There are many reasons to use the Spatchcock method when cooking a turkey.
- Cuts the cooking time in half.
- Crispy skin all over.
- Dark meat and white meat cooks at the same rate, no more dry breasts.
- It only takes up one rack in the oven.
- Easier to rinse and season.
- Works better for outdoor grills and smokers.
- You get to say “spatchcock” at the Thanksgiving table six or seven times.
If you already roast turkeys, you have everything you need to spatchcock one except maybe a pair of poultry shears. You can use a knife, but I prefer the shears for safety. Using a large knife on a wet slippery bird isn’t my idea of fun. A good pair of shears is less than $20. Once you own a pair, you’ll use them for lots of things around the kitchen.
Many tutorials I see online make the process seem difficult. Rest assured, it’s not that hard. My process doesn’t involve removing the backbone, so there’s half as much cutting. It’s really easy.
Step 1: Cut the ribs on one side of the backbone. I do butchering in the sink for easy cleanup. Turn the bird over so you’re looking at the backbone. Using shears, cut the ribs along on side of the backbone. You are cutting beside the backbone, not actually through the backbone. If you imagine the bird as a cylinder, you cut along the length and unroll it. Some people cut along both sides and completely remove the backbone, but I find that twice the work for no benefit. It takes some force, but it’s not hard if you cut near the hinge point of the shears nearest the screw. Don’t use the tip of the shears, you don’t have leverage there.
Step 2: Flip the bird over and press flat. With the breasts facing up, use the palm of your hand and press down between the breasts. You’ll hear some cracking as you snap the breastbone, then the bird will lie flat. That’s it. Ignore the advice you’ll see online about snipping cartilage or fishing out the wishbone. It doesn’t matter at all.
Step 3: There is no step 3. You have successfully spatchcocked a turkey. Season it however you like and roast it using your favorite method. Cut your cooking time by about half. I find that a 10-pound bird is done in about 1 hour 45 minutes at 350 degrees. I tent mine with foil. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes and crank the oven up to 450 for a crispy skin.
Chef and Chief Culinary Advisor for Serious Eats J. Kenji López-Alt put it this way:
You might prefer to smoke it outdoors or roast it over vegetables. Maybe you inject it with marinade or stuff garlic under the skin. I like to use thyme and rosemary with some olive oil. However you season or roast it, this method will give you no-hassle juicy breasts in half the time.
If you want more photos and step-by-step, I recommend this excellent article at Serious Eats.
Image Credits: Brett Spangler