Baked Spatchcock Turkey is a quick and easy way to roast your Thanksgiving bird in a fraction of the time. The resulting juicy, tender, and exquisitely crispy Thanksgiving turkey will make you a believer. What is spatchcocking? It’s a fancy term for butterflying poultry, and it allows the turkey to cook more evenly, creating a mouthwatering feast.
Juicy Baked Spatchcock Turkey
The key to this baby is removing the backbone and flattening the bird out. Don’t let it scare you because it is super easy. It makes carving a total cinch. I’m so sure you’ll never want to go back to the old way of roasting a turkey.
People have been spatchcocking or butterflying chicken, beef, pork chops, and shrimp for ages.
I don’t know why it took us so long to figure out how great it works for turkey. I bake spatchcocked turkey at 400℉/℃, and a 12-pounder is ready in less than an hour. Honestly!
All of the skin is beautifully golden and crunchy because it’s all exposed to the heat. I don’t know about you, but the crunchy skin is my favorite part of the bird, and spatchcocking it gives me more of a good thing.
Juicy Baked Spatchcock Turkey
Thanks to Mark Bittman, who wrote about this innovative method back in 2002, you can reduce an average turkey’s cooking time by about 75%, and it comes out of the oven absolutely gorgeous. All you have to do is cut out the backbone (or even easier, ask your butcher to do it) and spread the turkey (or chicken, duck, Cornish hen) out flat before putting it in the oven.
A spatchcocked turkey also browns evenly, cooks evenly, and is moister than poultry cooked the usual way. The white and dark meat reaches perfect doneness simultaneously, and the drippings are heavenly in homemade gravy.
- Turkey – Well, you can’t have baked spatchcock turkey without a turkey, right? It may be poultry, but it tastes different from chicken and is great for changing up the routine.
- Butter – This delicious fat makes a juicier and more flavorful turkey. It also makes it easier to stick the herbs to the turkey and veggies.
- Garlic, sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley, paprika, salt, and pepper – These seasonings are traditionally used for chicken and turkey. Feel free to add or change out for your personal tastes.
- Onion – An aromatic vegetable that adds flavor and nutrition.
- Potatoes, carrots, and celery – Delicious vegetables absorb the wonderful flavors of the juices coming from the turkey and turn this baby into a one-dish meal.
- Turkey – If you are a hunter and can get wild turkey, pheasant, or quail, this recipe will work great. The only thing is to adjust the cooking time for smaller birds.
- Butter – This delicious fat can be replaced with olive oil or other neutral-flavored oils.
- Seasonings – You can easily change up flavors by using different seasoning blends. You can replace it with Jamaican curry, za’atar for a Middle Eastern flair, Creole, or Asian blends.
- Vegetables – Mix and match your favorite veggies to put in the bottom of the baking pan. Eggplant, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans are all good options.
Serving & Storage Instructions
Let the turkey rest for about 10 minutes so that it will retain the juices better. It’s so much easier to slice the turkey before taking it to the table. However, it increases the family fun if the bird goes whole.
Cooked turkey kept in the fridge will last for up to three days. And properly frozen, it will last for a couple of months.
That answer depends on the oven’s temperature and the size of the turkey. If you set the oven at 350℉/℃, allow 10-13 minutes per pound. I think turkey comes out of the oven much juicier and delicious when I set the oven temperature at 300-325℉/℃. In that case, I allow 15-17 minutes per pound.
A 16-pound turkey would need to bake for about (all times are approximate and depend on your oven and altitude):
3 hours at 425℉/218℃
3¼ hours at 400℉/204℃
3½ hours at 350℉/177℃
4 hours at 325℉/163℃
Absolutely! By cutting out the backbone and spreading the turkey out in the roasting pan, it bakes faster and more evenly for a juicier turkey. Those times listed above can be cut in less than half.
I would not recommend that. You want to bake your turkey, not steam it. However, I do baste it with just a tad of broth or white wine, starting at around 30 minutes after it goes in the oven. Then, as soon as there are enough drippings in the bottom of the pan, I use that to baste once every half hour.
How to Spatchcock a Turkey
- The first step, brine the turkey first. Whether you want to dry brine or wet brine is a personal decision.
- Remove the backbone to make it easier to flatten the turkey, allowing it to bake evenly. That way, the breast, thighs, and legs arrive at the ideal temperature at the same time. The pictures are below with detailed instructions. How easy is that?
- Oh, and don’t throw that backbone away. Use it for the gravy for more depth of flavor.
More Thanksgiving Recipes to Try
- Green Bean Casserole – One of the most traditional dishes to pair with a juicy turkey is this awesome green beans and mushrooms in a flavorful and creamy casserole topped with crispy onions.
- Roast Garlic Mashed Potatoes – The only thing better than creamy, melt-in-your-mouth mashed potatoes is when they have roasted garlic. You’ll never want to go back to plain mashed potatoes after trying this recipe.
- Cornbread Dressing – What’s turkey with stuffing or dressing? The dressing is stuffing made outside the turkey. It’s better because it’s hard to get the stuffing to a safe temperature in the turkey without overcooking the bird. This cornbread dressing is so flavorful and delicious; sometimes, I make it for an everyday meal.
