How to Spatchcock a Turkey


Step-by-step instructions on spatchcocking a turkey for even cooking.

When you spatchcock a turkey, the bird roasts quickly and evenly. Bonus: Nothing is wasted. The backbone, neck and giblets make a great stock for Turkey Au Jus Sauce.

There are three rules to a successful spatchcock turkey: The bird must be thoroughly thawed, the skin must be intact (not ripped) and the turkey must be completely dry before adding the oil and herbs. This ensures a golden-brown, crispy skin.

1. Place the breast side up and remove the wishbone by sliding a sharp paring knife around it and pulling it out with your fingers. (Be careful! The bone is likely to break and it could be sharp.)

Photography by Tim Horel

2. Flip the turkey over. Using heavy-duty poultry shears (or knife), cut out the backbone by sliding the shears (or knife) as close to the bone as possible. Use the backbone, neck and giblets for stock.

Photography by Tim Horel

3. Cut the breast bone down the center about ½-inch deep using a heavy-duty chef’s knife. Do not tear the skin from the meat.

Photography by Tim Horel

4. Flip the turkey over and lean on the breast bone until it cracks and flattens. This step is key. Cracking the bone means the turkey will stay flat in the oven and roast evenly.

Do’s and Don’ts of Spatchcocking

Do thaw a frozen turkey in the refrigerator (not your countertop). A 12- to 16-pound turkey will take 3 to 4 days to thaw.
Don’t spatchcock the turkey ahead of time. Once you start handling poultry, it should be cooked right away.
Do dry the turkey right before roasting, especially the skin. If the skin is damp, it will steam rather than become crisp.
Don’t line the roasting pan with foil. After the turkey has roasted, remove it and then deglaze the pan to make the Turkey Au Jus Sauce.
Do roast the turkey in the upper (not lower) part of the oven if you plan to cook other items in the oven at the same time. This way, the bird will brown evenly.
Don’t baste a spatchcocked turkey. No need! Because it roasts directly on the herbs, it becomes infused with those spices and the flavors of the root vegetables.