This spatchcock turkey recipe is my go-to Thanksgiving turkey recipe every year because it's always flavorful, juicy, and has perfectly crispy skin.
Not only does the turkey cook in half the time, but it also cooks more evenly than the traditional oven-roasted turkey.
I'm also going to show you the best way to season a Thanksgiving turkey as well as how to cook a Thanksgiving turkey to perfection in the oven, smoking it, or on the grill.
Choosing a Thanksgiving Turkey
I opt for Diestel turkeys on Thanksgiving. Diestel Farms is committed to animal welfare and sustainable farming. Their turkeys are delicious, and I feel good about where they come from and how they are fed.
The size of the turkey will determine its cooking time and how many people you can feed. I suggest a half-pound per person when selecting a turkey.
Using this as a guide will usually give you enough meat to serve and a respectable amount of leftovers for making Turkey Pot Pie or Turkey Soup later in the week.
Prepping a Turkey
The secret to the perfectly prepared Thanksgiving turkey. It should be:
- Well seasoned
- Cooked at the correct temperature
- Cooked to the proper internal temperature
- Given time to rest before slicing
Traditional Roasting Method
A beautiful golden brown oven-roasted turkey is the hallmark Thanksgiving centerpiece.
How to Roast a Turkey
- Preheat your oven to 450℉.
- Roast the turkey for about 30 minutes at 450℉.
- Reduce the temperature to 350℉ and continue to roast until your bird reaches the appropriate internal temperature.
It doesn't matter what size your turkey is as long as you can remember these two temperatures, you can make a perfectly roasted Thanksgiving turkey.
- 165 to 175℉ at the thickest part of the thigh.
- 155 to 165℉ at the thickest part of the breast.
Always use a probe thermometer to make sure your Thanksgiving turkey is perfectly cooked.
Make sure to let your turkey rest for at least 10 minutes after you have taken it out of the oven, before carving.
Resting allows the moisture that the heat has pulled towards the outside of the meat to reassimilate evenly through the meat. This means a juicier turkey for you.
How To Spatchcock Turkey
Why you should spatchcock turkey (or chicken).
Spatchcock turkey is arguably the juiciest, flavorful Thanksgiving turkey recipe you will ever make.
When you spatchcock a bird, it cooks in half the time and cooks more evenly than a traditional whole roasted turkey. The skin is crispy, and the meat is ultra flavorful and juicy.
Making Gravy From Scratch
You'll want to reserve the backbone and giblets to make turkey stock. Making gravy from drippings and turkey stock makes the best gravy.
Check out the full post on How To Make Turkey Gravy.
How to Season a Thanksgiving Turkey
There are many ways to season a turkey. Here are a few of the most common.
Dry Brine Method
My typical Thanksgiving turkey seasoning is a dry rub. I like to use a dry rub and slow cure my turkey in the fridge for up to 4 days. Set the turkey on a wire rack that has been set over a baking sheet.
I leave the turkey in my outside fridge, uncovered, for 4 days before I roast it, grill it, or smoke it.
You can dry brine for as little as 12 hours, but I recommend as long as possible, up to 4 days.
Why a dry rub?
A dry rub works on the basis of osmosis. Salt and seasoning are applied to the outer flesh of the turkey, which draws water out of the bird towards the surface.
The water that is now on the surface dissolves the salt and seasonings. Then in an effort to reach an osmotic balance the water, salt and seasonings are pulled back into the flesh of the bird. This gives the meat a fabulous flavor.
I find that this method gives me the most tender and juicy turkey. Not to mention the best-flavored turkey that I've ever made.
Wet Brine Method
Wet brining is done by soaking your turkey in a solution of spices, salt, sugar, and liquid (usually water or juice). You will usually need 6 to 8 quarts of liquid for this process.
A wet brine tenderizes the meat because the salt solution acts on the proteins to denature them. Also, the salt solution draws water into the meat and imparts more moisture to the meat.
Butter Under The Skin Method
Bring butter to room temperature and add salt pepper and your favorite seasonings.
Using your fingers separate the turkey skin from the flesh. Then place the butter mixture under the skin. Use either your fingers or a spoon.
During the cooking process, you can use melted butter to baste the turkey. The butter helps to brown and crisp the skin.
Injectable Flavorings for Turkey
At most cooking stores you can find a flavor injector that can be used for injecting your bird with a mixture of liquid and spices.
