Every Thanksgiving, the pressure is on to deliver the perfect turkey. But with all the different recipes and techniques out there, it can be tough to know where to start. If you’re looking for a method that guarantees a moist, flavorful, and crispy turkey, then dry brining and spatchcocking is the way to go.
Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a novice in the kitchen, dry brining and spatchcocking your turkey is the ultimate way to achieve a moist, flavorful, and crispy Thanksgiving feast. This simple yet effective method ensures that your turkey cooks evenly and develops a rich, savory taste that will have your guests asking for seconds.
- Why You’ll Want To Make My Dry-Brined Spatchcock Turkey
- Equipment – Here’s What You’ll Need to Spatchcock the Turkey
- Steps to Spatchcock a Turkey
- Ingredients – Here’s What You’ll Need For The Dry Brine
- Steps To Making the Dry Brine
- Ingredients – Here’s What You’ll Need to Roast the Turkey
- Steps To Roasting the Turkey
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Recipe Tips And Tricks
- Side dished to serve with my Dry Brined Spatchcocked Turkey
Why You’ll Want To Make My Dry-Brined Spatchcock Turkey
- Moist and flavorful turkey: Dry brining helps to draw out moisture from the turkey, which is then reabsorbed, resulting in a moist and flavorful bird.
- Reduced cooking time: Spatchcocking reduces cooking time by up to 30%, so you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your family.
Equipment – Here’s What You’ll Need to Spatchcock the Turkey
- Large Cutting Board: The one I used measures 15×20 inches. You’ll want one that gives you an extra-large surface area to work with. Also, you should place a damp towel, larger than the cutting board, underneath the cutting board so it doesn’t slip around while you’re working. The towel will also help absorb any juice that comes off the turkey while spatchcocking it.
- Vinyl Gloves: Let’s face it, a raw turkey is disgusting and full of bacteria. Wearing vinyl gloves when working with raw turkey is essential for preventing the spread of harmful bacteria and ensuring food safety. Vinyl gloves act as a barrier between your skin and the raw turkey, preventing direct contact and reducing the risk of contamination. Just ensure the gloves you use are food-safe and do not contain any powder. Also, make sure you wear them whenever you touch the raw turkey.
- Heavy-Duty Kitchen Shears: Regular kitchen shears will not work; you need something substantial to cut through the turkey’s backbone. I ordered a pair of heavy-duty poultry shears from Amazon, and they worked like a charm.
- Paper Towels: There is going to be a lot of liquid coming off your turkey and you’ll want to use paper towels to help combat the bacteria-laden juices. I probably went through about half a roll by the time I was finished.
- Half Size Hotel Pan: I used a half-size 4-inch deep stainless steel pan to thaw my turkey in. You don’t have to use specifically what I used, but you will want to place your turkey into a large pan while it’s thawing in your fridge. After mine had thawed, about a cup of liquid was in the bottom of the pan. And trust me, you do not want your fridge contaminated by turkey juices. A disposable foil pan would also work for this.
- Turkey: I bought a frozen 10-pound L’il Butterball. Interestingly, after it had thawed and I had removed everything from inside, it only weighed 7.85 pounds. While you can technically spatchcock a turkey of any size, you should know that 12-13 pounds is the maximum that will fit on the size pan you’ll be using.
- 12×18 inch Baking Pan: You will want to roast your turkey in a pan that is deep enough to put the aromatics in the bottom, while also ensuring that the wire rack that’s holding the turkey is not touching the aromatics. This site pan will fit a half sheet pan wire rack perfectly.
- Half Sheet Pan Wire Rack: You will be using the same rack for both the dry brining and the roasting. Make sure it fits snugly in the top of your baking pan and not the bottom. This is to make sure there is room between the turkey and the aromatics that will be placed in the bottom the pan while it’s roasting, as well as ensuring good airflow during roasting.
Steps to Spatchcock a Turkey
- Place your frozen turkey in a large deep pan and set in your refrigerator to thaw. Your thawing time will vary depending on the size of your turkey, the temperature of your fridge as well as how full it is. All the experts say one day for every 4-5 pounds of weight. However, mine took four days to thaw, and there was still some ice inside the cavity. Also, I had about a cup of turkey juice that had accumulated in the bottom of the pan.
