This spatchcock turkey recipe is the perfect way to cook a juicy, tender, flavorful turkey in a fraction of the time it usually takes to cook a turkey — only an hour and a half! I also show how to spatchcock the turkey as well as dry brine it so it’s amazingly juicy and full of flavor inside and out with fantastically crisp skin. Absolute holiday perfection!
“The juice from this turkey is ridiculous!” My husband told me when I finalized this recipe. Is a ridiculously juicy turkey a figment of your imagination around the holiday season? You’re more used to turkey being ‘dry’ or ‘bland’, right? Let me tell you, this will never be a problem for you ever again because you’re looking at the post for the juiciest, most flavorful, fast cooking turkey you’ll ever have.
No more Thanksgiving turkey taking up the oven the entire day! It’s a miracle, y’all.
What is a spatchcocked turkey?
Spatchcocking is a technique used where the spine of your bird, in this case, your lovely turkey, is cut out and the sternum is cracked so that your turkey is laying flat. A spatchcocked turkey cooks way faster (literally in 90 minutes!) and more evenly.
The breasts are done roasting at 165 degrees F, but those ‘pop up’ measures found in common commercial turkeys are meant to pop up at 185 degrees! An entire twenty degrees higher than what it needs to be, no wonder turkey ends up so dry and flavorless all the time!
So why does spatchcocking a turkey work? It’s because the breasts are lower than a traditional roasted turkey and the bird can be cooked at a much higher temperature without burning anything, which also means you have a shorter cook time.
How do you spatchcock a turkey?
First, cut out the wishbone. This helps so much with carving the turkey and getting the bird to lay as flat as possible. Use a paring knife to cut around the wishbone, being careful not to shred the breast meat around it Save the wishbone to put into your turkey gravy!
Flip the bird onto its breasts so the backbone is up.
Use sharp poultry shears to carefully cut out the spine on each side of it. Remove the tail (it has glands that you don’t want in your turkey or gravy) and keep the spine, it makes a fantastic stock and gravy! You might need someone strong to help cut through the bones or another pair of hands to hold the turkey while you cut the spine, it can get pretty slippery (and messy)!
Flip it back so the breasts are up again…
…and use the heel of your palm to break the breastbone between the breasts.
And boom, your turkey is spatchcocked!
Why dry brine for turkey?
Doing the dry brine for this recipe made things a lot simpler time-wise and space-wise. This dry brine is made with citrus zest, brown sugar, black pepper, and kosher salt so it’s really simple yet does the job perfectly.
The dry brine uses osmosis (hey, science!) so the salt draws out liquid, dissolves into it, and then the meat reabsorbs the salty water while your turkey rests in the fridge overnight, resulting in the turkey meat being well seasoned, tender, and super juicy while also giving you amazingly crispy skin since the turkey is sitting uncovered in the fridge.
This works best on a baking sheet with a wire cooling rack over it, so the air is able to circulate around the turkey. This is also how we’re roasting it; so that the turkey has the heat circulating around the meat and the skin and cooks quickly and evenly.
How to get perfectly browned and crispy skin
The overnight brine while uncovered really ensures that the skin is dry, which is the most important part of crispy skin. Moisture is your enemy. So after you pull that turkey out to rest before roasting, blot it gently with a paper towel to absorb any sneaky moisture left on it.
For the ultimate in flavor and crispy skin, we are using butter. But not just regular ole butter, which has around 20% water content (the enemy!), we are using clarified butter. Clarified butter is easy to make and with the liquids and milk solids removed from it, it makes perfectly crispy skin. I add chopped fresh herbs, the classics: thyme, rosemary, sage, and parsley and liberally brush all that goodness on the bird before roasting.
How to Serve a Spatchcocked Turkey
The thighs and legs will easily pull away from the breasts. I keep them together because we eat the breasts on Thanksgiving, then use the dark meat, the wings, and bones for turkey stock and turkey pot pie Thanksgiving weekend.
The breasts are easy to carve since we took out that pesky wishbone. Remove them from the ribcage (save those bones for stock!) then slice to serve!
And that’s that: scientifically juicy meat that is flavorful and seasoned, skin that’s crispy and beautifully brown, and a turkey that is cooked in 90 minutes. The perfect turkey for any holiday!
What to Serve your Spatchcock Turkey with
- Soul Food Southern Baked Mac and Cheese
- Southern Skillet Cornbread
- Slow-Cooked Southern Green Beans
- Candied Yams
- Southern Yeast Rolls (Sister Schubert Copycat)
- Sweet Potato Casserole
- Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy
- Easy Dinner Rolls
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- 1 (13-14 lb) whole turkey, giblet bag and neck removed
Citrus Dry Brine
- 2 large oranges, finely zested
- 3 lemons, finely zested
- 2 limes, finely zested
- 1/3 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 stick (100g; 8 tbsp) unsalted butter
- 3 stems of fresh thyme leaves, off the stem and finely chopped
- 2 stems of fresh rosemary leaves, off the stem and finely chopped
- 4 sage leaves, finely chopped
Spatchcock the Turkey
- Using a sharp paring knife, locate the wishbone in the neck area of the turkey. Gently cut around the wishbone, cutting it from the breasts. Save the wishbone for stock.
- Flip the turkey onto its breasts so the backbone is facing up. Using sharp poultry shears, start at the butt end and cut up each side of the spine until its completely removed. Save the spine as well for turkey stock.
- Flip the turkey breast side up, then use the heel of your palm to crack the breastbone and make the turkey lay flat. Flip the thighs and legs onto the top of the bird.
Make the Citrus Dry Brine
- In a small bowl, mix the orange zest, lemon zest, lime zest, kosher salt, and light brown sugar together well.
- Dry the skin of the turkey well with a paper towel, then generously rub the dry brine mixture over all the skin and the flesh on the underside. Place the turkey on a wire cooling rack on top of a large baking sheet and let brine uncovered in the fridge overnight, about 8-10 hours at most.
Make the clarified herb butter
- Before roasting the turkey, melt your stick of butter over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. As it melts, skim off the white foam until there are no white bits left. Take off the heat and add the chopped herbs. Set to the side.
Roast the turkey
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
- Pull the turkey out of the fridge 30 minutes before roasting, this helps get the chill off the as the cold will result in tougher meat.
- Blot the skin of the turkey gently with a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture on the skin. Take a pastry or silicone brush and liberally brush the herb butter all over the skin.
- Roast the turkey on the wire rack on the baking sheet in your preheated oven. Keep an eye on the turkey breasts, put aluminum foil over the turkey breasts if they're becoming too browned too quickly.
- Roast the turkey for 90-110 minutes, or until a meat thermometer put into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).
- Remove from the oven and let rest and cool for 40 minutes before serving.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 81Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 3758mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 2gSugar: 8gProtein: 4g
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.