I would probably try this spicy version of injectable flavor if it were me.
The injectable flavor works well for the deep-fried turkey method because any seasoning on the surface will be obliterated by the heat of the oil.
How To Cook a Spatchcock Turkey
After your Thanksgiving turkey is seasoned it's time to cook up this bird.
Oven Roasted Spatchcock Turkey
- Preheat the oven to 450℉.
- Set the dry brined turkey on it's wire rack over a fresh baking sheet. Place a probe thermometer in the thickest part of the breast.
- Roast the turkey for 30 minutes.
- Reduce the temperarute of the oven to 350℉
- Continue to roast the turkey until the internal temperature of the breast is 155 to 165℉.
- Remove the turkey and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
Grilled Spatchcock Turkey
- Set up the grill for indirect heat. For charcoal grilling you'll want the coals on one side of the grill. Place a drip pan in the center and the turkey will be placed direclty over the drip pan.
- For a gas grill, heat one side of the grill.
- Use a cast iron wood chip box, or throw a few chunks of hard fruit wood onthe grill to get a little bit of smoke flavor.
- Bring the temperature of the grill to 350℉. (This is where the Thermoworks Signals Thermometer is great because you can monitor the temperature of the grill as will as the meat.)
- Set the dry brined turkey on it's wire rack directly on the grill grates. This makes is super easy to pull the turkey off later.
- Place a probe thermometer in the thickest part of the breast.
- Grill the turkey until the internal temperature of the breast is 155 to 165℉.
- Bast every 30 minutes with melted butter, if desired.
- Remove the turkey and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
Smoked Spatchcock Turkey
- Set up the smoker for a relatively long smoke.
- Bring the lump charcoal to 225℉.
- Add the fruit wood to the smoker and then add the turkey.
- This is where the Thermoworks Signals Thermometer is great because you can monitor the temperature of the grill as will as the meat
- Set the dry brined turkeydirectly on the grill grates.
- Place a probe thermometer in the thickest part of the breast. Smoke the turkey until the internal temperature of the breast is 155 to 165℉. I like to pullmy turkey off at 160℉. Carryover heat will bring it up to 165℉ after you take it off the grill.
Spatchcock Turkey Cooking Time
There is no absolute rule for cooking time. A probe thermometer is the only way to ensure that your Thanksgiving turkey is perfectly cooked.
I like to use a probe thermometer that can be left in the bird during cooking, and that has an alarm to alert you when it's time to pull the bird off the heat or out of the oven.
Thermoworks hands down have the best cooking thermometers on the market. My favorite one for turkey is the Thermoworks Signals Thermometer. This thermometer has 4 channels and an alarm. It's a little pricey but well worth it if you cook a lot or are really into smoking and grilling.
A less expensive thermometer is the Thermoworks Chef Alarm. This thermometer has just one probe but is great for all of your holiday roasts and turkeys.
Both of these thermometers make great holiday gifts too. Order one for you and one for your favorite chef.
More Thanksgiving Recipes to Try
My Turkey Breast and Stuffing is perfect for a smaller Thanksgiving dinner.
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- 1 13 to 14 pound whole turkey neck and giblets removed and reserved for Giblet Stock
Preparing Turkey with Dry Brine
- Four days before serving, prepare the spice blend in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Set aside.
- Spatchcock the turkey: set the turkey, breast-side down, on a large cutting board with the tail closest to you. Use heavy-duty kitchen shears to cut up one side of the backbone.
- Turn the bird around and cut back down the other side of the spine.
- Remove the backbone and reserve the backbone along with any giblets for turkey stock.
- Turn the turkey breast-side up and pull sides outward. Then use the heel of your hands to press down on both breasts, until you hear a cracking sound and the bird has flattened slightly.
- Rub the seasoned salt on both sides of the turkey.
- Place the turkey on a parchment paper-lined half sheet pan, breast-side up with legs running with the long side of the pan.
- Store, uncovered, in the refrigerator up to 4 days.
- Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and leave at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking.
Roasting the Turkey
- Preheat the oven to 425℉
- Place the turkey on a baking rack over a half sheet pan (to catch the drippings).
- Roast for 30 minutes.
- Reduce the temperature to 350℉
- Continue to roast until the thickest part of the breast is 155℉, approximately 40-50 minutes.
- Remove the turkey and let rest for 30 minutes before carving.