You Say 'Roast Turkey,' I Say 'Spatchcock'
"Spatchcocking." If it’s happening around here this Thanksgiving, nobody’s talking about it – yet.
The peculiar term is probably English in origin. It describes an unusual way to prepare a chicken or turkey, and it’s unlike the traditional Norman Rockwell presentation we’re used to. Yes, those rounded mounds of roasted poultry look beautiful. But too often, their crispy skins hide dried-out white meat, still-pink dark meat - or both. It’s difficult to cook something the size of a turkey evenly. Harder still to keep it moist and flavorful.
When you cook a turkey spatchcock-style, those problems are solved. Basically, you "butterfly" the bird and flatten it, and the resulting shape roasts evenly. All the skin is on top, all the meat cooks at the same rate. Carving is simpler, too. It’s all perfectly logical, and devotees swear it’s delicious.
But you’ve got to break some bones - literally - to make it happen. It’s a straightforward procedure. (Anyone uncomfortable with the thought of performing major surgery on raw poultry may be excused from reading further.)
First, remove and set aside the package of giblets that usually comes inside the turkey. Rinse and dry the bird, then place it breast-side down on a cutting board. With sharp kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbone and remove it. Set aside for gravy or stock. Open the bird and flatten it out.
Then turn the bird over so the breast side faces up. Use a heavy kitchen mallet (or the weight of your body on your palms) to press sharply, first on one side then the other, of the breastbone. You should hear it crack.
Arrange the spatchcocked bird on a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet and season with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs, according to your taste. Tuck the wings tips in. If desired, you can place the bird atop sliced carrots, onions and celery. Roast in a preheated oven set to 450 degrees until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165 degrees; about 1 hour and 20 minutes for a 12- to 14-pound turkey.
A couple of cautions are in order: First, do not attempt to spatchcock one of those gargantuan 20-pound turkeys; once you flatten it out, it won’t fit into a standard pan or oven. Also, just like a traditionally-roasted bird, this one will require 15 to 20 minutes of standing time before carving or the meat won’t slice nicely. You may also want to carve the turkey in the kitchen - or alert your guests that you’re bringing something that looks a little different to the table this year.
And one more thing: If you prepare - or partake of – a spatchcock-style turkey this Thanksgiving, tell us about it. You can post a comment or send us an email.
We want to know: Do you prefer your holiday meals traditional or trendy? We’re eager to hear what you think.