Why You Should Spatchcock Your Turkey This Year

Why would you spatchcock your turkey? Besides being really fun to say, spatchcocking cuts cooking time substantially, freeing up the oven – and the cook – on the busiest kitchen day of the year. This is an especially good method if you prefer to bring a platter of carved meat to the table, or are setting a buffet. After all, it’s far more convenient to carve the turkey in the kitchen, rather than struggle with it at the table with all eyes on you. Read on to see how to spatchcock your bird this year.

Pre-order your organic turkey, heritage turkey, or wild turkey at dartagnan.com.

Spatchcocking a turkey – also known as butterflying – is a process that removes the backbone, flattens the bird and allows for more even and rapid roasting. It’s also the best technique if you plan to grill your turkey.

Spatchcock Turkey on Grill Mike on Flickr
Spatchcocked turkey on the grill, photo: Mike on Flickr.

Be aware: you will need sharp poultry shears and a good knife to spatchcock a turkey.

Our friends at Serious Eats made a handy video to show how simple the process is.

Broil that Bird

This method of roasting uses broiler heat to sear and brown the skin, sealing in the meat’s juices. Start by laying the butterflied bird, skin side down in a shallow roasting pan. Then baste it generously with melted duck fat, and position the bird so it’s 7 or 8 inches from the preheated element.

Broiling uses intense heat; if your oven has only one broiler setting the temperature is likely a whopping 550°F. If you can thermostatically control your broiler, set the temperature between 350°F and 400°F. You want to slowly sear, for about 16 to 18 minutes on the first side; adjust the heat accordingly. Watch the bird carefully, and baste frequently during this process.

Spatchcocked and Grilled Turkey Mike on Flickr
Mike’s grilled turkey, on Flickr.

Once the meat has browned nicely, take it out of the oven to season with salt, and turn the bird skin side up. Baste the skin and place the turkey back under the broiler. The skin side can burn easily, so continued vigilance and basting is required. This side will be under the broiler for about 10 to 12 minutes, give or take. This is really about browning, not a desired degree of doneness, so it is more of a visual judgment than precise timing.

Slow Roasted Finish

Once the skin has browned lightly, remove the bird from beneath the broiler, turn it off and lower the temperature in the oven to 350°F.

Unlike roasting an intact bird, place the butterflied turkey in the middle level of the oven. You will still want to baste every 20 minutes or so for the duration of the roasting time. Use the melted duck fat until the bird produces enough of its own pan drippings for basting. Using this method, a 15-pound turkey should only take about 1-1/2 to 2 hours to finish cooking. Ultimately, you want an internal temperature of 165°F.

Quick Tips

1) A 14 to 18-pound turkey is a good size for most average ovens and standard roasting pans. You can cook larger turkeys with this method if you have an oven and roasting pan to accommodate it.

2) Clip the tip of the little nub at the ‘elbow’ of the wing because otherwise, it will likely char.

3) If the bird has browned to your liking before being thoroughly cooked, cover it loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil (shiny side up). Continue basting as usual.

Featured photo: Spatchcocked turkey, photo by Joy on Flickr.


Since 1985, D’Artagnan has been at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement, producing superior tasting products by partnering with small ranches and farms. We are committed to free-range, natural production, sustainable and humane farming practices and no use of antibiotics or hormones. That’s why D’Artagnan products have been revered by America’s most renowned chefs for over 30 years. We offer the same high-quality products to home cooks at dartagnan.com, along with recipes and guides to help you live the tasty life.

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