Once your turkey has thawed, drain the liquid from the bottom of the pan and return the turkey to the pan. Then, wearing vinyl gloves, carefully remove the wrappings from the turkey because more liquid is going to come out of the wrappings and you’ll need the pan to collect them. Stick your hand inside both ends of the bird and remove whatever is inside. Mine included the neck, a giblets package, and a package to make gravy.
Lay a damp kitchen towel down on your counter and then place your extra large cutting board on top. Try to use a kitchen towel that is larger than your cutting board. This will help absorb any juice that might run off the cutting board. Then place several layers of paper towels down on your cutting board. This is to absorb the liquid that will come off the turkey and prevent it from slipping around while removing the backbone. Then place your turkey breast side down on the paper towels.
- Next, using heavy-duty kitchen shears, cut along one side of the backbone. It took me about five cuts to get through one side.
- Once you have cut through one side of the backbone, repeat the same method on the other side.
- Then after you have successfully cut through both sides of the backbone, you can either discard it or save it if you’re planning to make turkey soup with the carcass.
- Next, flip your turkey over so it’s breast side up. Place one hand in the center of the breast, your other hand on top of it, and press down hard until you hear the bone crack.
Ingredients – Here’s What You’ll Need For The Dry Brine
- Kosher Salt: Builds flavors that penetrate the meat of the turkey while also maintaining juiciness.
- Light Brown Sugar: A lot of dry brine recipes do not call for sugar, but I think that is a mistake. Sugar is essential for both its browning capabilities and its flavor-enhancing properties. Sugar also helps cut down the saltiness of the dry brine, and it is essential if you’re using a turkey that has been processed in a solution like mine was.
- Dried Rubbed Sage, Dried Thyme, Dried Rosemary, Garlic Powder: These spices will add flavor, tenderness, and moisture to your meat.
Steps To Making the Dry Brine
- In a small bowl, whisk together the Kosher salt, light brown sugar, dried rubbed sage, dried thyme, dried rosemary, and garlic powder.
- After you have combined all of the spices for the dry brine, rub the mixture evenly over your spatchcocked turkey.
- To prepare your pan for the turkey, place several layers of paper towels in the bottom of a large roasting pan or baking dish fitted with a wire rack. The turkey is going to give off a lot of moisture while it’s dry brining, and the paper towels will help absorb the moisture. Then place your turkey on top of the rack. You do not want your turkey lying on the bottom of the pan because this will prevent it from drying out. The turkey will give off a lot of moisture while it’s dry brining, and the paper towels will help absorb it.
- Then wrap the entire thing in several layers of plastic wrap and place in the fridge for two days, or about 48 hours. After two days, take the turkey out of the fridge and remove the plastic wrap. Then return it to the fridge, uncovered for one more day or about 24 hours.
Ingredients – Here’s What You’ll Need to Roast the Turkey
- Unsalted Butter, Olive Oil, and Freshly Ground Pepper: These are combined and rubbed all over the turkey before roasting to give it a nice and crispy skin.
- Oranges and Lemons: These give your turkey an extra layer of flavor. Plus, they add moisture to your turkey as it cooks.
- Onion, Celery, and Carrots: The veggies add flavor and also keep the turkey moist as they steam.
- Fresh Rosemary, Fresh Sage, Fresh Thyme, Whole Black Peppercorns: Using the same fresh herbs you used in the dry brine will help enhance the flavor of the meat.
Steps To Roasting the Turkey
- Remove your turkey from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. You want to make sure the turkey is not cold when you spread the butter mixture all over it, Otherwise, the butter will not spread well. Then line a large deep roasting pan with heavy-duty foil. This will help with the cleanup after the turkey has roasted. Cut the oranges and lemons into wedges. Cut the onion into wedges and separate the layers. Cut the carrots and celery into about 2-inch pieces. Next, place all of them into the bottom of your prepared pan, along with the fresh herbs and whole black peppercorns.
- In a small bowl combine the butter, olive oil, and freshly ground black pepper.
- While wearing gloves, spread the butter all over the turkey. If the turkey is too cold the butter will not spread very well.
- Next pick up the rack that the turkey is on and place it into the prepared pan. Roast the turkey in a 325°F oven for anywhere between 2-3 ½ hours depending on the size of your bird. My turkey was 7.85 pounds and it cooked for 2 hours and 5 minutes. Use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh to check the doneness of the turkey. The internal temperature should reach 165°F.
