Spatchcocking a Turkey: Easy Turkey Recipe

By: Keith



The first time my wife and I successfully cooked a turkey was in 2000.  We got married in 1997 so it took us a few years to get with the program.  In any case, it was a procedure.  We have both tried to do it and we have only really come out with a good tasting bird a few times.  Every other time it’s been too dry.  It’s just really hard to get a turkey right.  Spending all day in the kitchen is bad enough, but when there is a high probability of failure it’s even worse.  Well, I’d rather spend a fraction of that time and have a near guarantee of  success.  Turkey was probably not a centerpiece item at the first thanksgiving anyway.  I see no reason to continue cooking the bird the conventional way if there is a more efficient method available.  The point is to have a savory meal, not to screw the whole thing up as is tradition.



Spatchcocking (or Butterflying) a Turkey


Well, I heard Martha Stewart mention something that I had never heard of before, spatchcocking.  Yes, you heard that right, spatchcocking. It is the process by which one removes the backbone of the bird and flattens it out for easy cooking.  The benefits are twofold.  The first is that the turkey cooks evenly since it’s lying flat; the dark meat cooks before the white has had a chance to dry out.  That makes spatchcocking worthwhile right there.  But, the other benefit is it reduces cooking time dramatically.  Martha says she can fully bake a 12 lb turkey in 70 minutes and it comes out perfectly.  Here’s the procedure. Start by rinsing the turkey inside and out and patting dry with paper towels.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.


Spatchcocking part 3Cut Out Backbone: With the breast side down cut along the both sides of the backbone (with poultry sheers) beginning at the tail end.  It’ll rip right out once it’s free.


Open Turkey: Take the giblets and the backbone and use them later for stock.  Open the turkey along the edges you just cut, and turn it over so that the breast side faces up.


breaking breast bone and flatteningBreak the Breastbone: This is where a bit of strength comes in.  Push down on one side of the breastbone with enough force to cause the connecting bones to crack.  Then repeat on the other side of the breastbone.  Now you have a flat turkey.


Flattening: Adjust everything, wings and all, so that the turkey is completely flat.  Let it sit for 30 minutes before coating with oil.


spatchcockedchickendoneOil: Put the turkey on a baking sheet and brush olive oil over the entire surface of the turkey. You can season the oil with whatever you’d like.  Garlic, salt, pepper, whatever.


Roast: Depending on the size of the bird.  12 lbs takes about 70 minutes. 15 lbs would take about 2 hours.  The object is the get an instant read thermometer to read 165 at the thickest part.  Remove and let stand for 20 minutes before carving.


Roasting is not the only way to cook a spatchcocked Turkey.  Spatchcocking (I love that word) easily lends itself to grilling too.  Anyway, I’m going to do it this year in the interest of saving time and having something good to eat.  I think we’ve all resigned ourselves, us unprofessional cooks, to this seasonal holiday cooking torture.  I propose that it doesn’t need to be that way.  Sometimes we can have it both ways.  We can have better food in less time.  I’m in.  And, thank you, Martha Stewart!

12 Responses to “Spatchcocking a Turkey: Easy Turkey Recipe”
  1. J. Cruikshank November 1, 2009 at 5:53 pm #

    Turkey is just no damn good without stuffing and I don’t mean the foo-foo kind with apples and raisins. That crap needs to be saved for a fruit salad. I’ve cooked 1 turkey in 56 years and plan to keep it that way but IF I were to burden myself again your method sounds pretty good and funny. :-)

  2. Steely Dad November 1, 2009 at 7:09 pm #

    This sounds AWESOME! My wife and I have never attempted to cook a bird for Thanksgiving. We always just buy one of those turkey breasts and doctor it up. When it’s just the four of us, this works out perfectly. I’ve been wanting to try the deep fried method but have trouble justifying the cost and effort only to use it once a year. But this method of spatchcocking sounds totally doable.

    BTW, I love that scene in Christmas Vacation. Great holiday movie!
    .-= Steely Dad´s last blog ..On the Road (Never) Again =-.

