Spatchcocked and Dry-Brined a Turkey (325/366)

“A lot of Thanksgiving days have been ruined by not carving the turkey in the kitchen.”
~ Kin Hubbard


I’ve cooked my fair share of turkeys before – while Mom does the turkey for our big Thanksgiving dinner with the family, Nick and I have hosted Thanksgiving dinners for friends when we could, for several years now. I’ve cooked a turkey in a rotisserie oven, and done the traditional oven treatment, and in the past several years, adopted the wet brining technique made super popular by one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Alton Brown (it is the number one searched recipe on with a 5-star rating and over 4,000 – no, that’s not a typo – over 4,000 reviews).

But a little while ago, I spent some time on the awesome website and saw a great article on brining turkey that went through the science of what brining does for the turkey, and how salting or “dry-brining” works just about as well as wet brining as far as flavoring and keeping moisture in the bird, with the advantage of not having to keep a huge stock pot with brining liquid in your fridge while the turkey brines for several days. This year, I decided to try a dry brine!

Alton has a dry brine recipe too, so I followed that one – it’s super basic, which I liked. Just salt and pepper, sage, thyme, and allspice. I used my mortar and pestle and ground everything up together (Alton uses a spice grinder – he actually has a coffee grinder he uses specifically for spices, but I don’t have a dedicated spice grinder – the mortar and pestle is cheaper and more fun anyway). Easy peasy!

Now the other part of this post I’d never done before either. To spatchcock a bird means to cut the backbone out and butterfly it, so that it cooks faster, and most people say more evenly. To do this, you have to cut the backbone out of the bird which is not an easy thing to do (especially when your turkey is 18 lbs.) – special thanks to the epic Mr. Jutan for donating his turkey from work to our cause!

Again, cutting out the backbone of a turkey is not an easy thing. The best tool to use (in my opinion) is a good, heavy pair of kitchen shears (but they’d better be GOOD), and don’t forget this is a turkey (much heftier than a chicken). The bones are going to be thick – but if you can get past the pubic plate, you’re good to go. Be sure to avoid trying to cut  through the thigh bone because you just aren’t going to get through that bad boy. has a great article and slideshow on how to spatchcock a turkey, too – and the slideshow also has awesome carving instructions for after your bird is done.

After getting through one side of the backbone, I came right back down from the top and cut off the other side. Most people say the second part is trickier, but again, if you’re using kitchen shears I think it’s really not that bad. After the backbone was out, I flipped the bird (ha ha ha!) over and gave a few sharp presses down on the ridge where the breastbone is to break it and allow the turkey to flatten out more. Then came the rub. I put about a third of it on the under side of the bird (what was the inside), and a third all over the top and skin, and I rubbed the last third between the skin and the meat of the breasts and thighs.

And into the fridge it goes!

Alton’s recipe has you leave this bad boy in there, uncovered, for FOUR DAYS. He says this is an altered dry aging technique which helps to dry out the skin so it’s super crispy when you cook the turkey. I don’t have four days, but I’m excited to see how this bird turns out!

Related Links:
How to Cook a Spatchcocked Turkey from Serious Eats
Butterflied, Dry Brined Roasted Turkey from Alton Brown

One Response to “Spatchcocked and Dry-Brined a Turkey (325/366)”
  1. Ying says:

    It looked marvelous, too. I have a great idea….you can start cooking the turkeys for Thanksgiving from now on!

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