- After the turkey is thoroughly cooked, remove it from the oven, cover it with a large piece of heavy-duty foil, and let it rest for about 30 minutes before carving. It should be noted that the turkey skin will likely lose its crispiness once you cover it with foil. It’s more important that the turkey rest under the foil than for it to have crispy skin.
- After the turkey has rested, place it on a large carving board.
- Remove the leg and thigh quarters one at a time.
- Then remove both wings.
- Next, remove both sides of the breast from the carcass.
- Then cut the breast into slices.
With its ease of preparation, impressive results, and a myriad of benefits, dry brining, and spatchcocking is the go-to technique for a Thanksgiving turkey that is sure to impress your loved ones.
So, embrace this culinary trick and let your turkey take center stage, showcasing its moist and flavorful perfection. Happy Thanksgiving!
Frequently Asked Questions
No. Many people think that washing their turkey will remove bacteria and make it safer. However, it’s virtually impossible to wash bacteria off the bird. Instead, juices that splash during washing can transfer bacteria onto the surfaces of your kitchen, other foods, and utensils. This could cause cross-contamination in your kitchen, which is a potential food poisoning hazard.
Dry brining is a simple yet effective method of infusing turkey with flavor and moisture. Unlike wet brining, which involves submerging the turkey in a salty solution, dry brining involves rubbing a mixture of salt and spices directly onto the turkey’s skin. This process helps to break down the muscle fibers, resulting in a more tender and flavorful bird.
Spatchcocking is a technique of butterflying the turkey, which essentially means removing the backbone and flattening the bird. This allows for more even cooking, as the breast and thighs are exposed to the same amount of heat. Spatchcocking also reduces cooking time by up to 30%, making it a great option for busy Thanksgiving cooks.
You should dry brine the turkey wrapped in plastic wrap for 48 hours, then unwrapped for 24 hours.
No, you do not need to rinse the turkey after dry brining. The salt will have already been absorbed into the meat, so rinsing it will only remove flavor.
Wearing vinyl gloves when working with raw turkey is essential for preventing the spread of harmful bacteria and ensuring food safety. Raw turkey can harbor a variety of microorganisms, including Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli, which can cause foodborne illness if ingested. Vinyl gloves act as a barrier between your skin and the raw turkey, preventing direct contact and reducing the risk of contamination.
Resting a turkey is an important part of the process as it allows the meat to relax. The foil helps trap the heat, allowing for the juices to be reabsorbed. This makes the meat more tender, moist, and flavorful. However, you should know that covering the turkey with foil will cause the skin to lose its crispiness. Resting the bird under foil is more important than having crispy skin.
Recipe Tips And Tricks
- Use a wire rack when roasting the turkey to allow for even air circulation.
- Let the turkey rest for at least 30 minutes, covered with foil, before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute.
- Tuck the wing tips under the turkey so they don’t burn during roasting.
- Line your roasting pan with heavy-duty foil for easy cleanup.
- Use a meat thermometer to check the doneness of the turkey. The internal temperature should reach 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh.
- You should thaw your turkey in the refrigerator, in its original packaging, and placed in a pan. The turkey will give off a lot of liquid in thawing, and you do not want it contaminating your fridge.
Side dished to serve with my Dry Brined Spatchcocked Turkey
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Dry Brined Spatchcock Turkey
- Large Plastic Cutting Board
- Vinyl Gloves
- Heavy Duty Kitchen Shears
- Paper Towels
- Half Size Hotel Pan for thawing the turkey
- Half Sheet Pan Size Wire Rack that will fit in your roasting pan
- 12x17x3 Baking Pan
- 1 10-13 lb Whole Turkey
For the Dry Brine
- 3 tbs Kosher Salt
- 2 tbs Brown Sugar
- 1 ½ tsp Dried Rubbed Sage
- 1 ½ tsp Dried Thyme
- 1 ½ tsp Dried Rosemary
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
For the Turkey
- 3 Lemons
- 2 Oranges
- 2 Onions
- 5 Celery Stalks
- 5 Carrots
- 1 tbs Whole Black Peppercorns
- 4 sprigs Fresh Rosemary
- 4 sprigs Fresh Thyme
- 4 sprigs Fresh Sage
For the Rub
- ½ c Unsalted Butter at room temperature
- 2 tbs Olive Oil
- 1 tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
How to Prepare the Turkey Before you Dry Brine
- Place your turkey in a large deep pan. (I used a half sheet hotel pan, but a foil pan will work too.) Then place the pan in the fridge to thaw. This should take approximately 1 day for every 4 pounds of turkey. (This depends on how cold and full your fridge is. My 10 pound turkey took four days to thaw.)
