I always spend too much time each Thanksgiving season trying to figure out the best way to brine my turkey. I’ve tried everything, from simple salt water to an apple juice concoction with cinnamon sticks and orange peel. I knew that the salt in the brine was breaking something or other down in the turkey, making it less prone to shriveling up and drying out, but what I didn’t know was that I was water logging my turkey. The turkey was juicy, sure, but it was all a farce. The thing was just full of water! So this time around, I did a plain old salt rub overnight, like a light cure. This made sure that my turkey had its fibers broken down enough to not dry out, but also didn’t weigh my turkey down with flavorless water or overpowering apple juice. The skin was wonderfully crispy, the bird was perfectly juicy, and I was one happy lady. Another reason for my happiness was the spatchcock, or butterfly, method that I used this year. Simply put, you just need to cut the backbone out of your turkey. It is not a technique for the squeamish, but it works like a charm. Once you flatten the bird and put it on your roasting tray, the turkey will cook evenly on its new flat surface, as well as allowing for a much faster cooking time – well under an hour and a half! This is the only way to cook a turkey, folks. After years of sub-par turkey dinners, this one took the cake. —CrepesofWrath
- Serves 10-12
13-15 pound turkey
onions, roughly chopped
carrots, roughly chopped
stalks celery, roughly chopped
- First, prep your turkey overnight. Pat your turkey very dry, then rub 1-2 cups of salt all over the turkey, inside and out, and under the skin. Do not throw the giblets or neck away - save them for the gravy! You can spatchcock/butterfly your turkey before or after you do this - I did mine after for no particular reason at all. I put my turkey in a brine bag in the fridge overnight while it sat with the salt on it, lightly closed, but you can put it on a plate or in a roasting pan, lightly covered with foil, too. [As a side note, people like to brine turkey in some kind of salt water or apple juice mixture, which is fine, but this just water logs the turkey and makes it tastes like water or apple juice. "Curing" the turkey with salt, however, gives the same benefit of breaking down the muscle fibers in the turkey to make it moist and juicy without taking on the flavor of anything of than delicious turkey.]
- When you're ready to cook your turkey, chop your onions, carrots and celery. Line a baking tray with foil if you don't have a roasting pan, then toss the vegetables and rosemary together and spread them out on the baking tray or roasting pan. Top the vegetables with a cooling rack fitted into the baking sheet or the roasting tray itself.
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. It's time to spatchcock your turkey if you haven't already. Place a wet paper towel under your cutting board so that it doesn't slip around, and using a pair of kitchen shears (highly recommended) or a very sharp knife, carefully cut the backbone out of your turkey, starting at the tail end. Cutting through gets a little tough in certain areas, but just follow the back bone and keep cutting. See the photos above if you're unsure, but I promise this is really easy and almost impossible to mess up. Do one side, then do the other. Be really careful not to slip or cut yourself - do not attempt this with a blunt knife.
- Once the back bone is out, set it aside to be used for the gravy, if you like. Flip the bird over so that it is breast side up. Using as much force as possible, press your palm into the "sternum" of the turkey, between the two breasts, and press down to flatten the bird as much as possible (again, see the photos above). Spread the legs out, away from the body, and tuck the wings in so that they don't burn in the oven. Rub the whole thing with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Place the turkey on top of your prepare sheet or roasting pan and place in the oven for 70-80 minutes, until the breast registers 150 degrees F and the thighs register 165 degrees F.
- When the turkey is done, let it rest for 20 minutes or so before carving. Save any juices from the bottom of the pan to add to the gravy, if you like.