What if I told you amazing, delicious, juicy, tender turkey didn’t require 3 hours in the oven or days of brining? What if I told you you could get all that and it would take less than 2 hours – start to finish? Seriously. What would you say?
You’d better decide, because I’m about to tell you just that. You can make a seriously juicy and delicious turkey with amazingly crispy skin in about an hour and a half. For real. My secret? Spatchcocking the turkey.
Sounds weird right? Well… just hang on.
To start, let me say this… I’ve brined many a bird and can certainly speak to the benefits. I’ve even brined and spatchcocked a turkey. But honestly, I didn’t see a big difference based on the time and effort that goes into it. Ever since I started cooking my turkey this way, I’ve never looked back.
So what is Spatchcocking?
Well, to put it simply, it’s butterflying. As awful as it sounds, we cut the backbone out of the turkey and press the bird flat. Eliminating that center cavity and flattening the turkey allows the heat to completely surround the bird which means it cooks faster and the faster we cook it, the less the juices have a chance to run out. The result is super juicy turkey in about half as much time as the traditional method.
Yeah, it might not win any awards from a presentation standpoint, but the greatly reduced time and effort more than make up for it. Carve it before it hits the table and no one will ever know the difference.
And since we’re cooking it at a super high temperature, it also helps it cook faster and gives us AMAZINGLY crispy skin – which we just love.
A lot of recipes that call for you to spatchcock a turkey have you place the turkey on a wire rack in a pan to allow the heat to circulate under the bird. The first two times I made a turkey like this, I did that. And it took me hours to clean those racks despite me spraying them with nonstick cooking spray beforehand.
One day I got smart and just put the turkey on a bed of coarsely chopped veggies and it worked perfectly. And all those veggies helped to amp up the flavor of the pan drippings for my gravy – though don’t expect tons of drippings. This method keeps most of the juices in the turkey and out of the pan.
Once we’ve got our bird all splayed out (there’s just not a nice way around this), we brush it with an oil mixture filled with herbs and seasonings to give it even more flavor.
In the oven it goes for 1 hour to about 1 hour and 20 minutes and that’s about all there is to it. Juicy, tender, delicious turkey in a fraction of the time.
Just look at that color and crispy skin!
Keep in mind, a reliable meat thermometer is crucial for this method – and any method, really. It’s what allows us to cook the turkey through without overcooking it and drying it out. It’s a small investment, but will prove to be beneficial in many instances once you have it. I use this inexpensive model in the test kitchen (affiliate link).
Juiciest Spatchcocked Turkey
- 1 (12 to 13 pound) turkey, completely thawed if previously frozen
- 1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 4 carrots
- 1 large onion
- 4 ribs celery
- Line a large rimmed baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Very coarsely chop the vegetables and scatter them over the pan. Set aside.
- Place the turkey on a large cutting board, breast side down. Pat the turkey dry with some paper towels to make it easier to handle. Use a large pair of sharp poultry shears to cut the backbone out of the tukery. Start at the tail and cut up one side of the back bone, then proceed to the other side. Some bones may be a little tougher to cut through, so you may have to use both hands on the shears. You can also use a chef knife for this, but I find the shears much safer and easier. (You can discard the backbone or use it to make stock for gravy.)Then flip the turkey over and place both hands firmly in the center of the breast and press down with considerable force to flatten the turkey. the flatter the better. It may take a few tries and you'll probably hear some bones breaking. You can also now remove the excess skin around the neck and tail if you like. Place the turkey on top of the vegetables.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the oil, poultry seasoning, pepper, and salt together. Dry the turkey again with a few paper towels then liberally brush the entire turkey (including the inside) with the mixture. You can even rub some under the skin of the breasts for even more flavor. Then tuck the wing tips under the turkey to keep them from burning.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F and allow the turkey to rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes while it preheats. Cook the turkey for 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes (rotating the pan about halfway through cooking) or until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F (the breast should read about 155°F) when tested with a meat thermometer. The residual heat will continue to cook the bird once it's out of the oven, so the temp will rise more even after being taken out. If you find the turkey starting to burn, you can always reduce the heat a bit or cover the darkest part of it with aluminum foil to keep it from getting too brown. Each turkey and oven is a little different so you may need to make some minor adjustments as it's cooking to make sure it's cooked completely without drying out.
- Allow the turkey to rest for 15 to 20 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute then carve as normal.