    • Keith November 1, 2009 at 7:35 pm #

      I have to agree that the foo foo fixings just aren’t for me either. I like a simply well cooked bird and that it. Really? you’ve only done 1 in 56 years? wow.

      Glad I could offer a good suggestion, Steely dad. I’ve never tried deep frying either. I’m scared I’d blow myself up. You’re right though, this method is probably the easiest and it’s certainly probably one of the tastiest. Thanks for the visit guys!

  3. Walter November 2, 2009 at 1:10 pm #

    I’m a professional chef and I think spatchcocking is a wonderful way to cook any foul. But I usually go one step further and remove the breast from the bone, separating the turkey into four quarters. Breasts and leg quarts cook at different speeds. This is why your whole turkey always comes out dry. The breast overcooks before the thigh is done.

    If you are really adventurous, and you sound like you are, then try deep-frying. It’s more expensive because of the equipment and the oil, but I know of no better way to cook a turkey. Once the oil is hot, it only takes about 50 minutes to cook a 15 lb bird. You can involve the boys, too. They can help with the setup and cleanup, but you’ll want to keep them back while the bird is cooking. Hot oil and young boys don’t mix.
    .-= Walter´s last blog ..What is a father? part 2 =-.

    • Keith November 2, 2009 at 1:23 pm #

      Thanks for the advice Walter! I’ve heard of the deep fat frying method but, I’ve never tried it. Some day I will; people have told me how great the bird tastes when done that way. Oh, and removing the breast bone seems like a pretty good idea too. Thanks again for the comment and the visit :-)

  4. Angie November 3, 2009 at 8:19 am #

    Hmm….too many steps for me! UGH!! Do I ever hate to cook, my mom made me cook for the family growing up and well I’m done with it!

    But….This crock pot turkey recipe is SOOOO easy, Try it sometime!!

    Love love love the new “image” of you. :)

    • Keith November 3, 2009 at 5:35 pm #

      I hate to cook too, Angie. I though this actually sounded pretty easy by comparison. Of course, your recipe sounds even easier! :-)

  5. Matthew November 4, 2009 at 7:59 am #

    Deepfrying with a couple kids would be pretty fun if you built the crazy turkey derrick – Alton Brown came up with it a few years ago. It’s a system of pulleys on a ladder so you can lower the turkey from afar in case anything goes wrong.

    I highly suggest finding his deep fry ep before deepfrying the turkey. Which is delicious, I agree.
    .-= Matthew´s last blog ..One-Timer =-.

  6. Matthew November 4, 2009 at 8:09 am #

    Whoops, double post.

    This is how I cook those little cornish game hens. It’s smoky, but awesome because you heat up a cast iron skillet and sear the skin side for a few minutes. They get flipped and finished in the oven. It would be hard to sear that large a bird, but man it would be awesome. Maybe with an iron…

    I never stuff my bird – stuffing sucks the moisture right out of it and you end up with the dry bird lampooned (heh) above. I usually brine it and stuff it with apples for a good flavor. My wife was aghast when I told her about not stuffing and she swore she’d hate the resulting turkey – but she found it the best turkey she’d ever eaten. Missed that interior stuffing though.

    I suppose if one were wasteful (which I’m not, but some are) you could do a “Main Turkey” for carving and a “Stuffing Bird” for that great stuffing. Perhaps not so wasteful – the stuffed bird would still yield good meat for soup.

    Regardless, a grilled turkey would be the way to go with this, I think. Though, grilling a turkey in November in Michigan (where I am) would not be the greatest of things.
    .-= Matthew´s last blog ..One-Timer =-.

  7. SALLY KRAVAT November 20, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    I tried this method last year, after have great success with a chicken. Flat turkey is my only method for cooking turkey now and I will never go back to the old way…EVER! I also beer brine mine too. After spatchcocking the bird, I make a solution of one can of beer, big handful of Kosher salt and big handful of brown sugar, mixing well and enough water to cover the bird in a big bowl and refrigerate over night. Flavor is spectacular and meat is melt in your mouth tender! I oven roasted at 450* for about an hour. An instant read thermometer is your best friend!


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