Have you ever waited 4 1/2 hours for a Thanksgiving turkey to cook? Of course you have. And you shouldn't have to. I'm going to show you how to cook an entire turkey in about an hour with a technique called spatchcocking. Sure, it sounds racy, but once you try this you will always have this technique in your back pocket. Who knows. Someday you just might save Thanksgiving.
Ingredients you'll need
One 10-12 pound turkey
Salt and pepper
Dried spices like thyme, celery seed, or sage
Olive oil and/or butter
Preheated 450 degree oven
You can make your turkey and its flavorings more elaborate, but honestly a little oil and salt and pepper is all you need. I brined my turkey in salt water the day before cooking it, but you don't have to. I don't recommend cooking massively large turkeys unless you actually have to feed 25 people. a 10-12 pound turkey is more than enough for most gatherings.
Step 1: Cut Out the Backbone
Wash and dry your turkey. Set aside the giblets for gravy if you want. I like to take the neck and other trimmings and plop them in a pot of water to make a quick stock while I cook my turkey. Then, I put that in my gravy. But we're here to talk turkey, not sides. So grab some towels and kitchen shears and a good knife, preferably a filleting or boning knife.
You're going to cut out the backbone of the turkey. De-spine it, essentially. I strongly recommend using cooking shears if you have them, but a sharp knife will also work. You are kind of going to have to wrestle with this turkey, so give yourself room, have a towel or two on hand, and take your time. Bleeding on a Thanksgiving turkey is bad form.
Put the turkey breast side down and cut along both sides of the backbone. There are a few spots where this will be a little tough, so take your time and work with the shears in short clipping bursts. If you have gloves, feel free to use them to stabilize the bird if you need to. Once that backbone is out, toss it into your stock pot if you are doing that. Pry open your bird so that it's mostly flat while upside down.
Step 2: Flatten the Bird
Turn your bird over so the breast is face up. You're going to use both of your hands to press down on the breastbones until you hear them crack. This is an essential detail, so grab someone strong to help if you are having trouble cracking the bone. Do this for both breasts. Once you've done it, you'll see that your bird really does flatten out quite a bit. Drape this bird onto a large roasting pan or one of those aluminum disposable roasting pans if you don't have a large enough roasting pan.
Step 3: Season and Cook
I use olive oil, but you can use butter if you want. Slather the top of the bird in olive oil and salt and pepper and whatever other dried herbs you want and pop it into a 450 degree oven. After about an hour, it should be done. As with any turkey, opening that oven 10 times while it is cooking while lengthen the cooking time, so try to avoid opening it until the hour is up. If you feel like it needs to go longer, cover the top with foil so the skin doesn't burn and keep it in the oven.
The way I often do this is to just turn the oven off after an hour and let it sit in there for 15 minutes while the oven cools down. Your bird won't be all pretty and stand-up like the proverbial Thanksgiving turkey, but it's much easier to separate the thighs and legs and other pieces when you spatchcock it. I served mine with these wonderful Stuffin Muffins from an Instructable I stumbled upon and some giblet gravy. Turned out great, and it was way less time and stress doing it spatchcock style.