A beautifully roasted turkey is the main attraction at most Thanksgiving dinner tables, but if you don’t want to spend the day in its service, or need to free up your oven for other important dishes (pies! casseroles! dressing! cakes!) try this fantastic trick: spatchcock your turkey before you cook it. Spatchcocking is like butterflying — you simply cut the spine of the bird out with kitchen shears, open it up and flatten it like a book; the result is a more even turkey, one that can be cooked on a rimmed baking sheet in a fraction of the time. Because it has a more uniform thickness this way, the meat will cook through more evenly, ensuring none of it is dried out. You’ll still have wonderfully crisp, golden skin, and your bird will be done in about an hour. For real!
Spatchcocking a turkey is the exact same as spatchcocking a chicken — remove the neck and giblets, then cut out the spine with kitchen shears, cutting down each side and simply removing it. Then flip the bird over and flatten it like a book — don’t worry about being rough with it — press it down with your hands.
Once it’s spatchcocked, set it on a rimmed baking sheet and pat dry with paper towels and drizzle it with olive or another mild vegetable oil. Rub the oil all over the bird, then sprinkle it with salt and pepper. That’s it — it’s ready for roasting. Roast it at 450˚F for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400˚F and cook for 30-45 minutes longer, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the meatiest part of the thigh reads 160˚F. Tent the bird with foil and let it rest for 15-20 minutes — it may go up a few degrees as it rests.
That’s it! How easy was that? This is also a great solution if you didn’t get the turkey into the oven early enough and guests are arriving soon.
Martha Stewart has great step-by-step instructions on how to spatchcock a turkey, and then how to carve a spatchcocked turkey. They also have a great how-to on Serious Eats, and Mark Bittman has done a version too.
Want to try frying your turkey? Here’s how to do it