How to Spatchcock a Turkey

“I’m going to spatchcock my bird now…”

Roasting time 1 hour 15 minutes

For some reason the technique for butterflying a bird, particularly a turkey, known by the term “to spatchcock” has become very popular this season.  I’ve been asked several times to explain and demonstrate this, so right after Thanksgiving I grabbed an extra turkey and got some pictures.  It isn’t all that difficult, especially if you are accustomed to cutting up a chicken.  The beauty of this cut especially for a big bird like a modern turkey is that it reduces the cooking time, allowing the white and dark meat to get done at the same time, retaining moisture while yielding a great crunchy skin.

Get yourself set up with a large cutting surface so you have plenty of room to work.  Keep some towels handy to catch drips from the bird.  Make sure you have a sharp knife.

To spatchcock a bird is to remove the entire ribcage, while leaving the bones for the legs and wings intact.  This will require you to disconnect the leg and wing joints from the ribcage once you have cut the meat away.  The idea is to preserve the outer skin without cutting through it.

Place the bird breast-side down on the board.Cut down one side of the backbone.  Pull back on the skin and meat to make it easier to cut along the ribs.

Split the skin down one side of the backbone

Split the skin down one side of the backbone

Continue to cut along the ribcage, being careful not to cut into the meat.  Gently bend the legs and wings away from the rib cage to pop the ends out of the sockets away from the main body.  Repeat the process on the other side.  It may be easier to work on one side and then switch to the other side, opening up the bird on both sides of the ribcage as you go.

Follow the contour of the ribcage to separate meat from the bone

Follow the contour of the ribcage to separate meat from the bone

Leaving the skin intact, cut along the keel bone to free the ribcage from the body of the bird.

Remove the ribcage

Remove the ribcage

Butterfly or Spatchcock – splayed bird

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Butterfly or Spatchcock cut

Butterfly or Spatchcock cut

Place on a metal rack, or create a rack out of vegetables such as celery, carrots, parsnips and onions.  Season bird on both sides with your favorite seasoning blends.  With this technique, using a stuffing blend on the bottom of the pan works well too, since you are avoiding the center well-stuffed issue of not getting the inside hot enough before the meat dries out.  The meat covers most of the surface of the stuffing, adding delicious juices to the pan mix.

Laid out flat on a rack

Laid out flat on a rack

Start in a hot oven at 450º for 15 minutes, then reduce to 350º and roast for another hour.  Check the thick parts of the meat with a meat thermometer, remove from the oven when the internal temperature reaches 165º.

Roasting time 1 hour 15 minutes

Roasting time 1 hour 15 minutes

Roasted spatchcocked bird, perfectly cooked

Once you have let the roasted meat rest for 15 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute themselves into the meat, carving is a breeze. Easily remove the thighs and drumsticks for the dark meat lovers, then create perfectly sliced pieces of juicy breast meat without having to carve around the rounded shape of the ribcage.  Crispy skin is a bonus!

Besides being fun to say, this method takes a little practice to make it look so easy, but after you’ve done a few chickens, a turkey shouldn’t be too much of a challenge.  Give it a try and see if it doesn’t become your favorite method for roasting a turkey!

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