Mastering the Art of Spatchcocking: The Key to a Juicy and Flavorful Turkey

If you’re a fan of Thanksgiving or simply love a delicious roast turkey, you’ve probably heard the term “spatchcock” thrown around. But what exactly does it mean, and why should you consider spatchcocking your turkey? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive into the world of spatchcocking, exploring its definition, benefits, and step-by-step instructions to help you achieve a juicy, evenly cooked, and flavorful turkey every time.

What is Spatchcocking?

Spatchcocking, also known as butterflying, is a technique that involves removing the backbone of a bird (turkey, chicken, or other poultry) and flattening it out before cooking. The word “spatchcock” is believed to have originated from the Irish phrase “spách poc,” which means “poor creature” or “poor thing,” referring to the bird’s flattened appearance.

By removing the backbone and flattening the bird, you essentially increase the surface area exposed to heat, allowing for quicker and more even cooking. This method also helps to prevent the common issue of overcooked breasts and undercooked thighs and legs.

Benefits of Spatchcocking a Turkey

Spatchcocking a turkey offers several significant advantages over traditional roasting methods:

  1. Faster Cooking Time: Since the turkey is flattened, it cooks more quickly and evenly, reducing the overall cooking time by up to 25%. This means less time spent waiting for the bird to reach the desired internal temperature and less risk of overcooking or drying out the meat.

  2. Juicier and More Flavorful Meat: The increased surface area exposure to heat allows for better browning and caramelization, resulting in a crispier skin and more flavorful meat. Additionally, the even cooking ensures that the breast meat stays juicy and tender while the thighs and legs reach the perfect doneness.

  3. Easier Carving: Spatchcocked turkeys are much easier to carve than their whole counterparts. Since the bird is flattened, you can simply slice through the meat, making it simpler to portion and serve.

  4. Space-Saving: A flattened turkey takes up less vertical space in the oven, allowing you to cook other dishes alongside it or accommodate larger turkeys in a standard oven.

Step-by-Step Guide to Spatchcocking a Turkey

While the process may seem daunting, spatchcocking a turkey is relatively straightforward once you know the steps. Here’s a detailed guide to help you get started:

What You’ll Need

  • 1 whole turkey (12-14 pounds)
  • Sturdy kitchen shears or poultry shears
  • Cutting board
  • Paper towels
  • Seasonings or brine (optional)
  • 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 gets crispy 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 kitchen shears or poultry shears, 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 to the desired temperature, typically around 425°F (218°C) for a crispy skin. Place the flattened turkey on a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan and cook 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 oven 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 Turkey

While cooking times can vary depending on the size of the turkey and your oven temperature, 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.


Spatchcocking is a game-changer when it comes to cooking 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 preparing for Thanksgiving or simply craving a delicious roast turkey, give spatchcocking a try and experience the difference it can make in your turkey-cooking game.

Spatchcocked Turkey | Better. Faster. Juicier.

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