Butterflying a turkey is the fastest way to cook it to juicy perfection.
With this spatchcock turkey recipe, you can cook a large turkey in a fraction fo the time. It comes out with juicy meat and extra crispy skin!
While it’s perfect as a Thanksgiving dinner or for the holidays, this spatchcocked turkey is easy enough that it can be made any time of year.
The Fastest Way to Cook a Big Turkey!
My mom has been making spatchcock turkey for years. I have been making my friend Mary’s roast turkey which uses a similar method of breaking down the turkey.
- Spatchcock turkey means that a whole turkey is flattened before cooking.
- It cooks so much faster than making a traditional roast turkey.
- Since it’s flattened, it cooks evenly for extra tender meat (including the breast meat).
- The skin is crisp (no brine required) and there are still lots of dripppings for gravy.
What Is Spatchcock?
Spatchcocking a bird is the process of removing the backbone and flattening it onto a baking tray (or butterflying it). It may seem a bit intimidating but it’s really easy to do, saves a lot of cook time and helps everything cook evenly.
With this method, you can cook a 10-12 lb turkey in about 70-90 minutes!
How To Spatchcock A Turkey
With a spatchcocked turkey, you will need to use poultry shears or very strong kitchen shears to cut the backbone out. Regular scissors don’t work and even some kitchen scissors are not strong enough (and a knife is dangerous for this job).
If you plan to spatchcock a turkey, I’d suggest investing in poultry shears or ask the butcher or meat department if they’ll cut the backbone out for you, many of them will and it’ll make your job a lot easier.
- Place a chicken or turkey breast side down on a cutting board. Cut along both sides of the backbone with the poultry shears. Depending on the size of your turkey, it can be very difficult to cut and takes a bit of strength. Be sure to set the backbone aside to make gravy (or freeze it to add to Homemade Chicken Stock).
- Run a knife along the breast bone in the center to “score” it. Flip the turkey over (so it is breast side up) and begin to fold it apart.
- Press very firmly on the center of the turkey breast with the palms of your hand until you hear it snap and flatten out.
- Pull the thighs out to help flatten the bird even more. Once the turkey is flattened, tuck thewing tips under.
This recipe works for spatchcock turkey or spatchcock chicken, the method is the same just the cooking time needs to be adjusted!
Choosing a Turkey for this Recipe
I’ve used a turkey up to 20 lbs but keep in mind, it’s really hard to find a pan that fits a spatchcocked turkey larger than 16 lbs (I had to go to a restaurant store to buy a huge pan for a 20-pounder).
I would suggest a turkey of about 10-14 lbs.
When making spatchcock turkey, you can use a butter-basted turkey (like Butterball) or regular turkey. I lower the temperature a bit if using a butter-basted turkey so the drippings don’t burn.
A Baking Pan for Spatchcock Turkey
Make sure your roasting pan has a fairly deep rim as the turkey will have drippings that you’ll want for gravy!
I like to keep it simple with fresh herbs and a bit of olive oil. You can add garlic powder but fresh garlic will burn at a high temperature.
I generally don’t use a wire rack but sometimes I do put a few onion slices and celery ribs under the turkey for extra flavor.
Season the skin generously with kosher salt and black pepper.
How to Make Spatchcock Turkey
- Once the turkey is butterflied (as above), place it on a rimmed baking tray and rest for 30 minutes (or cover with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge overnight). This will allow juices to release and make crisper skin.
- Pat the skin dry with a paper towel and brush the skin with olive oil and herbs.
- Roast the turkey it until it is tender and the skin is crisp about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Rest 15 minutes before cutting.
Spatchcock turkey can also be cooked in a smoker.
Temperature for Spatchcock Turkey
This cooks nice and evenly since it’s flattened. A high temperature seals in the juices and ensures crispy skin.
- Roast at 450°F for a regular turkey
- Roast at 425°F for a butter-basted (or Butterball) turkey
The turkey should be baked until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165°F. Like all roasted meats, rest the turkey for at least 15 minutes before you carve it. This frees up the oven to get the rest of your sides ready!
When I make a spatchcocked turkey, I often cook Crock Pot Stuffing or make my favorite stuffing recipe!
Serve the spatchcocked turkey alongside all of your favorite Thanksgiving side dishes like dinner rolls, sweet potato casserole and don’t forget the gravy!
More Thanksgiving Recipes You’ll Love
We serve this alongside Mashed Potatoes and our favorite Asparagus or Bacon Wrapped Green Beans.
More Ways to Cook a Turkey
- 1 whole turkey approximately 10-12 pounds, thawed
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh herbs rosemary, thyme, parsley, sage
- 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning or turkey seasoning, optional
- salt and pepper
- Remove neck and giblets from the turkey (and reserve for broth or gravy).
