I know there’s a bazillion ways out there to cookΒ a turkey, but I like to do a dry-brined spatchcocked roast turkey with minimal add-ins and here’s the threeΒ main reasons why:
1. The prep work is mostly done ahead of time, leaving you to just butter it up and pop it in the oven on Thanksgiving day.
2. Dry brining is EASY and results in a deliciously tender turkey!
3. The roasting time is SIGNIFICANTLY reducedΒ when you spatchcock a turkey (aka cut out the spine) because the surface area is more even, leaving you more time to use the oven for other itemsΒ on the menu. Think 2 hoursΒ minutes instead of 3 to 4 hours. Plus there’s no stuffing or other unnecessary turkey-cajoling involved.
Spatchcocking is not for the faint of heart and requires a little elbow grease and you may feel like you’re performingΒ orthopedic surgery, but if you have a good pair of kitchen shearsΒ and are willing to put in work on the front end, there’s no reason not to do it!
Spine removed and sitting in the dry brine for a day in plastic wrap…
Getting ready to be buttered up…
Out of the oven… (Oops theΒ turkey is not “photo shoot-worthy” because I let the skin get a little toasty whileΒ Oliver was wailing but I swear the turkey was delicious all the same.)
- 1 turkey (14-16 pounds), thawed if frozen
- ΒΌ cup coarse kosher salt
- Β½ cup UNSALTED butter, softened
- additional melted butter as needed for brushing on top
- ΒΌ cup blend of fresh sage and rosemary leaves, minced
- Large roasting pan, wire roasting rack, industrial size plastic wrap, sharpΒ kitchen shears
- Remove the innards from the turkey and reserve the neck and giblets for stock. Rinse turkey with water.
- Dry the turkey well with paper towels.
- Grab a sharp pair of kitchen shears and start cutting from the tail-end of the open cavity along one side of the backbone until you reach the neck hole. This will take a little bit of elbow grease and it doesnβ€™t have to be perfect. Once youβ€™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 youβ€™re saving for stock.
- Flip the turkey over and firmly push the breasts flat down until the turkey is lying relatively flat and splayed open like a book.
- Use your fingers to carefully loosen the skin away from the flesh. Massage kosher salt directly onto the meat under the skin, as well on the outside and underside of the turkey. Place turkey on a baking sheet, seal with plastic wrap (preferably industrial size), and refrigerate for at least 1 day and up to 3 days. (I usually only have time to do it for one day and that’s fine!)
- Meanwhile, either before Thanksgiving or on Thanksgiving day, take out your herbs and mince them. Mix ΒΌ cup minced herbs with Β½ cup softened unsalted butter to make an herb butter. Cover and refrigerate until ready to bring to room temperature.
- On Thanksgiving Day, remove the turkey and the herb butter from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature for a few hours. Place dollops of herb butter between the skin and meat using a spatula or your hands, and smush down the skin to spread the butter evenly. Brush turkey skin generously with additional melted butter.
- Preheat the oven to 450Β°F with the rack in the lower middle position.Β Place a wire roasting rack on top of a roasting pan. In the bottom of the pan, add enough water to fill the pan to a 1/4-inch depth. Place turkey, breast side up, on a roasting rack set inside the roasting pan and tuck the wing tips under so they donβ€™t burn.
- Place pan in oven. The turkeyβ€™s done when the breast meat reaches 145Β°-150Β°F, and the thigh meat is 165Β°F, about 90 minutes to 2 hours (budget closer to 2 hours), depending on the size of your turkey and the strength of your oven. If you see that the skin is starting to brown before the meat is close to the correct temperature, place aluminum foil loosely over the breasts before returning the turkey to the oven to prevent burning.
- Transfer turkey to a cutting board to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. Save the pan drippings for gravy.
- Carve turkey with an electric carving knife or with a sharp knife.