How to prepare and cook a spatchcock turkey

How to prepare and cook a spatchcock turkey

Have you ever cooked a spatchcock turkey? Spatchcocking is a poultry preparation technique to help you cook your bird in a shorter amount of time.

The word “spatchcock” is a combination of “dispatch” which means to prepare game or poultry for cooking and “cock” meaning bird. You could say “butterfly” but “spatchcock” sounds so much more culinary – and naughty - don’t you think?

Spatchcocking is quite easy to do. All you need is a serious set of poultry shears. I have a set of Henckels Serrated Poultry Shears that my husband bought me a few years ago. Even though I don’t have a lot of hand strength, it was extremely easy to cut through the bird. If you’re squeamish, you could get a butcher to do it for you.

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The prime benefit to cooking a spatchcocked turkey that it roasts more quickly in an oven or smoker grill. A 10-pound turkey should be done in an hour in the oven. Also, if you’re oven roasting your spatchcocked turkey, I recommend spatchcocking  two small turkeys (12 to 15 pounds) than doing one large turkey. That way you can fit the spatchcocked turkey on a large baking sheet.

If you’re smoking a spatchcocked turkey, don’t worry about the size. As long as your turkey can fit in your smoker, it should be fine. You’ll find that smoked spatchcocked turkey is so much more flavorful because the smoke is able to get to the inside and the outside of the meat.

Preparing your the turkey for spatchcocking

First, you should brine your turkey. Here are several brining recipes I recommend:

If you want to shorten turkey cooking time in the oven or in the smoker grill, spatchcock your turkey! Click to learn how to prepare and cook a spatchcock turkey for Thanksgiving, Christmas or BBQ cookouts.

How to spatchcock turkey

  1. First, place the bird breast side down on a large cutting board.
  2. Using a pair of poultry shears, cut through the turkey along one side of the backbone, beginning at the tail end through to the neck.
  3. Repeat on the other side of the backbone.
  4. Trim away excess fat and skin including the “pope’s nose” (the tail fat). Use the fat, skin, backbone, neck, giblets, heart, neck, etc. to make stock. (I did this to make stock for the gravy. Delicious!)
  5. You can cut out the sternum or just cut through it. (If you cut through it, you’ll have no wish bone.) Or you can flip the bird over, breast side up. Then place your hands just to the left of the center of the bird and press down hard to crack the bones.
  6. Repeat on the other side of the breastbone until the bird is flat. (If you’re short like me, you may want to stand on a chair so you can put all your weight on the bird.)

Roasting a spatchcock turkey

  1. Place the turkey on a large baking sheet that has been coated with cooking oil. Pull the legs out to the side and tuck the wings under. Place large pats of butter under the breast skin. You can also use sprigs of herbs that were used in your brine to place under the skin for more flavor. 
  2. Roast or smoke your spatchcocked turkey at 425 degrees F with the oven rack in lower-middle position. Roast turkey for 30 minutes. Then rotate the turkey in the pan and roast for another 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and roast spatchcock turkey until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees.
  3. Remove turkey from oven, tent loosely with aluminum foil and let stand 30 minutes before carving. Save pan drippings for gravy.

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Smoking a spatchcock turkey

  1. Set your smoker to cook at 240 degrees F.
  2. Place the spatchcock turkey on the rack skin side up and let it smoke cook for 4 hours.
  3. Smoke the spatchcock turkey until instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reaches about 158-160 degrees. Remove from heat, tent with foil and let rest for 15 minutes.

Originally posted on November 22, 2009. Updated with new photos and information.

Top photo credit: Adobe Stock. All other spatchcock turkey photos are original.

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