- I tried the spatchcock method of roasting a turkey and it cut the cooking time down to 75 minutes.
- Spatchcocking involves cutting out the backbone and roasting the bird flat.
- The turkey was delicious, beautiful, easier to carve, and not that hard to make.
Cooking a turkey is an intimidating process that can take hours — but spatchcocking, which involves cutting out the backbone of the bird and flattening it, is my new go-to strategy.
“Spatchcocking is great,” said chef Solomon Johnson, coowner of The Bussdown and fine-dining pan-African concept, OKO. “It cuts the cooking time virtually in half and makes for a really consistent product.”
“It’s an easier and faster way to cook the bird entirely while keeping it moist,” agreed chef Mike Woods, Johnson’s business partner. It also results in a turkey that’s much easier to carve.
Here’s how my first time spatchcocking a turkey went:
Just a head’s up, there are graphic images of me cutting and preparing a raw turkey ahead.
First, I prepared the turkey to be cut
Before you cook a turkey, it has to thaw. I bought an 11 1/2-pound turkey and left it submerged in cold water overnight.
Once I had the bird thawed, I took the gizzard bag and neck out of it. Keep in mind that the bag of gizzards is always in the turkey, even if you think you can’t find it. I’ve learned this the hard way.
The most intimidating part of this method was cutting out the backbone and flattening the actual bird
For first-timers, chef Nick Peters of Batch and Brine recommends using kitchen shears to cut on either side of the spine.
“Not too many people should be hacking at a bird that big for the first time with a cleaver,” he said. “Plus if they have a weak kitchen knife they might snap it.”
I didn’t have shearing scissors to cut the backbone out, so I used regular ones and a very sharp knife.
I put the bird breast-side down on the cutting board and slowly followed the bone on both sides until it was off. This took some work and patience.
Johnson told me he usually saves the backbone to make a stock, which can be used as a base for homemade gravy.
Once the backbone is cut out, you’re supposed to flip the bird over and press down on the cavity until it collapses. This part was kind of grossing me out, so I got help from someone who was less squeamish.
This step helps the turkey cook evenly. Peters explained that when the bird is flattened, “white and dark meat are cooked closer to the same amount of time, resulting in an overall juicy bird.”
I seasoned my turkey before it went in the oven
I peeled a head of garlic, lightly crushed it, and added it to about 3 tablespoons of softened, salted butter.
I gently separated the skin from the breasts using my hand, making sure to not rip through it. I then rubbed the garlic-butter mix in those two pockets and within the skin flaps of the legs and thighs.
Next, I roughly chopped carrots, celery, onions, fennel, more unpeeled garlic and placed them at the bottom of my turkey tin.
I put the turkey on top of the vegetables, tucked thyme in the crevices, drizzled it with olive oil, and covered it with salt, pepper, and a seasoning mix.
With spatchcocking, Peters said, you get crispier skin since all of it is exposed during the cooking. So I also made sure to give the skin a nice dose of olive oil to ensure a nice browning.
The turkey cooked quickly, though I had to improvise when it came to basting
First, I roasted the turkey for 20 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. The turkey started to brown but there were no pan juices to baste it with so I used a store-bought bone broth instead.
I then reduced the heat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and cooked the turkey for another 30 minutes.
I cooked the turkey for another 25 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit, basting a few times in between.
I didn’t have a meat thermometer so I checked doneness by piercing one of the thighs until the juices ran clear.
The turkey was pretty easy to carve and it was delicious
Typically, a stuffed turkey that’s about 11 pounds should take about three hours to cook. With this method, my turkey was ready in less than an hour and a half.
Peters also told me that spatchcocked turkeys are often easier to carve for first-timers because you “won’t have to navigate the thigh joints on a whole bird.”
He was right. Not only was the turkey easy to carve, but also it was incredibly tender, juicy, and evenly browned and cooked. I served it with rich pan juices and a few of the cooked vegetables.
With all the time you save cooking turkey, you can also make some sides for a full feast.