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I cooked two turkey breasts for today's and last Wednesday's cover stories. The first was what I tend to think of as a traditional bird: rubbed with seasonings and roasted at 325 degrees until the ideal temperature is reached.

The second was my first venture into a nontraditional bird: spatchcocked. Spatchcocking involves removing the backbone so the bird can be pressed flat. The method is ideal for a whole bird because it allows for more even cooking, meaning the legs and thighs are cooked through before the breast turns dry and tough. Spatchcocked chickens are often grilled, but the method works well for roasting, too.

The method also allows for higher heat, and faster cooking. And it produces a bird with delectably crispy skin.

My traditional roasted breast, which weighed 5 pounds, took roughly 2 hours to roast.

My spatchcocked breast, which weighed 7 pounds, was ready in about an hour.

Both breasts were flavorful. But the spatchcocked breast was juicy and tender, too. It was the best tasting and textured turkey breast I've ever cooked. Maybe even the best breast I've ever eaten. And all I did to it was drizzle it with olive oil and sprinkle generously with coarse salt and ground black pepper.

Most of you likely already have your Thanksgiving menu set in stone, but if you happened to pick up an extra breast, or even a whole bird to cook later, I highly recommend giving the spatchcock method a try.

The process can be messy, as it involves cutting through bone and connective tissue and dislocating joints. You will definitely need a sharp knife and sharp poultry shears.

Spatchcocked Turkey

1 turkey or turkey breast

Olive oil or melted butter

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Lay turkey breast side down on a work surface. Using poultry shears, remove backbone by cutting along both sides beginning at the tail end. It will take some force to cut through some of the bone; be sure to have the bird on a steady work surface.

Set backbone and any giblets aside for stock or gravy.

Open up the turkey and use the tip of a knife to score alongside the keel bone (the dark oblong bone in the middle of the breast). This makes it easier to flatten the bird.

Cut away any large pieces of fat and excess skin. Remove only the skin that is not covering flesh.

Turn breast side up.

Using the heel of your hands, press firmly down on the breast. You should feel and hear a crack as the breast bone breaks.

If working with a whole bird, pull the thighs outward so the turkey lies flat, with the wings facing inward. Tuck the wing tips under to secure.

Place the turkey on a sturdy rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle turkey with olive oil or melted butter. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Roast, rotating sheet halfway through, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the bird reaches 165 degrees, 1 to 2 hours depending on size of turkey. Let stand 20 to 30 minutes before carving.

Food on 11/25/2015

Print Headline: Spatchcocking bird trims roasting time


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Archived Comments

  • GCW
    November 25, 2015 at 5:47 a.m.

    I'm going to keep calling it "butterflying" if that's OK.