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Cooking Tips

Spatchcock Your Turkey to Cut Your Thanksgiving Cook Time in Half

It’s the fastest way to the perfect holiday centerpiece.
By Published Nov. 1, 2021

It may sound like wishful thinking, but there really is a way to get your Thanksgiving turkey on the table in two hours. The key is a technique called spatchcocking (also known as “butterflying”).

All poultry, from chicken and turkey to ducks and cornish hens, can be spatchcocked. We’ll show you how to do it and provide some recipe inspiration as well.

What Is Spatchcocking?

Spatchcocking is easier than you might think. It refers to removing the backbone of a bird, and then pressing the rest of the body flat. We've found that the best tool to remove the backbone is a knife with some heft (a cleaver is a good option) or kitchen shears.

What Are the Benefits of Spatchcocking?

  1. It allows for more even cooking. Without the body cavity to contend with, the breast and thigh meat will be done around the same time.
  2. It allows for faster cooking. Since a butterflied bird lays flat, it cooks considerably faster than an unbutterflied one.
  3. It increases the surface area of the meat and makes it more level. This allows the entirety of the skin—not just that on the top of the bird—to crisp and brown. It also means that if you plan on glazing your bird (which we recommend—especially if you’re using this recipe), you don’t have to deal with your glaze dripping down any sloped sides.
  4. A spatchcocked turkey is easier to maneuver and carve. No balancing a half-carved whole turkey as you slice—a butterflied turkey lays flat.

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How to Spatchcock a Turkey

removing backbone from turkey

Step 1: Remove Backbone
Place the turkey breast-side down on a cutting board. Using kitchen scissors or a meat cleaver and using your other hand to steady the bird, cut alongside both sides of the backbone to remove it; flip the turkey over.

flattening turkey

Step 2: Flatten
Use the heels of your palms to flatten the turkey; alternately, a rolling pin can be used for additional leverage.

Spatchcocked Turkey Recipes for Thanksgiving

plate with turkey slices and sides on it

This Crisp-Skin High-Roast Butterflied Turkey with Sausage Dressing cooks in two hours without filling the kitchen with smoke or drying out the breast meat.

glazed roast turkey

This Butterflied Turkey with Cranberry-Molasses Glaze has crisp skin and a nicely browned exterior.

smoked turkey

With its savory smoke, top-nut rup, and mop, Rodney Scott's Holiday Smoked Turkey puts a delicious twist on your celebration centerpiece.