Thanksgiving: Spatchcock Turkey

by Rosemary King in , , , ,


I know I'm not the only person to say this, times a million, but THANK GOD for Bon Appetite magazine.  They always seem to understand the pulse of what's happening in home-cooking in such an intrinsic way that they are ahead of the curve by being 100% behind home-cooks.  This year, I picked up the Thanksgiving issue, which is not something I normally do, but I was captivated by the cover image, of a beautifully golden, massive, spatchcocked turkey.  

 That's a big turkey neck. 

That's a big turkey neck. 

We all know I like spatchcocking poultry, but it did not occur to me that you could, or should do this with your Thanksgiving bird.  But I was not hosting this year (first time in three years) and I had no control of the turkey until day of.  There was no brining, no air-drying, no obsessive prep.  I showed up and David had picked out a beautiful bird, but alas, he could only find a frozen one.  It was still pretty rock hard.  DUN DUN DUN.  What to do?  What to do? After running it under hot water made it pliable enough to work with, I realized that we already had the perfect answer, hack the thing open and SAVE THANKSGIVING. 

OK, It wasn't that dire, but it could have been!  David had no cooking shears so I did kind of have to hack the turkey apart with a huge knife.  To spatchcock you cut out the turkey's backbone, lay it flat and splay out the legs.  This means that the bird cooks evenly, and much faster because air doesn't have to circulate through the cavity of your no-longer-feathered friend.  You get juicy juicy turkey meat, crispy skin in half the time.  I haven't stuffed my bird in a while because it also dries out the turkey, so there was only gains to be made with this new technique. 

 Patting the turkey dry. 

Patting the turkey dry. 

Pro-Tip on when the bird is done.  Poke between the leg and the breast with a sharp knife.  The Juices should run clear.  Then you can take it out of the oven, tent it in foil and let rest for AT LEAST 30 minutes. 

 Covered in butter, thyme leaves, salt and pepper 

Covered in butter, thyme leaves, salt and pepper 

 Cozy in the oven. 

Cozy in the oven. 

Spatchcocked Turkey

  • 1 Twelve-Fourteen lb Turkey, at least halfway defrosted 

  • 1/2 cup melted butter 

  • 1/4 cup salt

  • 1/4 cup ground pepper

  • 1 bunch thyme leaves 

  • 1 onion peeled and quartered 

Take a sharp pair of kitchen shears, or a very sharp knife.  Cut down one side of the bird's back bone.  Then move the knife across to the other side and cut down that side as well. Rinse the bird down and pat it down until it's really really dry.  Lay the bird flat in a roasting pan and press down.  Rearrange the thighs until they are flat on the roasting pan as well.  Sprinkle both the back and the front of the bird generously with salt and pepper.  Lay flat down and spread the thyme leaves over the top of the bird.  Drizzle with butter.  At this point, you can do whatever you want to the turkey.  Some people like oil, some like bacon, some like to add onions and carrots to the bottom of the pan for gravy flavor.  You could even spread your stuffing on the bottom of the pan and roast the bird on top of it.  Won't affect cooking time, unless you were going to use a metal rack to encourage more airflow.  But if the bird is already on the bottom of the pan, then you can put it over the stuffing without much adverse affects.  Roast until thigh juices run clear and then remove from the oven, cover with foil and let rest for 30 minutes.