Spatchcocking makes a Thanksgiving turkey that boasts the crispiest skin and juiciest meat, and cooks in a fraction of the time it normally takes to roast a conventional bird.

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Spatchcocking is the turkey cooking method you didn't know you needed. This method works by removing the backbone, which allows the turkey to be laid completely flat on the roasting rack, meaning it cooks faster, and gives you a more crispy and flavorful result. In short, it's a game-changer. Still skeptical? We'll show you just how simple it is to spatchcock a turkey with step-by-step instructions.

Why Spatchcock a Turkey?

A spatchcock turkey (also called "butterflied turkey") is a whole turkey with its backbone removed. The turkey is then opened up like a book and laid flat before roasting. (And it's a whole lot easier to do than it sounds).

Flattening the turkey exposes more surface area to heat, so overall cooking time is reduced. Our 10-pound spatchcock turkey was done in only 1 hour 45 minutes at 350 degrees F. Compare that with the 3 to 3½ hours it takes to cook an unstuffed 10-pound turkey at the same 350 degrees F. (See turkey roasting chart).

Another advantage to spatchcocking is all of the skin is exposed evenly to the heat, with none of it hiding on the underside. That means it all crisps up evenly. And who doesn't love crispy skin?

And finally, spatchcocking results in an ultra-juicy turkey. Why? Turkey has two different kinds of meat that are cooked through at two different temperatures. And there's the problem. Breast meat starts drying out after it reaches 150 degrees F, but dark leg meat isn't thoroughly cooked until 165 to 170 degrees F. People try all kinds of tricks to keep the breast from drying out while the legs are still cooking, but simply opening up the turkey and cooking it flat brings both kinds of meat to doneness at the same time. Problem solved.

How to Spatchcock a Turkey

Get the recipe for Roast Spatchcock Turkey.

1. Cut along the backbone.

cutting out the turkey backbone with kitchen shears
Credit: Kelly Cline

Turn the turkey breast-side down. Using a pair of sharp, heavy-duty kitchen shears, cut along one side of the backbone. You may have to use both hands to power your scissors through rib bones. A sharp knife can also help get through the tougher spots. This is perfectly normal. Tip: You can have your butcher to do the work for you. Just be sure to ask for the backbone so you can make gravy.

2. Repeat on the other side.

cutting out the turkey backbone with kitchen shears
Credit: Kelly Cline

3. Save the backbone.

backboned removed from turkey
Credit: Kelly Cline

Use the backbone to make turkey stock for gravy.

4. Flatten the turkey.

press breastbone of spatchocked turkey to flatten.
Credit: Kelly Cline

Use a sharp knife to cut through the cartilage at the tip of the breastbone between the wings - this will help when you flatten the turkey. Turn the turkey over and press down firmly on both sides of the breastbone until you hear a cracking sound. Try to get the turkey as flat as you can. At this point, you have a choice to make. You can season and roast the turkey right away, or you can brine it to amp up the juiciness even more.

5. Tuck the wingtips under the breast.

tucking in the wingtips of a spatchcocked turkey
Credit: Kelly Cline

6. Place the turkey on the rack and season.

spatchcocked turkey rubbed with oil and herbs on a sheet pan with rack.
spatchcocked turkey rubbed with oil and herbs on a sheet pan with rack.
| Credit: Kelly Cline

Place the turkey on a rack on a sheet pan. Pat the skin dry, rub it with butter or oil, and season with salt, pepper, and herbs. Tip: At this point, some home cooks like to dry brine the turkey for up to three days.

How Long to Cook a Spatchcock Turkey

roasted spatchcock turkey on the roasting rack
Credit: Kelly Cline

Roast at 350 degrees F for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Optional: Rotate the pan every 30 minutes to ensure even roasting. Baste with butter or pan drippings. Increase heat to 400 degrees F and roast for an additional 15 minutes to further crisp up the skin. Internal temperature at the the thigh should be 165 degrees F. Tip: Every oven and every turkey cooks differently, so be sure to use a meat thermometer inserted at the thickest part of the thigh, not touching the bone, to check the internal temperature. After all, you can't undo overcooking.

Once cooked, remove the turkey to a platter or cutting board and tent it loosely with foil. The internal temperature will continue to rise 5 to 10 degrees. Carve and serve.

Where Did the Word "Spatchcock" Come From?

It's a difficult word to say with a straight face, I know. But no one can say for sure where the word came from. In "The Oxford Companion to Food," Alan Davidson explains, "The theory is that the word is an abbreviation of 'dispatch the cock,' a phrase used to indicate a summary way of grilling a bird after splitting it open down the back and spreading the two halves out flat." Davidson further speculates that the word is Irish in origin, having seen the term in Irish cookbooks that date back to the 18th century.

But go ahead call it "butterflied" turkey if that helps reduce the giggle factor.

If you want to practice the technique before Thanksgiving, try this recipe for Butterflied Roast Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary.

Check out our collection of Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes.