Spatchcock Turkey Breast: A Guide to Faster, Juicier Turkey

The turkey is the star of the show on Thanksgiving Day, golden and juicy. But it can also be problematic. It takes up space in the oven, for one thing. Apart from the fact that it is frequently overcooked and half of the skin—which we want to be extremely crisp—is soaked and squidgy at the bottom of the bird, doesn’t that bird know you have sweet potatoes, rolls, and green bean casserole waiting in line? However, laying the bird flat while roasting is a simple yet incredibly effective time-saving tip. Continue reading if you’re the kind of person who prefers the unconventional and thinks outside the box. This fast-roasting turkey method is for you.

Though its etymology is unclear and up for debate, most agree that the word “spatchcock” originated in Scottish or Irish usage. No matter its origin, when the term is applied to whole fowl, it is equivalent to “butterflying. In essence, we flatten the bird by removing the backbone and arranging the legs and wings around the breast, like rays shining out from a white-meat sun. We’ll go into more detail about the precise procedure below. This vastly increases the surface area, much improving it over the semi-spherical shape it originally inhabits.

We hear you asking, “But what about Grandfather bringing the perfect turkey to the table to carve it?,” and we guess that’s a legitimate question, but we would also like to remind people that Norman Rockwell was most known for his paintings rather than his cooking. We’re not the only ones who don’t think that cooking something just because it looks good is always the best option!

Spatchcocking, also known as butterflying, is a technique that involves removing the backbone of a turkey breast and flattening it out. This method offers several advantages, including faster cooking times, more even cooking, and enhanced flavor.

Why Spatchcock a Turkey Breast?

Traditionally, cooking a bone-in turkey breast can be a time-consuming process, often taking up to two hours to reach the safe internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Spatchcocking significantly reduces this time, allowing you to enjoy your delicious turkey in half the time.

Additionally, spatchcocking ensures even cooking throughout the breast. The flattened shape allows heat to penetrate all parts of the meat simultaneously preventing undercooked or overcooked areas. This results in a consistently juicy and flavorful turkey breast.

Furthermore, spatchcocking opens up a larger surface area for seasoning and marinade absorption. This allows you to infuse the turkey with more flavor, creating a truly mouthwatering experience.

How to Spatchcock a Turkey Breast

Spatchcocking a turkey breast is a simple process that requires minimal effort and yields significant benefits Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Prepare the Turkey: Thaw your frozen turkey breast completely before proceeding. Place it on a cutting board, breast-side down.

  2. Locate the Backbone: Run your fingers along the back of the turkey to locate the backbone, which runs vertically down the center.

  3. Cut Along the Backbone: Using sharp kitchen shears or a sturdy knife, cut along both sides of the backbone, starting from the top and working your way down. Cut as close to the bone as possible to avoid wasting meat.

  4. Remove the Backbone: Once you’ve cut along both sides, carefully remove the backbone. Save it for making flavorful stock or gravy later.

  5. Cut the Cartilage: Locate the cartilage connecting the wishbone and cut it through. This will allow you to fully open the turkey breast.

  6. Flatten the Turkey: Flip the turkey breast over, breast-side up. Place your hands on the thickest part of the breast and press down firmly, breaking the breastplate and flattening the turkey.

  7. Season and Cook: Season the turkey generously with your favorite herbs, spices, or marinade. Cook the spatchcocked turkey using your preferred method, such as roasting, grilling, or smoking.

Spatchcocked Turkey Breast Recipes

Now that you know how to spatchcock a turkey breast, explore these delicious recipes that showcase the benefits of this technique:

  • Dry Rub Spatchcock Turkey: This recipe features a flavorful dry rub that infuses the turkey with a savory and smoky taste. With a prep time of only 10 minutes, this recipe is perfect for busy weeknights.

  • Smoked Bone-in Turkey Breast: Enjoy the rich smoky flavor of a perfectly cooked turkey breast. Spatchcocking ensures even cooking and crispy skin, making this recipe a crowd-pleaser.

  • One-Pot Smoked Turkey: This convenient recipe combines smoked turkey with potatoes, corn, and carrots, creating a complete and flavorful meal in one pot. The prep time is minimal, making it ideal for a quick and easy dinner.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to cook a spatchcock turkey breast?

The cooking time for a spatchcock turkey breast varies depending on the size of the breast and the cooking method used. Generally, it takes approximately 30-45 minutes per pound at 400 degrees Fahrenheit when roasting.

Can I spatchcock a boneless turkey breast?

While spatchcocking is primarily used for bone-in turkey breasts, you can also spatchcock a boneless turkey breast. However, the process is slightly different, as you won’t need to remove the backbone. Simply butterfly the breast open and flatten it out.

What are the benefits of spatchcocking a turkey breast?

Spatchcocking offers several benefits, including:

  • Faster cooking time: Reduces cooking time by up to 50%.
  • Even cooking: Ensures consistent and even cooking throughout the breast.
  • Enhanced flavor: Allows for better seasoning and marinade absorption.
  • Crispy skin: Promotes crispy skin formation during roasting or grilling.

Can I spatchcock a whole turkey?

Yes, you can also spatchcock a whole turkey. The process is similar to spatchcocking a turkey breast, but it requires removing the backbone and keel bone. This method significantly reduces the cooking time for a whole turkey, making it a great option for large gatherings.

Where can I find a spatchcock turkey breast?

Spatchcock turkey breasts are becoming increasingly available in grocery stores and butcher shops. You can also ask your butcher to spatchcock a turkey breast for you.

What are some tips for spatchcocking a turkey breast?

Here are some tips for spatchcocking a turkey breast:

  • Use sharp kitchen shears or a sturdy knife for easier cutting.
  • Cut as close to the backbone as possible to avoid wasting meat.
  • Be careful not to tear the skin when flattening the turkey breast.
  • Season the turkey generously with your favorite herbs and spices.
  • Allow the turkey to rest for 10-15 minutes before carving and serving.

What are some side dishes that pair well with spatchcock turkey breast?

Spatchcock turkey breast pairs well with various side dishes, including:

  • Roasted vegetables (potatoes, carrots, Brussels sprouts)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Stuffing
  • Gravy
  • Cranberry sauce

What are some tips for storing leftover spatchcock turkey breast?

To store leftover spatchcock turkey breast, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate it for up to 3-4 days. You can also freeze the turkey for up to 3 months.

What are some creative ways to use leftover spatchcock turkey breast?

Leftover spatchcock turkey breast can be used in various creative ways, such as:

  • Turkey sandwiches
  • Turkey salad
  • Turkey wraps
  • Turkey soup
  • Turkey pot pie

What are some common mistakes to avoid when spatchcocking a turkey breast?

  • Using dull kitchen shears or a knife, making cutting difficult.
  • Cutting too far from the backbone, wasting meat.
  • Tearing the skin when flattening the turkey breast.
  • Under-seasoning the turkey.
  • Overcooking the turkey, resulting in dry meat.

What are some additional resources for learning more about spatchcocking a turkey breast?

  • Honeysuckle White: How to Spatchcock a Bone-In Turkey Breast
  • MyLifeInAnApron: Spatchcock Oven Roasted Turkey Breast
  • Butterball: How to Spatchcock a Turkey

By following these tips and exploring the provided resources, you can master the art of spatchcocking a turkey breast and enjoy a delicious, juicy, and flavorful meal in less time.

Preferred by people who know

Mark Bittman of the NY Times, and the author of How to Cook Everything, once put together a minimalist Thanksgiving dinner to cut down on prep, cook time, and ingredients so he could have time and energy to actually enjoy the meal with family and friends. This method was part of it. Bittman’s first spatchcocking video made its appearance in 2008. Since then a number of celebrity chefs have also applied the same method, with spatchcocking becoming an official foodie trend by 2012.

Kenji Lopez-Alt is another chef who swears by a flat bird! His discussion about and recipe for a spatchcocked turkey and many others can be found in his book, The Food Lab.

Cook after cook, professional after professional—people who know prefer the spatchcock method.

