How to Cook a Butterflied Turkey for a Quicker Dinner

Butterflying your turkey before popping it into the oven can help it cook faster.
Image Credit: VeselovaElena/iStock/GettyImages

For a no-fuss holiday centerpiece, try roasting a butterflied turkey in the oven. A butterflied, or spatchcocked, turkey is flattened and stretched out in a meaty butterfly shape — the entire backbone is removed, making it easier to cook and carve than whole turkeys.

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Use an herb rub or marinade before cooking to give the turkey a richer flavor and keep the flesh moist and the skin crisp. Using olive oil instead of butter for the rub ensures you don't add saturated fat — the "bad" type of fat that can contribute to heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

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Before putting your chef's hat on, note that turkey cooking times vary depending on the weight of your bird, so check the cooking time chart below.

How to Butterfly a Turkey

Here's how to butterfly a turkey, according to the grill brand Camp Chef.

Things You'll Need

  • Whole turkey

  • Large knife

  • Cutting board

  1. Turn the turkey over on its back and cut down both sides of the backbone with a large knife.
  2. Remove the backbone.
  3. Turn the turkey breast-side up and firmly press down until it lays flat.

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How to Roast a Butterflied Turkey

Things You'll Need

  • Butterflied turkey

  • Favorite seasonings

  • Kosher salt (optional)

  • Water (optional)

  • Olive oil

  • Large mixing bowl

  • Roasting tray

  • Chicken stock

  • Large cutting board

  • Serving spoon

  • Meat thermometer

Step 1: Choose Your Seasonings

Combine your seasonings — try fresh rosemary, thyme, paprika, salt and pepper — in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the olive oil and stir it well.

Step 2: Marinate or Brine the Turkey

Option 1:​ Place the butterflied turkey skin-side up on a clean cutting board. Drizzle the seasoning and olive oil mixture over the top. Work it under the skin on the breast and leg with your fingers. Coat the entire top of the bird and spread a little to the underside.

Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

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Option 2:​ Alternatively, soak the turkey in a saltwater brine — made with 1 cup kosher salt to every gallon of water, per the National Turkey Federation — for 2 days before cooking for a deeper flavor.

But keep in mind that this can significantly increase the sodium content of your dish.

Step 3: Preheat the Oven

Remove all racks from your oven and set the temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place one of the racks at the lowest level in the oven.

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Step 4: Prep the Turkey

Place the turkey on a roasting tray, skin-side up. If the drumsticks and wings overlap the tray slightly, try to tuck them in as much as possible.

Step 5: Add Chicken Stock

Pour a 1/2 cup of chicken stock into the tray around the turkey. Put the tray with turkey into the oven on the rack.

Step 6: Roast the Bird

Roast for at least an hour and 15 minutes — a larger bird will need more time, so check the time chart below.

Add extra stock if the tray goes dry. Use a serving spoon to take some of the juices from the tray and pour over the top of the butterflied turkey halfway through the cooking process.

Step 7: Check the Temperature

Push a meat thermometer into the very center of the thickest part of the turkey.

Make sure to cook the turkey until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid foodborne illness, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Step 8: Rest and Serve

Remove from the oven when the skin is brown and crisp, but not burned.

Allow it to rest for 10 minutes before serving to let the juices settle.

Spatchcock Turkey Cooking Time Chart

Turkey Weight

Cook Time at 325 F

8-12 lbs.

1 hr. 15 mins - 1 hr. 45 mins.

12-16 lbs.

1 hr. 30 mins - 2 hrs.

16-20 lbs.

1 hr. 45 mins. - 2 hrs. 15 mins.

20-24 lbs.

2 hrs. - 2 hrs. 30 mins.

24-28 lbs.

2 hrs. 15 mins - 2 hrs. 45 mins.

Source: Camp Chef

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