How to Spatchcock a Turkey: The Secret Cooking Technique You’ve Been Missing Out On

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Finally! A juicy, perfectly roasted turkey is possible with this easy spatchcocking technique.

Looking to cook a turkey that’s tender on the inside and crispy on the outside? The Taste of Home Test Kitchen has discovered the secret to a perfectly cooked bird: spatchcocking.

What Is Spatchcocking?

To spatchcock, you remove the backbone of a whole bird and lay it flat to cook. You can spatchcock practically any bird; think turkeys, chickens, Cornish game hens and even pigeons!

Though the presentation isn’t traditional, there are a few reasons we prefer to spatchcock turkey:

  • It’s quick. Because the bird is flattened, the cooking time is cut almost in half.
  • The bird cooks evenly. With a whole bird, the breast meat often dries out before the dark meat is done. By flattening the turkey, the legs and thighs (dark meat) are more exposed to the heat, and so they cook in the same time as the breast.
  • The skin gets nice and crispy. Since the whole bird is equally exposed to heat, every inch of its skin will evenly brown and develop that crave-worthy crispiness.

Convinced? Us too. Follow along as the Test Kitchen walks us through the easy steps of a spatchcock turkey recipe. Apply it to your Thanksgiving dinner—or any dinner this year.

How to Spatchcock Turkey

Ingredients

  • 1 turkey (12 to 14 pounds)
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage

Tools

  • Kitchen shears: You’ll use a pair of these heavy-duty kitchen scissors to flatten the turkey.
  • Large cutting board: This task requires a turkey-size cutting board, ideally one with a trough to collect juices. Make sure to wash it between spatchcocking and carving!
  • Baking sheet with rack: Using a baking sheet and rack will allow air to circulate for even drying and roasting.

Directions

Step 1: Pat the bird dry

Using paper towels, dry your turkey to remove any extra moisture from its skin. The less moisture, the more crispy the skin will get as it cooks. (We can hardly wait!)

Test Kitchen Tip: Lay a damp cloth beneath your cutting board. This will keep it from sliding while you work.

Step 2: Cut along the side of the backbone

Person cutting the backbone out of a raw turkey carefully on a cutting boardTMB Studio

Place the whole turkey on a cutting board with the breast-side down. Then, locate the backbone along the center of the bird. Starting at the tail, use a sharp pair of kitchen shears to cut alongside the spine. Try to cut as close as you can to the backbone so you don’t risk cutting any other joints. You may feel a little resistance as you cut through certain rib bones of the bird—in this case, press down on the shears with both hands.

Test Kitchen Tip: Finding it difficult to cut? Stand on a stool for extra leverage.

Step 3: Remove the backbone

Person placing the severed backbone from the turkey off to the side if their cutting boardTMB Studio

Rotate the turkey 180° so that the uncut side is closer to your dominant hand. Cut along the bone again and remove the backbone from the turkey.

Test Kitchen Tip: Don’t throw away that backbone! Place it in a resealable plastic bag and save it in the freezer for your next batch of homemade stock or gravy.

Step 4: Flatten the bird

Person pressing a raw turkey down flat on a cutting board with one hand on each side of its breastTMB Studio

Back to the bird: Flip it over so the breast side is facing upward. With two hands (and a little bit of hulk-strength), press down firmly on the center of the bird until you hear a crack. This is the wishbone breaking! Voila. Your turkey is successfully spatchcocked.

One last thing. See how those wings are splayed out? Give them a quick twist and tuck them underneath the body of the bird. This helps keep the wingtips from burning and allows your bird to lie nice and flat.

Step 5: Add herbs and seasonings

Person setting down a raw turkey down on a sheet pan with a rack inside itTMB Studio

Transfer the turkey to a rack on a foil-lined rimmed baking pan. Mix the salt, pepper and minced herbs, and rub (with gusto!) all over the turkey.

Test Kitchen Tip: Adding salt to the skin now will help remove extra moisture so the skin can get extra crispy.

Step 6: Refrigerate overnight

Pop it in the fridge, uncovered, overnight. Trust us: A little patience makes a big difference.

Test Kitchen Tip: Don’t be tempted to cover the turkey with plastic wrap or foil before chilling. You want it to air out. The more the skin is exposed to air drying in the fridge, the crispier it will be after roasting.

Step 7: Get cooking

Ready to roast? Dial up the oven to 450°F and remove the spatchcock turkey from the refrigerator. Let your turkey come to room temperature while the oven gets toasty. (It’ll cook more quickly and evenly this way.)

At last! It’s time to cook. Send the bird into the oven and roast for about 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours. You’ll know that it’s cooked to perfection when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 170°-175°.

Test Kitchen Tip: If your oven is filled with Thanksgiving sides or pie, consider smoking or grilling the turkey instead.

Step 8: Carve and eat!

Sliced turkey breast piled on the sides of a white and blue plate with turkey legs taking up the centerTMB Studio

Don’t grab that carving knife just yet! Once out of the oven, let the turkey stand for 15 minutes before carving. This will help the meat retain its juices.

Then follow our step-by-step guide for how to carve a turkey: In short, start with the legs, move on to the breast and finally plate up the wings. The end result is a gorgeous spread everyone will be grateful for.

Wondering what to serve on the side? Try superstar sides like Triple Cranberry Sauce, Creamy Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes and Sweet Potato Crescents. But be warned, they just might steal the spotlight!

And Then There's Dessert...
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Nicole Doster
Nicole is the Content Director of TMB's Strategy and Performance team. She oversees the brand's shopping and trend editorial teams and assists with content planning across Taste of Home, Family Handyman, Reader's Digest, The Healthy and Birds & Blooms. With over seven years of experience writing and editing in the food and home space, she enjoys sharing cooking tips, recipe picks and product recommendations that make life a little easier. When she's not hunched over her laptop, she's either practicing latte art or fixating on her latest DIY home renovation.
James Schend
As Taste of Home’s Deputy Editor, Culinary, James oversees the Food Editor team, recipe contests and Bakeable, and manages all food content for Trusted Media Brands. Prior to this position, James worked in the kitchen of Williams-Sonoma and Southern Living. An honor graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, he has traveled the world searching for great food in all corners of life.