Every year (for about the last 15) I’ve been in charge of making a turkey for my family of 25. I’ve run the gamut of turkey techniques; buttermilk brined (cue panic of finding 5 gallons of buttermilk), dry brined, butter basted, fried (terrifying but delicious! Who doesn’t need a little adrenaline rush during the holidays!) and finally spatchcocked. I can say without question that the spatchcock bird wins for both ease and speed. The first time I tried the spatchcock bird I was about 6 months pregnant with my son and had to transport three turkeys to NYC for an event and roast them in one oven in less than 4 hours (long story). No easy feat, even sans baby bump!
They say necessity is the mother of invention, and I decided to give it a try that year because I truly just did not have the time to go the traditional route. I was skeptical, I’ll admit it. Wouldn’t the turkey look sad and well, flat? Sure, it’s not the Norman Rockell bird you know and love, but guess what? No one will care once they taste it!
The meat is flavorful and moist without being plumped up with flavorless moisture and the skin is perfectly crisp. The best part? It roasts in about 90 minutes, takes up less fridge and oven space and is much easier to carve.
If removing the backbone is tripping you up, just ask a butcher to help you out! If you can get past the ick factor, it couldn’t be easier. All you need is a good pair of kitchen shears!
It’s safe to say my family is very grateful for this easy and delicious bird, and my mom is super grateful she no longer has to elbow anyone at the grocery store fighting for the last carton of buttermilk. Now that’s a happy holiday!
For the Brine
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon ground sage
- 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
For the Turkey
- 1 (12-14 pound) fresh turkey, backbone removed (ask your butcher to do this if you are uncomfortable with the process)
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- Handful fresh sprigs thyme
- 1-2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup white wine
To brine the bird: Two days before you plan on cooking the turkey, start the brining process. Combine all of the ingredients for the dry brine in a small bowl. Set a rack on top of a 12 by 17-inch rimmed baking sheet and add the butterflied turkey, breast side up. Press down slightly on the breast to help flatten out the bird. Pat dry with paper towels.
Carefully loosen the breast and leg skin, and season flesh with the salt mix. Then liberally apply the salt mix over the entire bird. You may not need to use it all, but you want every inch liberally seasoned. Wrap loosely in plastic wrap for 24 hours, then pat dry, uncover and let sit uncovered until you are ready to cook cook the turkey, about 24 hours later.
To roast the turkey: Two and a half hours before you would like to eat, remove your turkey from the fridge and preheat the oven to 450ºF. Remove rack with the turkey from sheet pan and drain off any liquid that has collected on the pan. Wash and dry pan, then line with tin foil. Scatter the onion, carrots, celery and thyme over the sheet pan, then add the rack with the turkey back on top. Allow to sit at room temperature for about 40 minutes, then tuck the wings back behind the bird and rub the skin with the canola oil.
Place turkey in oven and roast for about 45 minutes. Carefully remove the turkey, add the stock and wine to the bottom of the pan, then rotate the pan and place back in the oven to roast for an additional 40 minutes.
Keep an eye on the bird; if it appears to be browning too rapidly, you can tent the breast with tin foil. After 80 minutes of cooking time, remove the bird from the oven and check the temperature with an instant read thermometer. The breast should be 155ºF (it will continue to cook while it rests) and the thigh should hit 165ºF. If the turkey is done, add to a clean sheet pan and tent with foil. Let rest for about 20 minutes before carving.