- Cranberry Sauce – I’ve had the cranberry sauce that comes in a can. Nope! Not for me, thank you very much. Not when homemade with a touch of orange is so much better. The fact that it’s super easy is an added bonus.
- Sweet Potato Pie – This traditional pie is a must-have at any Thanksgiving celebration. Creamy sweet potato puree custard in my homemade pie crust is incomparable. Of course, you could add a pecan pie just for fun.
How to Bake a Spatchcocked Turkey
To spatchcock or butterfly a turkey
- Get your equipment – First, grab a good pair of kitchen shears and do the following.
- Get the turkey ready – Make sure to place the turkey breast side down on a large board or flat work surface. (This is after you rinse it with water inside and out and pat dry with paper towels.)
- But the backbone – Next, cut both sides of the turkey’s backbone with kitchen shears, starting at the end with the thigh, working your way up to the neck. Remove backbone, and save for homemade stock or bone broth. (Photos 1 & 2)
- Butterfly – Grab hold of both sides of the turkey, and open like you would a book (butterfly). Turn breast side up. (Photo 3)
- Finishing up – Push down on each side of the breast with your hands until you hear it crack. Then flatten the turkey. (Photo 4)
- Making it easier – If desired, remove the wishbone; it makes carving the whole breast in a single piece easier. Rub inside and out of the turkey with salt. Set aside.
Add the Veggies and Turkey
- Potatoes and carrots – Put potatoes and carrots in a bowl. Add the oil or butter and seasonings. Add enough oil so that there is enough for basting. Set aside while finishing the turkey. (Photos 5 & 6)
- Season turkey – Generously rub the turkey inside out with a spice blend. (Photo 7)
- Prepare the veggies – Put potatoes, carrots, celery, and the rest of the seasoning in the bottom of a roasting pan. (Photo 8)
Putting it all in the Oven
- Assembly – Place the rack over the veggies and the turkey on top of the baking rack.
- Roast at 400℉/204℃ until the skin is crisp. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 165℉/74℃, about 45-90 minutes (depending on the bird’s size). Let it stand 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Watch How To Make It
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Baked Spatchcock Turkey
- 1 large turkey, 15-16 pounds
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 4 ounce unsalted butter, softened
- 2 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 5 leaves fresh sage, minced
- 3 large rosemary sprigs, leaves removed from stems and minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 2 sprigs thyme, minced (1 tablespoon)
- 2 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1½-2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, coarsly ground to taste
- 1 medium onion, quartered
- Potatoes, carrots, and celery, coarsely chopped
Spatchcock the Turkey
- Rinse turkey with water, inside and out, then pat it dry with a paper towel.
- Place the bird breast-side down on a large board or flat work surface.
- Next, cut both sides of the turkey's backbone with kitchen shears, starting at the end with the thigh, working your way up to the neck. Remove the backbone, and save for homemade stock or bone broth.
- Grab hold of both sides of the turkey, and open like you would a book (butterfly). Turn the breast side up.
- Push down on each side of the breast with your hands until you hear it cracking. Then flatten the turkey.
- If desired, remove the wishbone. It makes it easier to carve the whole breast in a single piece.
- Rub inside and out of the turkey with salt. Set aside.
Seasoning the Spatchcocked Turkey
- Combine the softened butter, garlic, sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley, paprika, salt, and pepper.
- Let this mixture sit for a little bit – about 5 minutes.
- Generously rub the turkey inside and out with a little over half of the spice blend, then refrigerate until ready to cook.
Prepare the Veggies
- Mix the onion, potatoes, carrots, and celery with the rest of the spice mix in a bowl. Set aside.
Bake the Spatchcock Turkey
- When ready to bake, roast the turkey on a baking rack; the turkey goes on top and the veggies below.
- Roast at 400℉/205℃ until the skin is crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 165℉/74℃, about 1-1½ hours.
- Let it stand 5-10 minutes before slicing the turkey into the desired pieces.
Tips & Notes:
- If you’re uncomfortable using a knife to remove the backbone, I suggest using a pair of sharp kitchen shears or scissors instead.
- Always, and always, wash hands after handling raw poultry to avoid contaminating cooking surfaces and food.
- Give the turkey a good press to flatten it out completely after you remove the spine.
- If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, poke in a skewer to test if the juices run clear to make sure it’s cooked through.
- You can adjust the seasoning according to your preference.
- You can kick it up a notch by sliding some plain or herbed butter under and on the skin after brining it for an extra moist baked spatchcock turkey.
- Seasoning your turkey the night before helps the deliciousness penetrate deeper in for bad-to-the-bone spatchcocked turkey.
- Properly basting baked turkey is essential. At about half an hour in, start basting your beautiful turkey with a bit of hot broth or white wine about every half hour. As soon as enough juices are in the bottom of the pan, you can use those instead of adding more liquid.
- Alternatively, you may grill this for about 45 minutes per side, of course, depending on the size of the bird.
- To cook this in a LARGE slow cooker, make a base for the turkey to sit on. Place a small metal rack or balls of aluminum foil to elevate the turkey (about 3-4 balls, about 3 inches wide) in the slow cooker crock. Then place turkey and potatoes on top and cook for about 2 1/2–3 hours on high.
- Please keep in mind that the nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary significantly based on the products used in the recipe.