Spatchcock. Whenever I say that word I just giggle. I can’t help myself. It sounds, well, a little dirty. But it’s actually a brilliant way of cooking poultry. Also known as “butterflying,” to spatchcock a turkey (or a chicken) is to open it up/split it open, press it until it’s flattened, and then either grill it or roast it.
The beauty of this method is that it not only cooks the bird more quickly and more evenly, it creates crispy, crunchy, caramel-brown skin all over (not just on top!).
There are instructions below to spatchcock your turkey, which essentially just means that you cut out the backbone and then use all your weight (or the weight of two people in this case) to press it down as flat as you can. I would recommend that you just ask your butcher to cut out the backbone for you – it saves time and great effort.
I used a really big bird here – 17 1/2 pounds!- which is great for a crowd but definitely more challenging to get it to fit into a roasting pan or on a baking sheet. I would recommend a smaller bird, closer to 12 to 14 pounds. It’s easier to deal with and cooks more quickly.
Recipe: Quick and Easy Spatchcocked Roast Turkey
Makes 10–12+ servings
- One 12 to 17-lb whole turkey, preferably organic, thawed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 medium carrots, sliced
- 2 stalks celery, sliced
- 1 yellow onion, quartered and sliced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- Preheat the oven to 450F, placing the oven rack in the center of the oven.
- Remove the neck and reserve for making turkey stock and gravy. Pat the turkey dry inside and out with paper towels. Place the turkey on cutting board breast-side-down. Using poultry shears (and/or a sharp chef’s knife), cut out the backbone of the turkey. To do this: cut along one side of the backbone from the tail end near the thighs all the way through to the neck end. Repeat on the other side of the backbone. (Save this for making turkey stock and gravy later.) I highly recommend having someone help you do this, or you can ask your butcher to do it.
- Turn the turkey over so it is breast-side-up and using both your hands and body weight (or a heavy saucepan or cast iron pan), press down on the turkey to break the breastbone and flatten the bird.
- Place the turkey breast-side-up on a rack large enough to hold the bird – it can be a rack that fits into a large roasting pan or over a cooling rack that will fit over a rimmed baking sheet. Add the carrots, celery, and onions to the bottom of the rack and add the wine. Place the turkey on the rack on top of the pan. Season the bird all over (including under the skin) with salt and pepper, then rub the turkey with some of the olive oil. Pour the wine into the bottom of the roasting pan.
- Roast for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 400F. Continue to roast, basting occasionally with the juices in the pan bottom, until crisp and golden-brown, and a meat thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the thigh away from a bone reads 165F, 1 hour to 1 hour 45 minutes longer. (If the bird starts to brown too much lay a piece of aluminum foil over the top.) Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before carving and serving.
- Pour off the drippings, remove the fat, and add to your turkey gravy! Carve and serve.