Pictured Recipe: Spatchcock Turkey with Sage & Thyme
There are three things everyone wants in a Thanksgiving turkey—crispy skin, juicy meat and a fast cooking time. Using the spatchcock method is the fail-proof way to get all that and more. Don't let the name scare you off. Spatchcocking just means removing the backbone and butterflying the bird.
Flattening your turkey out like this gives you more surface area, which means it cooks in half the time of traditional roasting methods, stays moister (the shorter cooking time doesn't allow your turkey to dry out) and gets the skin even crisper (because more of it is exposed to that hot oven air). Plus, this method doesn't require any special equipment (i.e., that roasting pan and roasting rack you'll only use once a year anyway). All you need is a large rimmed baking sheet (but it will work in your roasting pan too) and a pair of heavy-duty kitchen shears.
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Using kitchen shears or poultry shears, cut the turkey down one side of the backbone, through the ribs. Make an identical cut on the opposite side to remove the backbone completely. Discard the backbone or turn it into turkey stock (you can even save it in the freezer to make stock another time).
Flip the turkey over so it's cut-side down and, with both hands on top of the breastbone (where the two breasts meet right in the middle of the bird), push down forcefully with the heel of your hand to flatten the bird. You should hear a crack. You do have to use some strength and push hard, so if you don't want to do this yourself, just ask the butcher at the grocery store or meat shop where you bought your turkey to cut out the backbone and flatten the bird for you.
Another benefit of a spatchcock turkey? Throw out the twine—this method is no-trussing-required. Splay the thighs outward so all of the skin is exposed and facing up, and tuck the wings under so everything is lying flat but still compact.
Time to add the flavor! Use your favorite turkey rub and/or seasoning here. We like to use a blend of fresh herbs, such as sage and thyme, with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Loosen the skin and rub the mixture under the skin all over the meat to make sure it all gets coated in flavor. Rub any excess mixture on top of the skin.
There are two ways you can cook the turkey: in a roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet, with or without a wire rack. Putting the bird on the wire rack allows all the liquid to drain off the bird, which will make sure it's extra-crispy. However, both methods work well.
Whichever one you choose, you need to make sure you have some moist aromatics underneath the turkey to prevent the fat drippings from scorching (and setting off your smoke detectors). You can use classic Thanksgiving flavors like chopped carrot, onion and celery or go with something fruitier—we like to roast the turkey on a bed of sliced lemons.
Roast the turkey in a 450°F oven. The hot temperature gives you that crispy skin and helps the turkey to cook fast (while still cooking it all the way through) without drying it out. Leave the turkey in the oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast (without touching bone) registers 165°F. This takes 9-10 minutes per pound, so a 12-pound turkey takes 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours. Remove from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes before carving to help retain the juices in the meat for tender, juicy roasted turkey.
Related: How to Carve a Turkey