What are cooking times for a spacthcocked turkey?

I have a 30 pound turkey (!) to cook for Thanksgiving and I'm planning on spatchcocking it to get it to cook a faster and more evenly. My problem is I can't find any guidelines for how long to cook a spatchcocked bird, only whole birds. And while I can find recipes for roasting flat birds, they all seem to be for birds half that size. I suspect that the cooking time is less than double what it would be for a 15 pounder, but I really don't know. Anyone?

  • Posted by: vrunka
  • November 20, 2011


MMH November 28, 2017
We have found that something far less complicated is preparing 2 10-15# birds.
vrunka November 27, 2011
So I cooked my 30 pounder for the big day following these instructions. The bird wound up cooking much faster than the time given -- if it was 10-12 minutes per pound, that would have been 5-6 hours, but the bird was actually done at about 3.5 hours. I had set it out on the counter for one hour before putting it in the oven (with ice packs on the breasts, per Harold McGee). so perhaps the fact that most of the bird was at room temperature accounts for some of the time difference.

It was a beautiful, succulent bird and cooked quite evenly. Everyone raved about it and it was nice that such a big bird cooked so (relatively) quickly. I also roasted a pan of stuffing under the bird during its whole cooking time which made for a pretty intensely flavorful stuffing that everyone loved.

vrunka November 22, 2011
Wow, thank you so much! I really appreciate it. I'll follow this method and report back!
AntoniaJames November 22, 2011
Okay, I just spoke on the phone with none other than (!) Melissa Clark, who was working the Gilt Turkey phone hotline. I posed your question (because I know that at some point, I'll be roasting a large spatchcocked bird as I'm totally hooked on the method, for any and all poultry) and this is what she advises: Put the bird in at 450 degrees for 1/2 hour. Turn the heat down to 350 degrees. Cook for 10 - 12 minutes per pound total, covering the breast after 1.5 hours. Use heavy aluminum foil to cover it. Check internal temperature as you would any turkey for doneness. ;o)
vrunka November 21, 2011
Thanks for the advice, Kristen. I will be prepared to break out the heavy weaponry!

As for the cooking time, I'm more concerned about the bird being done too soon and then having to let it sit out for hours before people show up. But in any case I will be prepared with temperature probes all over the place!
Kristen M. November 20, 2011
You're right, it is tough to find guidelines for a bird that big! Cook's Illustrated talks about having to apply a lot or force (and hacking) to get the backbone out of a bird half that size, so be prepared with a cleaver. If nobody else here can weigh in with personal experience, I'd say you should just be prepared to monitor it closely. If it's browning too quickly, cover it with foil. If it's not browning enough, turn up the heat. And monitor the internal temperature of the breast and thigh closely. Have extra hors d'oeuvres on hand and hopefully your sides will be the kind that can hold if it takes longer than you expect!
AntoniaJames November 28, 2017
Hey, everyone. I saw that this was linked to the Thanksgiving Menu Maker. My response below needs updating in light of feedback on my recipe for roasted spatchcocked turkey, and my experience this past Thanksgiving - as well as Vrunka's report on her own turkey in the comments.
This is how I updated the instructions in my recipe. The lower minute-per-pound figures apply where (i) the turkey is on a rack / baking sheet and not resting in a deep roasting pan, which affects the circulation of air around it, (ii) the turkey has sat at room temperature for an hour before roasting; and (iii) the oven's actual temperatures runs true to what is on the dial / control panel.

1. For a small or medium bird—up to 18 pounds—roast at 450° Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, then lower the temperature to 400°. For larger birds, start at 425° degrees and lower it to 375°. Knock all of these down 25° for a convection oven.
2. The turkey is ready to take out of the oven when a thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the breast, without touching the bone, reaches 150° and the thickest part of the thigh hits 165°. It’s okay if the thigh temperature exceeds 165°; dark meat isn’t as noticeably affected as breast meat by a bit of over-cooking.
3. Figure on roasting the turkey for about 6 minutes per pound, total (including the time at the higher temperature). You may need more than 6 minutes per pound, depending on how true to the dial your oven heats, how often the oven door is open, the temperature of the internal turkey meat when you put the bird in the oven, etc. I heard of one 30-pound turkey needing 3 1/2 hours, while another was ready right at 3. We start with 6 minutes per pound because you can always cook it a bit longer if necessary. You can’t do much to fix turkey meat that’s roasted too long.
4. Check the internal temperature after the bird has roasted for 4 minutes per pound, e.g., for a 12-pound bird, after 48 minutes. It probably won’t be anywhere near done by then, but a smaller bird could be, if the oven is running hot. If you don’t have one of those handy-dandy leave-in thermometers that let you know when you’ve reached the desired temperature, continue to check occasionally. How often you should check depends on the size of the bird, the readings you get, and how hot your oven actually is.
5. Cover the breast with foil after about 45 - 50 minutes, or whenever it starts to look very dark. I usually pour a glass of white wine over the bird at this point. Then I pour myself one. This is optional but recommended. Based on the comments of others, I suggest putting foil on the legs of larger birds, if the drumsticks seem to be getting too crisp.

And finally: A long rest makes all the difference in the world in ensuring a juicy, delicious turkey. If after the rest the inner portion of the breast seems underdone, cooking can easily be completed by heating it in hot gravy for a minute or so. ;o)
Recommended by Food52