in 80 minutes!
Turkey ready on baking sheet

You can even stuff the flattened turkey. Of course, it won’t actually be stuffed into your turkey. However, you will still be able to enjoy flavorful and plentiful stuffing. Simply lay the turkey on top of the stuffing ingredients. The turkey drippings will help you prepare a gravy that is superior in taste. You can also use the discarded bone to enrich the flavors.

turkey going in oven
  • It comes out perfectly golden brown, with crispy skin and juicy meat. I don’t think I can go back to my previous preparation. This method is a winner all around.

More Delicious Chicken Recipes

Now it’s your turn!

If you decide to try this method to cook the spatchcocked turkey this year, leave a comment below and let me know how your turkey comes out. Do you plan to make this recipe? Be sure to tag @meikoandthedish on Instagram and hashtag it #meikoandthedish

whole roasted turkey

The Spatchcock Turkey Guide

This method of cooking a turkey will make your life easier, save you time, and give you amazing results. I'll show you how to spatchcock a turkey using my step-by-step guide. You'll never go back to roasting another turkey any other way!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Calories: 7482kcal
Author: Meiko Temple

Ingredients

Turkey

  • 12-15 lbs Turkey
  • 3 onions roughly chopped
  • 1 lb carrots roughly chopped
  • 4 stalks celery roughly chopped
  • 1 pack fresh herb poultry thyme, rosemary, sage

Turkey Butter Compote

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon yellow curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt omit salt if using a salt brined turkey

Instructions

  • In your oven, adjust the racks down. This way, when you place the turkey inside, it will sit right in the middle. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  • In a medium bowl, add butter, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, curry powder, Cajun seasoning, and salt (if needed). Use a spoon to stir all the components together until you reach a smooth consistency.
  • Spatchcock your turkey by placing it chest-down. Using heavy-duty scissors or a sharp knife, remove the backbone (you can preserve the excess bone to make a broth for the gravy).
  • Flip the bird over, so it is lying chest up, and the cavity is flat to the surface. Use both hands to press down on the upper chest plate until you hear the bone fracture. It helps the turkey lay flat.
  • Use your hands to separate the turkey’s skin from the meat over the two breasts and two thighs. After creating a pocket of space, add in some of your butter compote inside those four pockets. Reserve enough of the butter mixture to cover the outside of the bird as well.
  • On a rimmed baking sheet, with a wire rack, add your fresh herbs and vegetables. Then place the turkey on top of the wire rack with the chest up.
  • Place turkey in the oven to roast. Make sure to rotate the pan every 20 minutes. The turkey will cook for approximately 80 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the breast registers 150°F and at the thighs registers at least 165°F.
  • When the Thanksgiving spatchcock turkey is ready, pull it from the oven and let it cool or 20 minutes undisturbed.
Tried this recipe?Mention @MeikoAndTheDish or tag #MeikoAndTheDish

Nutrition

Calories: 7482kcal | Carbohydrates: 94g | Protein: 850g | Fat: 404g | Saturated Fat: 173g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 65g | Monounsaturated Fat: 119g | Trans Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 3268mg | Sodium: 7145mg | Potassium: 11418mg | Fiber: 27g | Sugar: 42g | Vitamin A: 87905IU | Vitamin C: 57mg | Calcium: 901mg | Iron: 41mg

Equipment

Bowl Set
Heavy Duty Aviation Scissors
Sheet Pan
Wired Baking Rack
Meat Thermometer

*Nutrition information is a rough estimate.

**The equipment section above contains affiliate links to products I use and love. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Welcome! I’m Meiko, a Dallas-based food blogger who loves to share life and culture through food. There are no strangers around these parts only good eats. Let’s get to know each other better!

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Welcome! I’m Meiko, a Dallas-based food blogger who loves to share life and culture through food. There are no strangers around these parts only good eats. Let’s get to know each other better!

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