Serves a Crowd

Spatchcocked, Braise-Roasted Turkey With Herb Butter

November 13, 2013
6 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Cook time 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Serves 10 to 12
Author Notes

Since I already love Amanda's spatchcock-braise-roast method for cooking chicken, I thought—why not turkey, too? I combined her method with AntoniaJames's recipe for Spatchcocked Turkey and Tom Colicchio's recipe for Butter-Roasted Turkey. The result is far and away the best turkey I’ve ever made—the meat is succulent and juicy, the skin is shatter-crisp, and best of all, the bird cooks in about half the time. I cooked my 13-pound turkey in a 14" x 20" x 3" roasting pan, which fit snugly into my home oven. It was more than enough for 8 people, with plenty of turkey remaining for leftovers. I cooked my bird for 2 hours and 15 minutes. —Cristina Sciarra

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: Spatchcock Turkey Is the Quickest Turkey. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 13-pound turkey
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • Zest of 1 small lemon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 10 cracks black pepper
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup turkey stock (vegetable or chicken stock will also work well)
  1. 24 hours before you plan to cook the turkey, spatchcock the bird. (Reserve the neck and the wingtips—you’ll use them to make the gravy.) If you can get the farmer, turkey seller, or butcher to do this step for you, even better. Otherwise, you’ll need a strong arm, but I made it happen with a pair of poultry shears and a serrated bread knife. Then, rinse the turkey well and pat it very dry. Salt the turkey all over with 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Lay the bird flat (breast side up) on a baking sheet. Tent it just slightly with plastic wrap, and move it to the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.
  2. 9 hours before you plan to cook the turkey, take the butter out of the refrigerator, and place it in a small bowl on the counter. Leave it to soften.
  3. 8 hours before you plan to cook the turkey, blitz 1 tablespoon kosher salt, the fennel seeds, the lemon zest, the thyme leaves, the rosemary, and the black pepper in a food processor for about 30 seconds. Mix the spice-and-herb blend with the softened butter. Rub the seasoned butter all under the skin of the turkey, making sure to get into every nook and cranny. Move the turkey back into the refrigerator, this time without plastic wrap. (You want the skin to dry out a little.)
  4. 1 hour before you plan to cook the turkey, remove it from the refrigerator.
  5. 30 minutes before you plan to cook the turkey, turn on the oven to 425° F.
  6. Dice the onion, the green apple, the fennel bulb, and the carrot. Scatter the vegetables inside the bottom of the roasting pan you’ll be using. Meanwhile, bring the apple cider, the turkey stock, and 1 cup water to a simmer, and then add that to the roasting pan, too. Move the turkey (breast side-up) into the roasting pan, on top of the vegetables, cider, and stock.
  7. Move the turkey into the oven to roast. As a general rule, cook the turkey for 10 minutes per pound (I roasted my 13-pound bird for 2 hours and 15 minutes). Cook until the internal temperature of a turkey leg reaches 165° F, and then let the bird rest, uncovered, for about 1 hour. If the skin looks like it is getting too dark in the oven while cooking, just cover the darkening parts with a bit of tin foil.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • Betsy Abele Clark
    Betsy Abele Clark
  • Jamie Ward
    Jamie Ward
  • Jean Clark Caudill
    Jean Clark Caudill
  • Cristina Sciarra
    Cristina Sciarra
Cristina is a writer, cook, and day job real estate developer. She studied literature, holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, and completed the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She lives in Jersey City with her husband--a Frenchman she met in Spain--and their sweet black cat, Minou. Follow her writings, recipes, publications and photography at