- Before you're ready to handle your thawed turkey, put a pair of vinyl gloves on.
- Start by pouring out the liquid that has accumulated at the bottom of the pan and return your turkey to the pan. Then carefully remove the wrappings on the turkey while it's still in the pan – more liquid will come out of the turkey when you do this.
- Remove everything that is inside your turkey, making sure to check both ends. In my turkey, the neck was in one end while the giblet packet was in the other.
- Lay a large damp kitchen towel on your countertop and place your cutting board on top. Then place a layer on paper towels on top of the cutting board.
How to Spatchcock a Turkey
- Remove the turkey from the pan and place it breast side down on your prepared cutting board.
- Using your heavy duty kitchen shears cut along one side of the backbone. It took me about five cuts to get through one side. You will need to put a little bit of elbow grease into this.
- After you have cut through one side of the backbone, repeat the process on the other side. Again this should take you about five cuts or so to get through the whole side. You can either discard the backbone, or save it if you're planning to make soup with the carcass.
- Flip the turkey over so that it's now breast side up. Place one hand in the center of the breast and your other hand on top of it. Then press down hard until you hear the bone crack.
- Using paper towels, pat the turkey dry.
- Then place several layers of paper towels in the bottom of the pan you plan to roast your turkey in and place the wire rack on top. I used a 12×17 deep baking pan as opposed to a standard roasting pan or a half sheet pan so that my hand sheet pan wire rack would fit snugly in the top of the pan and would not be sitting on the aromatics that will be in the bottom of the pan. This was to create airflow underneath the turkey during roasting.
How to Dry Brine the Turkey
- In a small bowel whisk together the Kosher salt, brown sugar, dried rubbed sage, dried thyme, dried rosemary and garlic powder.
- Spread the mixture evenly over the turkey.
- Carefully pick up the turkey and place it on the wire rack in your prepared pan.
- Wrap the entire pan in several layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 days or 48 hours.
- Take the turkey out of the fridge and cut away the plastic wrap. Then return the turkey to the fridge for one day or about 24 hours to allow the turkey to dry out.
How to Roast the Dry Brined Spatchcock Turkey
- Preheat your oven to 450°F.
- Take the turkey out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature.
- Carefully remove the rack, with the turkey still on it, from the pan and set aside. (I placed mine in a half sheet pan because that was the size of the wire rack I used.)
- Remove the paper towels from the bottom of the pan and discard them. Wipe the pan dry and line it with heavy duty aluminum foil.
- Cut the lemons and oranges into wedges so that you have 12 wedges of each. Place in the bottom of the prepared pan.
- Cut the onions into wedges, separate the layers, and place in the bottom of the prepared pan.
- Cut the celery and carrots into 2-3 inch pieces, then place in the bottom of the prepared pan.
- Evenly distribute whole peppercorns over the cut fruit and vegetables in the bottom of the pan.
- Lay the sprigs of fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and fresh sage on top of the cut fruit and vegetables. Set the pan aside.
- Combine the unsalted butter, olive oil, and fresh ground black pepper in a small bowl.
- Before you're ready to handle your raw turkey, put a pair of vinyl gloves on.
- Using your hands, rub the butter mixture evenly over the entire turkey. If the turkey is too cold, the butter won't spread very well.
- Once the turkey is covered with the butter mixture, carefully place the wire rack into the prepared pan. Please note that the rack should not be touching the fruit and vegetables in the bottom of the pan.
- Insert an oven proof meat thermometer into the thickest part of one of the thighs.
- Place the turkey in the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Cook the turkey until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Depending on the size of your turkey, it will cook somewhere between 2-3 ½ hours. Mine took 2 hours and 5 minutes.
- Remove the turkey from the oven and cover it with a large piece of heavy duty foil for 30 minutes.
How to Carve the Turkey
- After 30 minutes remove the foil from the turkey and carefully transfer it to a carving board.
- First remove the two leg and thigh quarters by cutting through the joint where they attach to the turkey.
- Next remove each of the wings by cutting through the joint where they attach to the turkey.
- To remove the breasts first make an incision down the center of the breast along the top of the breast bone. Next, starting at the breast bone, slice down along the bone and down under the breast to remove it. Repeat with the other breast. Then going against the grain, cut the breasts into about half inch slices.