Unlock the Secret to a Superior Thanksgiving Turkey: Spatchcocking Reigns Supreme

Are you tired of dry, unevenly cooked turkeys that leave your guests feeling less than satisfied? It’s time to ditch the traditional whole-roasted bird and embrace the art of spatchcocking. This ingenious technique, praised by culinary experts and home cooks alike, promises to elevate your Thanksgiving feast to new heights. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive into the world of spatchcocked turkeys and unveil the multitude of reasons why this method is a game-changer.

What is Spatchcocking?

Spatchcocking, also known as butterflying, is the process of removing the backbone from a whole turkey (or chicken), allowing you to flatten the bird for cooking. This technique exposes a larger surface area to the heat source, resulting in faster and more even cooking. The term “spatchcock” is believed to have originated from the Irish phrase “spách poc,” which means “poor creature” or “poor thing,” referring to the flattened appearance of the bird.

5 Compelling Reasons to Spatchcock Your Thanksgiving Turkey

  1. Faster Cooking Time

One of the most significant advantages of spatchcocking a turkey is the reduced cooking time. By flattening the bird, you eliminate the need for low, slow roasting, which can take hours. Instead, you can crank up the heat and cook your turkey at higher temperatures, often cutting the cooking time in half or even more.

According to renowned food writer J. Kenji López-Alt, a spatchcocked turkey can be ready in as little as 80 minutes, while Mark Bittman of The New York Times claims it can be done in just 35 minutes. Either way, you’ll be spending less time waiting for your turkey to cook, freeing up valuable oven space and allowing you to focus on other dishes.

  1. Crispy Skin and Juicy Meat

Say goodbye to dry, overcooked turkey meat and hello to crispy, golden-brown skin and juicy, tender meat. When a turkey is spatchcocked, the skin faces upward, exposing it to direct heat, ensuring a perfectly crispy exterior. Meanwhile, the exposed meat sits in a pool of rendered juices, basting itself and staying moist and flavorful.

  1. Tastier Gravy and Stuffing

While you may not be able to stuff a flattened turkey in the traditional sense, spatchcocking offers an opportunity to elevate your gravy and stuffing game. By roasting the spatchcocked turkey on a bed of aromatic vegetables like onions, carrots, and celery, you’ll create a flavorful base for your gravy. Additionally, you can prepare more stuffing than you could safely cram into a whole turkey’s cavity, and the drippings from the roasting process will infuse it with rich, turkey-flavored goodness.

  1. Improved Presentation

While a whole, plump turkey can be visually appealing, it can also be challenging to carve and serve at the table. Spatchcocking eliminates this issue by allowing you to carve the turkey before presenting it. You can arrange the carved meat on a platter, creating a stunning and appetizing display that is sure to impress your guests.

  1. Versatility in Cooking Methods

Spatchcocking isn’t limited to roasting in the oven. This technique opens up a world of possibilities for cooking your turkey. You can smoke, grill, or even deep-fry a spatchcocked turkey, infusing it with unique flavors and textures. Whether you prefer the smoky essence of a smoked turkey or the crispy exterior of a deep-fried bird, spatchcocking allows you to explore various cooking methods with ease.

Step-by-Step Guide to Spatchcocking a Turkey

Now that you’re convinced of the benefits, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of spatchcocking a turkey:

What You’ll Need:

  • Whole turkey (12-16 pounds)
  • Sturdy poultry shears or sharp kitchen scissors
  • Cutting board
  • Paper towels (for patting the turkey dry)
  • Seasonings or brine of your choice
  • Meat thermometer

Step 1: Prepare the Turkey

Remove the turkey from its packaging and pat it dry with paper towels. This step helps ensure that the skin crisps up nicely during cooking. If desired, you can brine or season the turkey at this point.

Step 2: Remove the Backbone

Place the turkey breast-side down on a cutting board. Using sturdy poultry shears or sharp kitchen scissors, cut along one side of the backbone, starting from the tail end and working your way up to the neck. Repeat on the other side of the backbone, and remove it completely from the turkey.

Step 3: Flatten the Turkey

Once the backbone is removed, flip the turkey over so that the breast side is facing up. Using your hands, apply firm pressure to flatten the turkey, cracking the breastbone and spreading the bird out into a single layer.

Step 4: Tuck the Wing Tips

To prevent the wing tips from burning during cooking, tuck them behind the breasts or simply remove them if desired.

Step 5: Season and Cook

Season the spatchcocked turkey according to your preference or recipe. Preheat your oven, grill, or smoker to the desired temperature, and cook the turkey until the thickest part of the breast reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) and the thighs reach 175°F (79°C).

Step 6: Rest and Carve

Once the turkey is cooked, remove it from the heat source and let it rest for at least 20-30 minutes before carving. This resting period allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring optimal juiciness and flavor.

Cooking Times for Spatchcocked Turkeys

While cooking times can vary depending on the size of the turkey and your chosen cooking method, here’s a general guideline for spatchcocked turkeys:

  • 12-14 pound turkey: 1 to 1 1/2 hours
  • 16-18 pound turkey: 1 1/2 to 2 hours

Remember to use a meat thermometer to ensure accurate doneness and prevent overcooking or undercooking.


Spatchcocking is a game-changer when it comes to cooking the perfect Thanksgiving turkey. By flattening the bird, you not only achieve faster cooking times but also ensure juicy, evenly cooked meat with crispy skin. Whether you’re roasting, smoking, or grilling, this technique opens up a world of possibilities for creating a delicious and visually stunning centerpiece for your holiday table.

Embrace the art of spatchcocking, and bid farewell to dry, disappointing turkeys. With this method, you’ll impress your guests and transform your Thanksgiving feast into a memorable culinary experience. So, grab your poultry shears, and let the spatchcocking begin!

Spatchcocked Turkey | Better. Faster. Juicier.

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