Turkey is the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving tables, yet it’s also the hardest to cook correctly. If you undercook it, food poisoning is a possibility, but if you overcook it, the breasts can be dry and unappetizing.
My solution for the past five years or so has been trying out different forms of brining. My go to is this dry brine – I love not having to deal with a lot of liquid (as well as not having to find a large enough container for said turkey and brine). A dry brine still gives you the flavorful benefits of a brine as well as a juicy turkey.
However, I think spatchcocking makes my recipe even better. Spatchcocking is when you remove the spine of the turkey, and roast the turkey flat. This has significant benefits, the biggest that it cooks very fast. I cooked a 16 pound turkey in a little less than an hour and a half. Wow! But it also gets the turkey’s skin delicious, crisp and brown, and even better –roasts the turkey evenly – so the legs and breasts get done at the same time.
While you won’t be able to stuff your turkey this way (an option that many experts say not to do anyway), the benefits far outweigh that fact.
But before I send you all scurrying to try this out yourself, I do want to honestly share our experience testing this method out.
- It’s not at all hard to spatchcock a chicken with a sharp knife or kitchen shears. I had a harder time with a turkey. My husband, with his stronger hands, ended up helping me out with this part. I prefer kitchen shears, but do expect to have to use some oomph on this part.
- When I pressed down on the turkey to flatten it after the backbone was removed, a large squirt of turkey juice sprayed across the kitchen floor. Oops.
- Most recipes I found used a very hot oven for this method. This ended up causing a lot of smoking. For Thanksgiving, I plan on turning the oven down a bit after the first 20 minutes, and also adding water to the bottom of the pan to hopefully prevent that from reoccurring.
- Our turkey was hefty at 16 pounds, so it just barely fit on our sheet pan once flattened. I would say it needs to be 16 pounds or less, so this method won’t likely work for larger birds unless you split the turkey in half and roast on two pans.
Despite those disadvantages, our “test” turkey turned out so well cooked and delicious we all decided this was a method we simply had to do again. Paired with the salt brine? Amazing.
I don’t want to give my own directions yet, as I still want to experiment with this method, but here are a couple of recipes showing how to spatchcock: Example one, two, and three.
And here is my dry brine recipe!