I am always nervous cooking the turkey, and this year…even more so! I am first brining (doing that today) and then cooking a spatchcocked turkey for Thanksgiving. I have watched and read several recipes, but I loved your video. Thanks for giving the reasons WHY to do something, like use veg oil instead of butter. Several comments on other sites commented about the smoke that came off the turkey at the high heat and now I understand…it’s not necessarily the temperature but the butter used on the turkey that caused the burning and smoke. Now feel ready. I am now comfortable with both the prep and cooking of the turkey, at a higher temperature. I am so happy that I found your video.
Thanks, Marci! You’ve got this, friend! Happy Thanksgiving!
I’ve always wanted to try making a spatchcocked turkey, but it seemed so overwhelming. After watching your video, I’m definitely doing it this year!!! Thank you Stacy!
You got this! Best of luck!
I’m definitely going to try this next week for thanksgiving but my question to you is, how long do I cook it for if my turkey weighs 16 lbs.? And do I still have the temp at 450?
I’ve cooked a 20 pound at 450, but it does get a dark. You can, however, cook it at 450 for 30 to 45 minutes, then reduce the temp to 400 and continue until it’s cooked through. Enjoy!
What type of shears do you use?
I was gifted a pair of these and they’ve been the only ones that have truly lasted for me. https://amzn.to/3UIvdrQ (aff link)
Hi, Stacey. Can you use any other veggie besides celery. I just don’t like celery or the taste of it!
You could simply use more carrots and onions. Enjoy!
Questions…….I’m new to this spatchcock thing but I’m definitely interested and will make it happen. I want to add a somewhat spicy/sweet rub to this Turkey. I also want to inject it with a butter underneath the skin.
Do you think this is possible to do and get a nice juicy bird out of this? You mentioned to brush with an herb oil….Can I still get the same crispy flavorful results using butter instead?
Sounds great! When it comes to basting the turkey in butter, it will certainly still yield a crispy skin. The problem with butter is that at this high temp the milk solids in the butter will burn.
Have done this several times but I also remove the ribs, hips, thigh bones, collar bones and keel bone from the turkey. Takes a little longer to prep but the bird flattens out nicer. Usually I place it on dressing that I have made and the lost juices from the turkey go right into the dressing.
Sounds like such a great idea!
What temperature would you recommend for a 24 lb turkey? 425F? 400F? Thanks!
I think I’d go for about 425.
I’ve also done many a chicken this way. This was the easiest, juiciest, crispy skinned bird and sooo yummy!. Used a mix of EVOO & butter for the herb mix, oh sooo good. Should’ve takrn a pic. Thx for the wonderful recipe.
Yes, it works beautifully with chicken!!! So glad to hear you’ve enjoyed this method!!
The results were delicious and the meat was so moist. This is definitely our new go to recipe for turkey.
So glad to hear it turned out great for y’all!
This looks AMAZING! I knew it’s been done with chicken, but this Kentucky gal never heard of doing it with a turkey! I love the idea of doing it that way & can’t wait to do it for our bird!! Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours! God bless! 🙂
Sure hope y’all enjoy it! Happy Thanksgiving!!
I do chicken like this all the time so last year I thought why not my turkey? It turned out amazing all the skin was nice and crisp and the turkey cooked in no time. I will always do my Thanksgiving turkeys this way now. Oh and those veggies you used as a tray? I do the same and use mine in my homemade soup.
It’s so good, right!? Love the idea of using the veggies in soup, too!!
We did this over the weekend and cooked it on our pellet grill. Best. Turkey. EVER!!! Spatchcocking is now our new favorite way to fix turkey, and we’re going to have to try it with chicken, too.
Love that idea! So, so glad y’all enjoyed it!
Can I use a lasagna baking pan or will the rims be too high? I am definitely doing this tomorrow so thanks for the recipe ahead of time!!!
If the turkey will fit, I think it’ll work just fine!
Would a 20 lb. turkey work? We help feed at a Thanksgiving Dinner and need large turkeys.
Yes! I’ve done bigger turkeys, but I’d suggest lowering the temp a bit and it will take a little while longer – but still much shorter than the traditional method.
Sounds like an excellent method to roast a turkey. It would make the skin crisp, and keep it nice and juicy.
We sure love it at our house!
Can you do this with a turkey breast too?
I don’t see why not.