[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]
It's almost a given that time and oven space are at a premium on Thanksgiving Day, and this method of roasting turkey, unorthodox as it is, addresses both. Split, flattened, and roasted at 450 degrees (lowering the heat if the bird browns too fast), a 10-pound bird will be done in about 40 minutes. Really.
It will also be more evenly browned (all of the skin is exposed to the heat), more evenly cooked (the legs are more exposed; the wings shield the breasts), and moister than birds cooked conventionally. But it works only for relatively small turkeys.
Isn't spatchcock your new favorite culinary term?
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- One 8- to 12-pound turkey
- 10 or more garlic cloves, lightly crushed
- Several sprigs fresh tarragon or thyme or several pinches dried
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil or butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 450°F. Put the turkey on a stable cutting board, breast side down, and cut out the backbone. Turn the bird over and press on it to flatten. Put it breast side up in a roasting pan that will accommodate it (a slightly snug fit is okay). The wings should partially cover the breasts, and the legs should protrude a bit.
Tuck the garlic and the herb under the bird and in the nooks of the wings and legs. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
Roast for 20 minutes, undisturbed. By this time the bird should be browning; remove it from the oven, baste with the pan juices, and return it to the oven. Reduce the heat to 400°F (or 350°F if it seems to be browning very quickly).
Begin to check the bird's temperature about 15 minutes later (10 minutes if the bird is on the small side). It is done when the thigh meat measures 155-165°F on an instant-read meat thermometer; check it in a couple of places.
Let the bird rest for a few minutes before carving, then serve with the garlic cloves and pan juices. (Or make Turkey Gravy.) Or serve at room temperature.