If you’re a horror movie fan you’ll love this recipe: By the time you get the turkey in the oven, your kitchen will look like Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment.
- 1 turkey
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1⁄4 cup chopped fresh rosemary
- 1⁄4 cup chopped fresh sage
- Large rimmed baking sheet or roaster
- Cooking/cooling rack
- Heavy-duty curved poultry shears
Let’s get the Beavis and Butthead portion of the show out of the way:
Where’d the word spatchcock come from? No official answer; some think it’s Irish and short for “Dispatch the cock!” This allegedly refers to killing a chicken, but to me it sounds a lot more like slang for “Unzip yer pants!”
If spatchcock refers to chicken, should it be spatchgobble for turkey? Hell, I don’t know. If you’re done tittering over the word, can we get to the food?
Spatchcocking is like butterflying, but not like slicing a steak down the middle horizontally; it’s splitting an entire bird almost in half like it was a victim in an Alien or a Saw movie.
Speaking of which: If you’re a horror movie fan you’ll love this recipe: The turkey will be hacked open with its spine chopped out. By the time you get it in the oven, your kitchen will look like Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment.1 It’ll be worth it; I promise.
The two best turkey recipes I’ve ever prepared are deep-fried turkey and spatchcocked turkey: They’re both more tender, more juicy and much faster than Norman Rockwell-style turkey. Deep-fried is a tidge better than spatchcocked, IMHO, but it’s more work, more expensive and a lot more dangerous. If you don’t want to mess with all that, try spatchcocking it. You’ll never go back.
Kill It: Removing the Spine
Thaw the turkey completely; if there’s any frozen stuff inside it will be far more difficult, if not impossible, to spatchcock it.2
Preheat the oven to 375°.
Take the rack out of the baking sheet or roaster and put in the turkey, breast side down. With a chef’s knife, slice down both sides of the spine, through the skin and muscles, until you feel the ribs.
Starting at the neck, use the poultry shears to cut through the ribs on both sides of the spine (do not, repeat NOT, try to do this with a knife unless you fancy a trip to the ER). When you get through the last couple ribs you might have to pull the spine up and twist to get it out. The ribs will be sharp, so you’ll want to use a kitchen towel or something to protect your hands.
Now it’s time to crack the breast bone. Why? Because you want the turkey flattened as much as possible so it will cook faster and more evenly. Flip the turkey back over and spread out the wings and legs. Push down on the breast bone, like you’re giving the turkey CPR, until it breaks.
This takes more effort than you might think: You can’t push down very hard with the turkey up on the counter. You could stand on a chair or something, but here’s how I do it:
I put the baking sheet or roaster on the floor. Now you can bear down on it, but you can make it even easier: Put a cutting board on the breast and stand on it. If that doesn’t do the trick, bounce up and down a few times. Before long you’ll hear a loud crunch and you can proceed.
Kill it Some More
Okay! Take a few photos of the spine and neck and the turkey on the baking sheet, flat as a sailcat.3 Later you can post them on Facebook or Instagram and steal my joke about Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment.
Put the rack back in the baking sheet and put the turkey on it, breast side up. Arrange the legs and wings so nothing’s hanging off the sides and it’s as flat as possible. It should look more like a frog than a turkey.
Pat the turkey dry if needed and brush the veggie oil over it. Dust it with salt and pepper and put it in the oven, uncovered.
Roast at 375°, turning the baking sheet every half hour. From here it’s just like a Norman Rockwell-style recipe: It’s ready when a probe thermometer inserted deep in the breast or thigh reaches 165°, but you want to take it out at 160°, cover it loosely with foil and let it rest; it will coast on up to that magic number: 165°. The difference is that it will get to 160° a lot faster; usually between 90 minutes and 2 hours; so ya gotta keep an eye on that thermometer.
When it’s closing in on 140°, brush it with oil again and sprinkle the chopped parsley, sage and rosemary evenly on all surfaces.
Here’s my favorite thing about spatchcocking a turkey: It cooks evenly and the skin is perfect: You won’t have a turkey that’s dried up and burned on top and soggy with grease on the bottom; the skin will be crispy and savory and the meat will be moist and tender.
- Yeah; I went there. Deal with it.
- The first time I tried spatchcocking I was surprised at how difficult it was to chop out the spine and break the breastbone. A raw turkey is radically tougher than a well-roasted turkey that’s ready to fall apart.
- You’ve never heard of a sailcat? A sailcat’s a roadkill cat that’s been baking on the asphalt for at least a week. Peel it up and you can throw it like a Frisbee. It’s also a hilarious Cow and Chicken song.