  • It Saves Time: Mark splits and flattens the turkey to reduce the amount of time needed to roast it. The turkey flattens out, increasing its exposed surface area and decreasing its overall thickness to a nearly uniform level. By using this preparation, you can accelerate the cooking process by blasting the turkey at a higher oven temperature. Depending on the size of the bird, complete cooking could be completed in as little as 45 minutes. Spatchcocking tackles the problems of oven space as well as time. You’ll still have space in the oven for pies, rolls, and other baked goods after the turkey has been flattened.
  • Turkeys with flat shapes have trouble cooking evenly because they are almost spherical in shape. When a turkey is spatchcocked, its legs are much more exposed than when it is in its natural shape. This is fantastic because the temperature of the dark meat in the breast must be higher than that of the light meat.
  • Crispier Skin and Juicier Meat: When a bird is spatchcocked, its entire skin is exposed and facing up. This will produce a turkey with skin that is perfectly crisp and evenly browned throughout. The juices that come out of the skin keep the meat nice and moist.
  • Improved Gravy: By taking out the backbone, you have an additional way to flavor your gravy. Use the neck, giblets, and backbone to quickly make a stock, and then combine it with the turkey drippings to make your gravy. There’s no need to make the gravy with store-bought chicken stock. (Not that your bird will require gravy—you won’t But you will need some for your potatoes. ).
  • The Drippings: Oh, the drippings! Arrange carrots, celery, onion, parsnip, turnip, green apple, herbs, and lemon in the bottom of your sheet tray. As your bird cooks, its juices and butter—oh, the butter—dribble down into a hot pan full of flavorful goodness rather than the bird’s own cavity. The vegetables simmer and sauté in the juices to create the most delicious pan sauce ever. No need for thickener, no need for gravy. You won’t want to cook your bird any other way once you dip the meat in it and use it to scoop up the veggies.


We’ve covered all of the benefits of this technique, so what are the disadvantages? The most frequent criticism of spatchcocking is that it “just doesn’t look right.” Well, we’ve already established that we don’t need to hold onto that piece of ill-gotten nostalgia. The only real drawback is the anatomical aspect of the process. It could be deemed … unpleasant. For the squeamish. But really, it’s quite satisfying once you give it a try.

Enough talk about why spatchcocking is so great. You just need a chef’s knife, poultry shears, and a cutting board. It’s much simpler than you might think! As long as you’re not squeamish to the sound of bones breaking, it’s a cinch.

Follow These Easy Steps:

  • Lay the turkey, backbone side up, on a chopping board after patting it dry.
  • Using poultry shears, make cuts on both sides of the backbone, beginning at the bottom and working your way up to the neck. Use a knife to cut through any material that the shears are unable to cut through. You have now removed the backbone. Set aside to use when making your gravy.
  • Make one incision on each side of the breastbone or down the middle of it. Turn the turkey breast side up.

how long to cook a spatchcock turkey breast

  • Using your palms, flatten the bird and break its breastbone (ribs will break as well). Perhaps you should use a stool to gain more leverage.

how long to cook a spatchcock turkey breast

  • Move the legs out to the side and tuck the wings under. Trim the excess neck skin. Your bird is now spatchcocked and ready to go.

how long to cook a spatchcock turkey breast

Spatchcocked turkey roasting temp

Once your bird is well flattened, it’s time to roast. Cook your bird at 425°F (218°C) until it reaches an internal temperature on your ChefAlarm® of 155°F (68°C). (If that doesn’t seem low, check out our piece on chicken internal temperatures; the ideas are the same for both chicken and turkey.) We promise that a turkey cooked to that temperature will be much more juicy than one cooked to a higher temperature. ) Verify that temperature with your Thermapen® ONE to make sure you don’t find any lower temperatures. If you don’t, you’re done! Chances are you’ll have cooked a 16-pound turkey in about 90 minutes. Wow!.

how long to cook a spatchcock turkey breast

We hope you give this unorthodox turkey a try. It is superior in every manner and will give you a turkey that people will like to eat rather than just act interested in. Stick to our recommended temps, don’t forget the aromatics, and you’ll be crowned Thanksgiving royalty, for sure.

how long to cook a spatchcock turkey breast

Spatchcocked Turkey | Better. Faster. Juicier.

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