28 Reviews

Sara November 18, 2020
I have been cooking my Thanksgiving turkey this way for a couple of years now and its my favorite way now ! I have tried cooking it skin side down for the majority of the cooking time and then flipping it over to crisp up the skin. Either way is wonderful. I do miss presenting the whole bird at the dinner table but the moistness and flavor of the meat well makes up for that !
Mike November 18, 2018
Sorry if this is a stupid question, but “letting the bird rest uncovered for an hour”... won’t the bird be completely cold after an hour??
Cristina S. November 19, 2018
It won't! You would be surprised how long the bird stays warm; 45min-1 hour won't result in cold turkey. You can tent it loosely with foil. Right out of the oven it would be too hot to cut, but also, it's important to let it rest.
judy November 17, 2018
I use a dedicated secateur for the backbone and a small paring knife to scribe the breastbone. The secateur is perfect for cutting the joints afterwards, too.
Hpm November 17, 2018
Tin snips cheaper and easier more likely to keep dedicated to the task of food. Pruners would get used as pruners quickly. A lopper would work the best but that takes both arms to operate.
Hpm November 17, 2018
FYI an old fashion pair of tin snips makes a far superior game shear then any poultry shear. Buy a large pair of Wiss straight tin snips and even the weakest hand can cut both sides of the back bone. DO NOT buy the modern scissor looking tin snips. Handles are too short for good leverage.
AntoniaJames November 24, 2017
May I respectfully caution others that 10 min per pound may be much more than you need? Start checking early -- at 4-5 minutes per pound. My 12 pounder was nearly done in an hour (very inner part of breast only at 145; left it in a few more minutes).

It made for an exciting hour while the bird rested, but I’d built extra time into my project plan (I actually thought we’d be able to start a Scrabble game while the turkey was roasting); with some help I pulled it off. I've never been more grateful for make-ahead gravy.

The most important lesson here is that this method altogether depends on a reliable meat thermometer. The breast should be at 150 at the thickest part. Often, the breast is not cooked by the time the thigh of a spatchcocked turkey is at 165. It's okay for the thigh to be hotter than that. Parts of our bird's thighs were at over 180 when the breast reached 150, yet the thigh meat was tender and juicy. I rested the turkey for just over an hour. One of my best turkeys ever. ;o)
Tammy November 15, 2018
When using an oven proof meat thermometer would you suggest placing it in the thickest part of the thigh or the breast before you start cooking the turkey? I’ve seen it both ways and I want to know what’s best?
Cristina S. November 19, 2018
Hi Tammy, you want to test the temperature in the "meatiest" part of the thigh. This is because it takes the longest to cook.
mohagan November 19, 2017
Hi, I've got a larger bird--18-20 pounds. Will this work for that size? What would I have to do differently?
Betsy A. November 7, 2015
Hello Christina, I too would like to know how to reheat if you make a day ahead - see Jamie Ward.
Jamie W. November 7, 2015
Oops! I missed the fennel bulb in the list of ingredients.
Jamie W. November 7, 2015
Hello Cristina. If making ahead (day before), how would you package/store roasted turkey and re-heat? BTW, I love fennel and may purchase a fennel bulb to add to vegetables.
Cristina S. November 8, 2015
Hi Jamie and Betsy, I don't recommend making the turkey ahead. I think many Thanksgiving recipes can be made ahead, but not the turkey!
AntoniaJames November 5, 2015
How do you use the neck and wingtips to make the gravy? I see a reference in Step 1, but no mention elsewhere. Perhaps a step was dropped when you entered the recipe? Thank you. ;o)
Cristina S. November 5, 2015
Hi Antonia! Sorry about that; this recipe was originally posted on my blog with a whole Thanksgiving menu! I'm including the gravy details below:

1. In a wide saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium heat. Remember that reserved turkey neck/wingtips? When the oil is hot, sear them in the pan, flipping once or twice in cooking. Cook the parts for 7-10 minutes, or until the meat is golden, and there are lovely brown spots all over the pan. Remove the parts to a plate.

2. Lower the heat to low. Add 1/3 cup flour to the pan, and whisk it into the fat. Slowly, whisk in 1/2 cup warmed apple cider, and then 1 cup hard apple cider, until you have a smooth liquid. Add 3 cups turkey stock and raise the heat to high; bring the liquid to a boil. Turn the heat back to low, and add the reserved turkey parts and 1 bay leaf. Cook the gravy for 1.5 hours. Run the gravy through a sieve, and discard the solids. Adjust the seasoning at the end, as needed.
giinna123 November 17, 2018
Hello Cristina, Can you amend the recipe to include this? If the gravy details are just in comment, as they are now, then they don't show up when you print the recipe.
Cristina S. November 19, 2018
Hi! I didn't add the gravy recipe, because it's something I have been changing every year, and I haven't found "the one" yet. I might be getting close, though! This is what I'm doing this year:

In wide saucepan, heat 2tbsps vegetable oil over medium heat; sear turkey parts in batches, 10 minutes. Remove to a plate. Meanwhile, whisk 1.5tsp gelatin into 1/2 cup stock. Lower heat to low. Stir in 2 minced shallots, until transluscent. Whisk in 1/2 cup warm apple cider and 1 cup hard apple cider. Add 3 cups stock; bring to a boil. Add turkey parts, two thyme sprigs, a bay leaf; lower heat to simmer. Cooks 1.5 hours; skim and season. (Can make 2 days ahead.)
Chelsea S. December 14, 2013
Hello! If I can't find turkey stock will chicken or vegetable stock be a good substitute? Do you cook this covered or in a bag at all?
Cristina S. December 15, 2013
Hi Chelsea, Chicken or vegetable stock will work just fine. I don't cover the turkey in the beginning of cooking, sometimes just at the end, if the skin is starting to get too dark, I'll patch it with tinfoil. No bag. I hope you enjoy!
Jean C. November 26, 2013
Will this technique still reap enough dripping for rich gravy?
Cristina S. November 26, 2013
Hi Jean, Please see Lincoln's question + my response below. In short, the drippings are pretty fatty as is. I would add more liquid to the pan if you'd like to collect the drippings.
Jean C. November 26, 2013
I usually separate the fat from the other liquids. With the fat I measure out only enough to make the roux, then use the other non-fatty drippings to make the broth for the gravy. With traditional roasting methods this usually reaps 3-4 cups of broth which I then use usually 3-4 TBS of fat and an equal amount of flour for the roux. My question is not how much fat will rend but if any broth type liquid is rendered with the spatchcock braising technique. I've never tried this approach to roasting a turkey. My turkey is a frozen 12 lb bird from my husband's employer, an annual gift.
Cristina S. November 28, 2013
No, there isn't much broth type liquid rendered. Happy Thanksgiving!
Lincoln B. November 23, 2013
Just did a dry-run on a six pound turkey breast, and let me tell you, Cristina, it was delicious! I think I'll cut out the fennel seeds on the Thanksgiving bird, but that's a personal preference. My measurements could have been a little off as I had to adjust for a smaller bird, but it was just a little overpowering. Also, I think I'll juice the lemon into the braising liquid, just because I won't have anything else to do with the lemon after I zest it. Otherwise, this recipe test was a success...and now we have tons of turkey to eat before we leave on Monday!
Cristina S. November 23, 2013
I'm so glad it worked out for you! And yes, feel free to mess around with the herbs and spices, based on your personal preferences. I might copy your lemon juice idea in the future.
Lincoln B. November 18, 2013
I mentioned this recipe to my mother last night, figuring it might be a welcome change to the turkey we usually have on Thanksgiving. Her response was "Ok, do you want to do the turkey this year?" Doh! So, it appears I'll be in charge of the bird next week, and I intend to use your recipe. My only question is: after two and a half hours, are the veggies in the bottom of the pan too mushy to serve alongside the turkey? I am considering using the turkey drippings in the bottom to flavor the cornbread dressing, but the veggies themselves, what do you do with them?
Cristina S. November 18, 2013
Ha, oops. Well, it's not that the vegetables are too soft, but that the pan drippings are really fatty. (Think about it--turkey fat + all that butter....) I actually didn't use the pan drippings at all, since I'd made turkey stock the week before, and since much of the liquid cooks off in roasting, but you could certainly give it a go. I used just a small amount of vegetables, since my goal was simply to lightly flavor and prevent smoking. However, if you want to eat the vegetables/use the pan juices, I might triple or quadruple the vegetable quantity, and consider adding another cup of stock to the pan every 45 minutes or so. This way, you'll have more to work with, and the liquid : fat ratio should be lower. (I will say, however, even cooking the turkey the way I did, when I went to carve the bird I found a friend of mine hovering over the roasting pan, surreptitiously picking out vegetables and popping them into his mouth. He proclaimed them "delicious", although I have a feeling they were too fatty to eat in large quantities.) Good luck, and let me know how it turns out!