Last year when I was getting ready to cook a Thanksgiving meal for thirty to forty people, I was doing some turkey-related research, and came across a method called “spatchcocking.” It sounds, well, unbiblical, but two years in a row I have spatchcocked three turkeys, and now it is my #1 tip for Thanksgiving/Christmas/any turkey-involved holiday meal preparation. Why? Well, yesterday, I put three turkeys in the oven at 1:15pm, and two of the three were out of the oven by 3:30pm. (The last bird took about another half hour). These turkeys were all over fifteen pounds – if you have a smaller spatchcocked turkey, it can be fully roasted in as little as an hour.
So by now you are undoubtedly wondering, “What in the world is, um, spatchcocking?” Simply put, to spatchcock a turkey (or any bird), use sharp scissors or a knife to cut out its backbone, flip it over so it is breast-up, and then press firmly down on the bird’s breastbone until you hear a cracking noise. Now your turkey is, well, splayed out. It might not look like a picture perfect bird by this point, but now that the surface area of the turkey has increased, it will cook much more quickly, and evenly. If you don’t like turkey because it’s usually dry by the time it reaches the appropriate internal temperature throughout the entire bird, this is the method for you. Here’s a little video demonstrating the process:
This fellow did a few things differently than I did. I didn’t have the courage to cook my turkeys at 450 degrees. I preheated the ovens to that temperature, but upon putting the turkeys in, I turned the ovens down to 400 degrees. Also, I roasted the birds in roasting pans, not on a wire rack and baking sheet.
I also have to say, every spatchcocking video I’ve watched makes the process look pretty easy, and maybe it’s because I don’t have very good kitchen shears, but removing the backbone from a turkey is a task that takes me about twenty minutes to half an hour, which means I’m probably doing something wrong (though in my defense, I’m pretty sure one of this year’s turkeys had scoliosis). In any case, spatchcocking the day before you cook is a good idea, as who wants to wrestle with a raw turkey on Thanksgiving? So if you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, I hope your turkey is defrosted, and your kitchen shears are sharp! Go forth and spatchcock, and Happy Thanksgiving!