Thanksgiving turkey, split and roasted (cheater spatchcocking)

This method, from the Kitchn, easily splits the front half of the bird from the back half, allowing the white meat to cook separately from the dark. Easier to accomplish than normal spatchcocking on a hulking, slippery turkey.

Place the turkey breast-side up on a cutting board. Use a knife or kitchen shears to cut the thin skin connecting the legs to the breast area.

cutting turkey legs

The legs now fall down and away from the breast, leaving the ribs exposed.

splitting turkey open

Use sharp kitchen shears to cut up the rib area, along each side of the bird, starting from the cavity opening up toward the wings.

cutting turkey half

The breast half of the turkey can now open upward, like a wide mouth. Cut a little more to separate the two halves.

opening turkey

Season the two halves on both sides, using the dry brining approach, if you like.

back half turkey

front half turkey

Store the turkey in a large brining bag in the refrigerator.

dry brining turkey halves

Roughly cut vegetables underneath the turkey flavor pan juices and help prevent them from burning (a split bird can roast at a higher oven temperature than a whole turkey).

oiling turkey

Baste with melted butter or oil. Or, as my mom does, use a mix of oil and soy sauce, which adds gorgeous color.

split turkey

A small/medium turkey (8-14 pounds) can roast in the center of a hot (425 degrees F) oven the whole time. But for a large turkey (16-22 pounds), it’s better to reduce the heat to 350 degrees F after a half hour. Roast until the thickest parts of the breast and the thickest part of the thigh (not touching the bone – check a couple places) reach 165 degrees F. A small turkey may be done in as little as 30-40 minutes, where a very large bird might take two hours.

roasted split turkey


  • After you carve the turkey, throw the bones in a bag. The next day, when all you want to do is sit around, just toss the bones in the largest pot you have, throw in a couple onion halves, some carrots, celery, peppercorns and bay leaves, and let it simmer forever while you laze around eating leftovers (just don’t let it boil – it’ll make the stock murky instead of clear). After a couple hours, the bones will collapse down. Keep it going for as long as you want – it will only get more flavorful and concentrated. Season with salt at the end. If I’m not making it into soup right away, I pour it into mason jars for storage.

Here’s a link back to the full post, Thanksgiving Turkey, split and dry brined.