This close to Thanksgiving, are you willing to toss your traditional turkey preparation method out the window and try something new? It's scary, I know. But if you're up for being adventurous with your bird this week, spatchcocking the turkey might be the culinary thrill you're looking for.
To spatchcock means to split open poultry to prepare it for cooking. The Washington Post gets scientific with the reasons why a butterflied bird is best in the video below:
When the shape of the bird changes, so does the thermodynamic equation. Instead of having to cook a bird that's basically a sphere, making it difficult to keep the outside moist while the inside reaches a safe temperature, you're laying the bird flat. It cooks more quickly and evenly. All of the skin is exposed to the heat, and that makes it crisper and thinner. The fat that drips below the split bird helps to create "a temperature buffer, protecting the meat from drying out."
And what about stuffing? You can put the stuffing under the bird and let it soak up some of the fat dripping from the bird. Yum!
What about cooking time? That depends on the size of the bird. The Post says to set the oven at 450 degrees. I searched out a second opinion and found that Mark Bittman also advises 450 degrees. At that temperature, a 10-pound bird will be done in about 45 minutes, by his account. The Post's bird is bigger and is done in 80 minutes. The key you're looking for is the internal temperature of the meat needs to reach 165 degrees.
Here's the only drawback I see to this: That quick cooking time gives the bird much less opportunity to dry out, but it also could mess with the timing of your meal if you're used to having several hours while the turkey cooks to pull the rest of the meal together. In the span of 80 minutes or less, you have to pull together the mashed potatoes, vegetables and other sides, and then get the gravy made as quickly as possible after the bird comes out of the oven. I don't imagine a spatchcocked turkey will hold its heat for an hour or so after it comes out of the oven like a regular turkey does.
Of course, trying to pull it all together in about an hour could just be part of the adventure.