How to Butterfly a Turkey




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Learn how to butterfly a turkey, chicken or any other poultry with these simple steps.  When you butterfly a bird, you allow it to cook even faster!  This is a great technique that can seriously speed up cooking time, as illustrated in the 90-Minute Roast Turkey.  It's also a great method to use on the grill, as demoed in Herbed Chicken Under Bricks!

Butterflying a turkey takes some sharp tools, and a lot of power.  So grab your best kitchen shears, cleavers, or knives, and let's get started.  

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Step 1: Cut Out the Spine

Using a sharp knife or STRONG butcher shears (these Wusthof ones were great, but still required the cleaver!), cut along both sides of the spine of the turkey.  Also cut off the extra fat at the top of the spine, if necessary.

The ribs get really sharp once they've been cut, so I recommend you cut out the rib plates and remove any small pieces of bone.

Step 2: Crack the Breastbone

I found it easiest to crack the breastbone with a cleaver before trying to flatten the bird.  You could also try just flipping the bird over and using a rolling pin or a serious karate chop to break that bone.

Step 3: Flatten the Bird

One the breastbone is cracked, flatten the bird.

Many recipes then tell you to tuck the wings under the breast (difficult! but does prevent blackening), and truss the legs together, scooching them up onto the breast.

Hope this was a helpful tutorial and that you'll try your hand at butterflying soon!



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    6 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I recently heard a snippit from an interview with Alton Brown on NPR. The interview piece was focused on Thanksgiving (naturally since it is November) and I heard Alton mention this technique, He said it's called "spatchcocking your turkey". I'm eager to try it! thanks for the 'Ible!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I won't tie up my turkey or chicken. I find that if you leave the thighs/Drum sticks open, the turkey cooks more evenly and you don't have to OVER COOK the Breast meat. Turkey and chicken breast often gets over cooked due to the lack of heat between the thigh cavity. if you leave this open, you can reduce the cooking time so everything cooks more evenly. I also place a piece of aluminum foil over the breast to prevent over cooking and it holds more juices that way. I pull the thighs apart so the heat can penetrate between them for a juicy end result in ALL the poultry meat.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very awesome! I have butterflied chicken breasts before, but didn't realize you could actually butterfly the whole chicken, or turkey. Because it saves so much time, which again is awesome, I was just wondering if the meat loses any moisture? Does it dry out?

    2 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    It was so moist. And all of the drippings poured right into the dressing making it amazing.


    Did you put the dressing below it while cooking? I've seen it flied and then dried with a salt rub in the fridge before cooking. Putting it up high over some dressing would be pretty amazing.

    Some might say you would then lose the pan drippings for gravy. I say, that's what giblet stock is for.


    7 years ago on Step 2

    I now have a strong desire to karate chop my twenty pound turkey. But alas, is it still partially frozen and defrosting in the fridge. And maybe it wouldn't fit in the oven flat because its so big. Hmm. Maybe next time! Thanks for the info.