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Food & Recipes

This Technique Has a Silly Name, But It’s Actually the Best Way to Cook Your Thanksgiving Turkey


Thanksgiving is a holiday full of family fun and good food, but it can also be very stressful. Between coordinating all the dishes and knowing exactly when your turkey is ready, the day can get kind of intense. This year, take the stress out of the day and learn how to spatchcock your turkey for the best results!

While the origin of the term remains unclear, spatchcock seems to come from 18th-century Ireland and refers to a method of preparing a bird for cooking. It’s most often used for chicken, but it can easily be applied to a turkey. The method has several advantages, including a shorter cooking time. Since the bird is flat, all the meat is cooking evenly while it’s in the oven.

That also means it comes out much juicier since the breast doesn’t dry out while it waits for the thighs and dark meats to cook. The result will also produce a crispier skin since more of it is exposed to heat.

How to Spatchcock a Turkey

It can be a bit tricky to describe and master, but you’ll basically be cutting the turkey in a way that makes it lie completely flat. That means you need a sturdy pair of kitchen scissors or poultry shears to get the job done. This heavy duty pair (Buy on Amazon, $20) would work great on any sized bird. Now that you have the right tools, follow these steps.

1. Prep the turkey.

Just like most recipes, you have to start by making sure your bird is ready to be cooked. For spatchcocking, that means removing any neck parts and gizzards. Luckily, if you bought your bird from the store, this should mostly be done for you. Then rinse your bird and place it breast down on your cutting board.

2. Cut the bird along the backbone.

This is where your shears or scissors will come in handy! To get the turkey to lie flat, you’ll need to cut the backbone so it can splay out. Start at the bottom of your bird, where the tail was, and place your shears just to the right the bone. Cut through the skin and bone all the way up to the neck. Repeat this step on the left side and remove the backbone once it’s free.

3. Break the breast bone.

Once the backbone is off, your turkey will be able to open flat, but you’re gonna have to put some force on it to make it happen! To break the breastbone, turn the bird over on the open side and flip the legs open and out to the side. Then press down hard on the breast bone. While you’ll hear a few cracks, keep going until the turkey is resting flat on the board. You might have to press down in several spots for the best result. Then tuck the wing tips behind the breast.

4. Season and cook.

Now that all that turkey meat is beautifully exposed, you can season the whole bird in whatever way you prefer. And none of it will be running off the sides of the bird. It’s a win-win!

Hopefully this method brings you more peace — and a yummier feast! — this Thanksgiving. (Plus, carve your spatchcocked turkey with ease using this guide for how to cut a turkey.)

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