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I'm looking to spatchcock a turkey this year, and I was wondering what size of bird (in pounds) would fit on a standard quarter sized baking sheet.

My oven is relatively small (it looks like it can fit something up to about 15 inches x 18 inches) and we're looking to try something different for Thanksgiving this year. I suppose the oven should fit a half sized baking sheet in a pinch, but I don't own one.

Aside: is there a simple way to cut the back bone up without using a meat cleaver (which I don't own)?

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A quarter sheet pan is tiny ... 9 x 13. You'd have problems fitting a large chicken on that. If you don't have a place to buy a half-sheet pan, look for places that do appliance repair, and get a broiler pan ... they're of a similar size, and have plenty of uses. (they just don't work for cookies)

In the comments of a Serious Eats post on spatchcocked turkeys was this exchange:

ColoradoTommy ; 12:59PM ON 11/06/12 :

Kenji, what is the maximum size bird you would recommend spatchcocking (sp?), before going with the two bird approach?

J. Kenji López-Alt ; 1:01PM ON 11/06/12 :

@ColoradoTommy

Unless you have an oven large enough to fit a full-sized sheet pan, you won't be able to do more than a 12 to 13 pounder, max—it'll overhang the edges.

Even with a bigger bird, you'll have a few problems since it takes longer to cook. You'd have to reduce the oven temp by 25 to 50°F, and allow it to cook longer. Just use a thermometer, keep an eye on it, and you should be fine.

I'm not sure if his recommendation is for a 1/2 sheet (13"x18"), or a 3/4 sheet (15"x21") ... I know it's not for a 1/4 sheet.

As for cutting out the backbone -- shears would be the standard way, but for chicken I've often just gone in with a sharp knife and slowly cut through everything. It doesn't slice through easily, but if you keep one hand on the backbone to keep the chicken from moving, you can slowly saw your way through the ribs. (mind you, I've never tried on a turkey).

If you do get sheers, I like the ones that separate to clean and that have a little notch near the pivot to make sure bones don't slip as you cut them. The ones I have were sold as 'kitchen shears' not 'poultry sheers' (which are spring loaded (ie, more places to worry about gunks), and tend to be $70+, while my kitchen sheers were closer to $20).

  • Oh ... and if the oven is tall enough ... you might be able to put 1/2 the bird on one pan, and 1/2 the bird on a rack at a different level ... but then you'll want to make sure to rotate them so they both get evenly browned. – Joe Nov 12 '14 at 1:17
  • Actually, come to think of it -- it might be better to put the breasts on one tray, and the legs (and maybe wings) on another one ... both to make it easier to control temperature, and so you'll need less vertcal space (as the legs aren't as thick as the breasts) – Joe Nov 12 '14 at 1:26
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If you have a small oven spatchcocking a turkey is not possible. You simply won't have the room, even if you got a small turkey. You are better off going with a method which will work, either roasting whole or jointed.

If you like carving at the table then whole's the way to go, get a smaller sized turkey, say 10-13 pounds, and put it in a covered roasting pan until the last 45 minutes and then uncover.

If you plan to carve in the kitchen then you could joint it instead, that is cut it up into pieces before cooking. The advantages to this method are similar to spatchcocking - you get more even and faster cooking. Other advantages are that you can arrange the pieces to take less space therefore maybe cramming more turkey in your oven, and you can remove pieces individually as they are cooked, getting each piece done to perfection.

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