This spatchcock turkey recipe is a whole turkey that’s been brined, then flattened and roasted until golden brown. A spatchcocked turkey cooks significantly faster than a traditional roast turkey, and comes out tender and juicy every time!
You can’t have Thanksgiving without a turkey, but it can be difficult and time consuming to produce the perfect turkey. This spatchcock turkey is a great solution – it’s quick to make, looks super impressive, and is sure to get rave reviews! Serve your turkey with sweet potato casserole, sausage stuffing, and a variety of other side dishes for a memorable holiday meal.
Have you ever had a spatchcock turkey? If you haven’t tried this method of cooking a turkey before, this is the year to give it a try. No more spending half a day in the kitchen waiting for your turkey to cook; this version is ready in an hour!
How to thaw a turkey
Thawing a turkey is easy, it just takes time. The best way to thaw a frozen turkey is to place it in a refrigerator. Make sure that the turkey is either wrapped in plastic from the store or covered with plastic wrap as close to airtight as possible. You will want to thaw the turkey in a roasting pan to collect any water that drips off the bird. You can thaw a turkey by leaving it in the refrigerator for 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey. If you have a 15 pound turkey, it will thaw in the refrigerator in about 3 days.
If you are short on time, you can thaw a turkey in cold water. Leave the turkey in its plastic wrapping and place it in a brining bag or other sealable bag. You can buy brining bags in most cooking stores. Submerge the turkey and bag in a sink full of cold water. The turkey must be fully submerged. You can place a heavy pot or pan on the turkey to keep it submerged. Drain the sink and fill it with new cold water every 25 minutes. The turkey will thaw after a half an hour per pound of turkey. For a 15 pound turkey, this method will take 7 1/2 hours.
I highly recommend thawing in a refrigerator. It is easier and you can be certain that they turkey stays appropriately cool while thawing.
How to brine a turkey
The key to a fantastic turkey is brining the bird before cooking it. Luckily, I have the most amazing turkey brine recipe. To brine the turkey, simply mix up a brine which includes salt, sugar, water, citrus and herbs. Remove the neck and giblets, drain any excess blood or fluids from the turkey and place the turkey in the brine. You can use a large pot or a brining bag. The turkey should be fully submerged in the brine. Place the bird and the brine in the refrigerator and let those flavors develop for about 18-24 hours.
When you are ready to cook the turkey, simply remove it from the brine, rinse the turkey with cold water, wipe off any stray herbs or lemon slices and pat the bird dry with a paper towel. The turkey is full of flavor and ready to go!
How to spatchcock a turkey
Spatchcocking a turkey seems a little intimidating, but it is surprisingly easy and worth the effort. Simply place the bird on its breast and locate the spine. On either side of the backbone cut down the length of the spine. Use poultry shears or a good set of kitchen shears. You want to snip through the ribs about 1/2 inch to an inch away from the spine. Cut all the way down the length of the spine on both sides of the spine until you can remove the back bone.
With the backbone removed, flip the bird over so that the breast is facing up. Spread the bird across a sheet pan and press down hard on the breast. You want to break the bones on the rib cage. Feel free to use two hands on top of each other for more force. Once some of the rib bones are broken the bird will lie flatter on a sheet pan.
Arrange the legs so that they lie as flat as possible on the pan without breaking the joints in the leg or tearing the skin. Finally, tuck the wings under the rib cage to protect them as they cook. Congratulations, your turkey is spatchcocked and ready to butter and roast!
Tips for spatchcock turkey
- If you get stuck cutting the backbone out, try cutting a little closer or farther from the backbone.
- You may need to snip some bones using just the tip of the scissors.
- I like to start cutting from the tail end of the bird. However, if you get stuck, try snipping from the neck end of the bird and have the cuts meet in the middle.
- Feel free to move the bird and backbone around a bit to see where the thinnest and easiest points to cut are located.
- When the breast meat is done at 165 degrees F, the thigh and drumstick meat may reach a higher temperature. The fat content of the thighs will help keep them moist and juicy.
Spatchcock turkey flavor variations
Spatchcock turkey has the wonderful classic roast turkey flavor in a fraction of the time. However, you can mix things up with some other flavors.
- You can use garlic butter for some extra flavor. Simply, add one tablespoon of minced garlic in the butter mixture.
- You can make a Mexican spice turkey by adding to the butter your favorite spice blend, or make your own with two teaspoons each of chili powder, paprika and cumin and one teaspoon each of oregano, garlic powder and onion powder.
- Make a Cajun flavored turkey by mixing in the butter a Cajun spice blend of two teaspoons each of garlic powder and paprika with a teaspoon each of oregano, thyme, cayenne pepper and onion powder.