- Place the turkey on a work surface, breast side down, so the backbone is facing up. Using poultry shears, cut along each side of the backbone to remove the backbone completely (reserve the bone for broth or gravy).
- Flip the turkey over, breast side up. Using your palms, press on the turkey to flatten it. You should hear the cartilage in the breastbone crack as it flattens.
- Tuck the wing tips under or snip them off and reserve for gravy.
- You can cover the turkey with plastic wrap and rest in the fridge for 2 hours or up to overnight. Discard any juices on the baking tray before roasting.*
- Preheat oven to 450°F*. Combine olive oil and chopped fresh herbs. Set aside.
- Arrange the turkey on a large rimmed baking sheet. Dab the skin dry with paper towels. Brush with the olive oil mixture and season well with salt and pepper.
- Roast the turkey for 1 ¼ hrs to 1 ½ hrs or until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F.
- Remove from the oven and loosely tent with foil. Rest at least 15 minutes before carving.
- If using a butter-basted turkey, reduce oven temperature to 425°F.
- Cutting the turkey and letting it rest allows for some of the juices to drain. This step is optional.
- I’ve used a turkey up to 20lbs but it’s really hard to find a pan that fits a spatchcocked turkey larger than 16lbs. I would suggest a turkey about 12 lbs.
- Ask the butcher if they’ll cut the backbone out for you, many of them will and it’ll make your job a lot easier.
- Make sure your roasting pan has a fairly deep rim as the turkey will have drippings that you’ll want for gravy!
- I generally don’t use a wire rack but sometimes I do put a few onion slices and celery ribs under the turkey for extra flavor.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.
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If I don’t have strong enough scissors to cut the backbone out, do you think an electric knife might work? I have a 12 lb turkey.
I am not sure if an electric knife would be strong enough, but I would be concerned about how slippery it is Dianna. If you do not have strong enough scissors, I would ask the butcher at your local store.
I have a 22 pound turkey that is spatchcock turkey with the legs removed to fit the pan! Can you tell me temp and time generally? I believe 425 then lower it for about 2 hours or so?
I haven’t tried a 22 pound turkey so I can’t say for sure how long it would take Liz. I would roast at 450°F for a regular turkey or at 425°F for a butter-basted (or Butterball) turkey and then cook until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F.
I recently spatchcocked a 14 lb turkey and it was fabulous.
I now have a 22 lb and wish to do the same, but of course it won’t fit in the pan. I would appreciate hearing how it went for you, with the legs removed. I thought of cutting the bird in half but worried the breast will then be dry.
I had to buy a new pan to fit a 20lb turkey. If your 22lb turkey won’t fit on the pan, you can cut it down even further (I have successfully done this many times before). My friend Mary over at Barefeet in the Kitchen has a great tutorial on this.
What size pan did you use for 20lb turkey?
I used a pan that was 16″ x 22″. If your 20lb turkey won’t fit on the pan, you can cut it down even further (I have successfully done this many times before). My friend Mary over at Barefeet in the Kitchen has a great tutorial on this.
How long for a 17 pound spatchcocked turkey?
Also, if I find that it wont fit on one tray, can I cut the bird completely in half and just bake one the day before and one day of? How long would it be for just one half, so 8.5 lbs?
Hi Stacy, I would begin checking a 17 pound turkey at an hour and a half and cook until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F. And yes you can cut it in half and bake separately. It will take almost the same amount of time, I would check at about an hour and cook until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F.
Sounds and looks wonderful, I will definately do it.
I can’t wait for you to try it Pat!
What is the secret to watching a complete video on this site? It will play for about 30 seconds then switches to another video. I’ve tried opening in a separate window–same issue. Frustrating!!
Hi Lori, I’m sorry you’ve been having issues with the videos. While you are watching the video, after about 30 seconds two buttons will pop up on the right hand side saying either “Next” or “Stay”. If you hit the “Stay” button the video will continue. I hope this helps!
Using my electric carving knife made the spatchcock process really easy!
This is such a great tip Laura, thanks for sharing!
I can’t wait to try this tomorrow. I usually do this method with chicken. This will be my first turkey. The crockpot stuffing sounds good too. How long should I cook a 12 lb bird?
A 10-12 pound turkey will need about 1 ¼ hrs to 1 ½ hrs. You’ll want to ensure the meat reaches 165°F (I usually take it out about 5 degrees early as the temperature will continue to rise when you remove it from the oven).
Asking how long do I cook a 24.77 lb turkey and what temperature? I want to spatchcock it also
Hi Kim, it will take about 3hrs to cook a 25lb spatchcock turkey. You will want to check the thickest part of the thigh to ensure it reaches 165°F.