What if I told you amazing, delicious, juicy, tender turkey didn’t require 3 hours in the oven or days of brining? What if I told you you could get all that and it would take less than 2 hours – start to finish? Seriously. What would you say?
You’d better decide, because I’m about to tell you just that. You can make a seriously juicy and delicious turkey with amazingly crispy skin in about an hour and a half. For real. My secret? Spatchcocking the turkey.
Sounds weird right? Well… just hang on.
To start, let me say this… I’ve brined many a bird and can certainly speak to the benefits. I’ve even brined and spatchcocked a turkey. But honestly, I didn’t see a big difference based on the time and effort that goes into it. Ever since I started cooking my turkey this way, I’ve never looked back.
So what is Spatchcocking?
Well, to put it simply, it’s butterflying. As awful as it sounds, we cut the backbone out of the turkey and press the bird flat. Eliminating that center cavity and flattening the turkey allows the heat to completely surround the bird which means it cooks faster and the faster we cook it, the less the juices have a chance to run out. The result is super juicy turkey in about half as much time as the traditional method.
Yeah, it might not win any awards from a presentation standpoint, but the greatly reduced time and effort more than make up for it. Carve it before it hits the table and no one will ever know the difference.
And since we’re cooking it at a super high temperature, it also helps it cook faster and gives us AMAZINGLY crispy skin – which we just love.
A lot of recipes that call for you to spatchcock a turkey have you place the turkey on a wire rack in a pan to allow the heat to circulate under the bird. The first two times I made a turkey like this, I did that. And it took me hours to clean those racks despite me spraying them with nonstick cooking spray beforehand.
One day I got smart and just put the turkey on a bed of coarsely chopped veggies and it worked perfectly. And all those veggies helped to amp up the flavor of the pan drippings for my gravy – though don’t expect tons of drippings. This method keeps most of the juices in the turkey and out of the pan.
Once we’ve got our bird all splayed out (there’s just not a nice way around this), we brush it with an oil mixture filled with herbs and seasonings to give it even more flavor.
In the oven it goes for 1 hour to about 1 hour and 20 minutes and that’s about all there is to it. Juicy, tender, delicious turkey in a fraction of the time.
Just look at that color and crispy skin!
Keep in mind, a reliable meat thermometer is crucial for this method – and any method, really. It’s what allows us to cook the turkey through without overcooking it and drying it out. It’s a small investment, but will prove to be beneficial in many instances once you have it. I use this inexpensive model in the test kitchen (affiliate link).
Juiciest Spatchcocked Turkey
- 1 (12 to 13 pound) turkey, completely thawed if previously frozen
- 1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 4 carrots
- 1 large onion
- 4 ribs celery
- Line a large rimmed baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Very coarsely chop the vegetables and scatter them over the pan. Set aside.
- Place the turkey on a large cutting board, breast side down. Pat the turkey dry with some paper towels to make it easier to handle. Use a large pair of sharp poultry shears to cut the backbone out of the tukery. Start at the tail and cut up one side of the back bone, then proceed to the other side. Some bones may be a little tougher to cut through, so you may have to use both hands on the shears. You can also use a chef knife for this, but I find the shears much safer and easier. (You can discard the backbone or use it to make stock for gravy.)Then flip the turkey over and place both hands firmly in the center of the breast and press down with considerable force to flatten the turkey. the flatter the better. It may take a few tries and you'll probably hear some bones breaking. You can also now remove the excess skin around the neck and tail if you like. Place the turkey on top of the vegetables.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the oil, poultry seasoning, pepper, and salt together. Dry the turkey again with a few paper towels then liberally brush the entire turkey (including the inside) with the mixture. You can even rub some under the skin of the breasts for even more flavor. Then tuck the wings tips under the turkey to keep them from burning.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F and allow the turkey to rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes while it preheats. Cook the turkey for 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes (rotating the pan about halfway through cooking) or until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F (the breast should read about 155°F) when tested with a meat thermometer. The residual heat with continue to cook the bird once it's out of the oven, so the temp will rise more even after being taken out. If you find the turkey starting to burn, you can alwasy reduce the heat a bit or cover the darkest part of it with aluminum foil to keep it from getting too brown. Each turkey and oven is a little different so you may need to make some minor adjustments as it's cooking to make sure it's cooked completely without drying out.
- Allow the turkey to rest for 15 to 20 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute then carve as normal.