Here's the Secret to Your Best Thanksgiving Turkey Yet

Turkey is the star of Thanksgiving, and one of the best parts is the skin—crispy, fatty, and ultra-savory, with a bacon-like flavor that can’t be beat. In our latest “Mad Genius Tips” video, Food & Wine’s Justin Chapple shares his secret for the crispiest, crunchiest turkey skin yet. It’s not more butter or oil; rather, a preparation technique known as spatchcocking, in which you remove the backbone from the bird and butterfly it. Although it can seem intimidating, Justin shows viewers that the process is actually pretty easy, and it saves tons of cooking time, too. Read on for his tips and get the recipe here.

Grab a pair of kitchen shears

Justin starts by taking the turkey over to a cutting board and flipping it breast-side down. Then he grabs a pair of kitchen shears (the sturdier, the better) and starts to cut along the side of the backbone to remove it. He goes halfway on one side and then moves to the other side of the turkey. Once he’s reached halfway on both sides, he flips the turkey around so he can complete the cuts.

Stick close to the backbone…

When you cut, make sure you’re as close to the backbone as possible. Otherwise, you’ll lose out on turkey meat.

…and don’t throw it out

After you’ve removed the backbone from the turkey, save it for stocks. You can also add it to soup or dried beans for flavor when you’re cooking them.

Snip and flatten

With the backbone removed, Justin uses the tip of the shears to make a little snip behind the breastbone, which he says will make the turkey easier to flatten. Then, use the palm of your hands to press down on the center of the breast. That cracking sound means you're doing it right.

Tuck in the wings and trim the fat

Take the wing tips of the turkey and tuck them behind the wings, so they don’t get too brown in the oven. Justin also mentions that you can easily cut off any excess fat when the turkey is in this position—although, you should leave a little on to add flavor during cooking.

Keep the seasoning simple

Once the turkey is flattened, season it with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Drizzle it olive oil in a hollow on the back of the turkey, which makes it easy to baste it and spread the oil evenly. You can also pre-mix salt and pepper in a bowl, so you can sprinkle it over the bird all at once.

Skip the roasting pan

For this recipe, you can use a rimmed baking sheet with a baking rack nestled inside to cook the turkey. You can slide the bird right on top—although it looks like it won’t fit, Justin explains that the turkey will shrink slightly when it’s cooking.

Cook it

The turkey needs to cook for about an hour and 15 minutes at 450 degrees, which is about half the time of the average roasted turkey. Justin recommends placing it on the top rack of the oven, which frees up the racks below for side dishes and desserts.


When the turkey is done cooking, the skin should be so crisp that it makes a crackling noise when you hit it with a knife. He then carves the turkey, easily separating the legs and slicing the breast cross-wise. All that’s left to do is put it on a platter.

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