Butterflied Big Bird (Spatchcocked Turkey) by Michelle Tam

Butterflied Big Bird (Spatchcocked Turkey)





Yield 12 servings

This foolproof method for cooking Thanksgiving turkey will please everyone at your holiday gatherings and it's so easy to make! Plus, it's Paleo-friendly!



  1. Remove the innards from the turkey and reserve the neck and giblets for gravy or bone broth. Dry the turkey well with paper towels.
  2. Grab a sharp pair of kitchen shears and start cutting from the tail-end open cavity along one side of the backbone until you reach the neck hole.
  3. Once you’ve cut all the way through, cut along the other side of the backbone, and remove the spine. Add the backbone to the neck and giblets you’re saving for gravy or broth.
  4. Use a knife to make a shallow cut in the cartilage on the underside of the breastbone, and use your hands to firmly push the breasts flat like an open book.
  5. Now, it’s time to salt the bird. Use your fingers to loosen the skin away from the flesh. (Be careful but forceful; the skin is fairly elastic, and shouldn’t tear unless you pierce it with sharp acrylic nails.) Rub salt directly onto the meat under the skin, as well on the outside and underside of the turkey. Loosely cover the bird with plastic wrap, and dry-brine it in the fridge for 1 to 3 days.
  6. On Thanksgiving Day, preheat the oven to 450°F with the rack in the lower middle position. Take the brined turkey out the refrigerator. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack on top.
  7. Grab your softened butter and fresh herbs. I tend to pack more sage and thyme in my quarter-cup than rosemary; it’s a matter of personal preference, but I find rosemary a bit too medicinal-tasting in large amounts. Once the herbs are measured out, mince ’em, and mix with the softened butter/ghee to form an herb butter.
  8. Take two-thirds of the herb butter and use it to spread under the skin of the breast and thigh meat. (Another method: you can just place a dollop between the skin and meat, and smush down the skin to spread the butter evenly.) Spread the remaining herb butter on the outside of the bird.
  9. Lay the bird flat on the wire rack and tuck the wing tips under the turkey so they don’t burn. Pour ½ cup of water into the tray. This’ll keep the drippings from burning and smoking.
  10. Place the turkey in the oven and stab an in-oven thermometer (if you have one) into the thick part of the breast. The turkey’s done when the breast meat reaches 145°-150°F, and the thigh meat is 165°F, about 80-90 minutes. 
  11. If you see that the skin is already nice and bronzed before the meat is even close to the correct temperature, don’t fret. Just place an aluminum foil bra loosely over the bird boobs before returning the turkey to the oven so they don’t burn.
  12. When the turkey is done, take the tray out of the oven and check the temperature one last time. 
  13. Let the turkey rest for at least 30 minutes before carving it at the table.

Courses Dinner

Cuisine Thanksgiving, American, Paleo, Primal, Gluten-free, Whole30

Recipe by Nom Nom Paleo® at