Safe Temperature for turkey
For juicy, delicious and safe to eat turkey, you want the meat to reach 165 degrees F. When cooking spatchcock turkey, the breast meat will take the longest to reach the correct temperature. When you are measuring the temperature, be sure to measure from the interior of the breast meat making sure not to touch bone with the thermometer. You should also check the thickest part of the thigh to make sure that it’s at the correct temperature.
How long to cook turkey
Spatchcock turkey cooks quickly. An 11 pound bird takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes to cook through. Larger birds may take a little longer and smaller birds may take less time. Remove the turkey from the oven when the meat from the thickest part of the breast reaches 165 degrees F.
This amazing recipe cooks juicy, delicious turkeys much quicker than the traditional roasting method. With this technique, cooking delicious turkey will be so quick and easy, you’ll want to make roasted turkey all year round, not just on holidays!
More holiday dishes you’ll love
- 12 pound turkey giblets and neck removed
- 1 recipe turkey brine
- 1/2 cup butter softened
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- cooking spray
- Remove the neck and giblets from a thawed whole turkey.
- Prepare the turkey brine according to recipe directions. Brine for 18-24 hours.
- Remove the turkey from the brine. Rinse the turkey with cold water and pat it dry.
- Spatchcock the turkey by removing the backbone with poultry shears or kitchen shears. Flip the bird so that it is breast side up, place it on a sheet pan and flatten the bird by pressing hard on each breast until the ribs snap. Tuck the wings under the breast and arrange the drumsticks and thighs to flatten them without tearing the skin or breaking any joints.
- Make a butter rub by mixing softened butter with salt and pepper.
- Generously cover the turkey with the butter mixture. Take care to butter joints where the wings and thighs connect to the breast.
- Roast the turkey at 400 degrees F. for about 1 hour and 10 minutes until the interior part of the breast meat reaches 165 degrees F. The thickest part of the thigh should also read 165 degrees F.
- Baste the turkey every 20-30 minutes with melted butter and pan drippings.
- Remove the turkey from the oven. Let it rest for 10-20 minutes, then carve and serve.
Where was the rack , in the middle or one up from that?
Middle rack is best!
I see you recommend resting the cooked bird for 10/20 minutes. I was wondering if a longer rest would be OK. I need more time to coordinate other dishes in the oven. Is the issue the Turkey cooling too much?
How long do you need to rest it for? If you go more than 20 minutes the turkey could get cold. In terms of food safety, you can leave turkey out for at least an hour with no issues.
Watch the time. I had mine in the oven for an hour and it was 10lbs. It was overdone when I took it out. That said it was tasty!
My turkey didn’t lay in the pan quite as nicely, the legs splayed out rather than in. Maybe I smashed it too much?
It should cook the same regardless!
Can you lay out your stuffing in the bottom of the pan and lay the spatchcock turkey over it then cook in the oven??
That should work, but it might take longer to cook because there’s less air circulation.
I am planning to use this recipe for Thanksgiving. My only question so far is- what do you cook the turkey on? My turkey is 11 pounds- small for a turkey, but once spatchcocked I fear it will be too wide for my large roaster pan. Did you use cookie sheets? Please advise!
I used a rimmed baking sheet, a cookie sheet is fine, just make sure it has a rim!
Does it effect the cooking time if I use a turkey pan instead of a baking sheet?
It should be the same!
It’s that time of the year again! Would this recipe work for a 21 pound turkey and how long would I need to cook the turkey if this recipe can be used for a turkey that size? Thank you for your assistance! Keep posting your great recipes because every recipe of yours I have tried have always turned out great:)
Yes that size turkey would work, it should take around 2 1/2 hours I would for sure use a thermometer to make sure it’s cooked all the way through.
Do I have to do the brine? Or can I just use dry seasoning and butter?
You do not have to brine if you prefer not to!
Did you end up doing it with the 21lb turkey! I’m wondering what size pan I would need?!
Your answer is in the other comments
Wouldn’t it be easier cutting out the backbone then brining?
Totally up to you, that will also work just fine!
Would it be ok to use an oven bag instead of basting it (I don’t have a baster). If so how would I be able to get crispy skin after the bird is done?
You can just use a spoon to spoon the juices over the top! I haven’t tried this with an oven bag, my guess is that you could take it out of the bag then broil it to crisp the skin.
When I’ve got a lot going on in the kitchen the last thing u want to do is baste every 20 minutes. For me an oven bag has worked absolutely wonderful.
I just use a measuring cup scoop up the juices and bast it
I don’t have a baster either