This post is sponsored by Sprouts Farmers Market. As always, all opinions are my own
Want a delicious, super-moist turkey that doesn’t require a 5 gallon brining bucket? This easy dry brine turkey is the answer. Instead of soaking in liquid brine, my easy 4-ingredient turkey rub infuses the bird with flavor and moisture — and all you need is a sheet pan. Plus, this bird cooks in about half the time. Why? Because this is a butterfly turkey, a technique that removes the backbone for a faster roast and easier carving. The cider gravy is an easy make-ahead recipe too. Trust me, this spatchcock grilled turkey is perfect for Friendsgiving, Thanksgiving, or any time you’ve got a crowd.
While Thanksgiving is my favorite “family holiday”… Friendsgiving is definitely the best occasion with my peeps! For a “Friendsgiving” I like to keep it simple, but delicious and I can ALWAYS count on my local Sprouts Farmers Market to get everything I need for this fun, casual meal… including the turkey. Sprouts is a healthy grocery store offering fresh, natural and organic foods at great prices. Do you have one near you, yet? Not only did I get my beautiful bird from Sprouts, but I also found everything else I needed for this recipe at that one store.
Best Fowl For Dry Brine Turkey
- I prefer a fresh (never frozen) all natural turkey with no hormones or additives. Easy to find at Sprouts.
- Avoid Kosher turkey for this recipe because the Kosher birds have already been soaked in a salt solution. Since we’re making dry brine turkey, it would be redundant.
- Look for a smaller turkey 10-14 pounds is optimum. The larger the birds, the tougher they tend to be. This was an 11 1/2 pound turkey and it was the perfect size for this recipe.
The process of butterflying or spatchcocking a turkey is a simple matter of removing the backbone and it’s very easy to do at home if you have a good pair of poultry shears.
How to Butterfly Turkey
- Turn the bird onto its breast.
- Firmly hold one of the thighs to keep the bird steady and using your poultry shears, make a cut on one side of the tailbone, at the rear end.
- Continue to cut alongside the backbone, all the way up to the neck.
- Hold the shears on the opposite side of the bird’s spine and cut again up and through the neck.
- Remove the backbone and reserve it for the gravy.
- Hold both sides of the rib cage and pull it open.
- Use a long, sharp knife to make a slit through the breast bone of the turkey from inside the cavity. This will help it to lay flat.
- Turn the bird so that the breast is facing upwards toward you and place the heel of your hand toward the upper middle and center of the breast. Firmly press down until you hear a snap (that’s the wish bone breaking). I sometimes need my husband’s brute strength for this…
OK, I know it doesn’t look that great RIGHT NOW… but trust me, it’s gonna be EPIC. One of the reasons I love this butterfly turkey recipe, is that it literally cuts the cooking time in half.
Why Do Spatchcock Turkeys Cook Faster?
A bird of this size might normally take three and a half to four hours to roast, but this spatchcock grilled turkey is done in about 90 minutes once it goes on the grill (you can do cook it in the oven too). That’s because we’ve laid it flat and there’s more surface area that will come into direct contact with the heat source.
No Special Equipment Needed
A faster cooking time is perfect for a Friendsgiving, don’t you think? Additionally, because we’re brining with a turkey dry rub instead of a liquid solution, you don’t have to fuss looking for the perfect “receptacle” that will simultaneously hold the bird and brine that will also fit into your refrigerator… A half sheet pan works well.
Ingredients For Turkey Dry Rub
- Kosher Salt
- Black Pepper
- Dried Thyme
- Smoked Paprika
How To Dry Brine Turkey
- As you can see, this is a VERY simple turkey rub. Just mix the ingredients and rub it all over the turkey… over the skin and between the turkey skin and flesh. Don’t forget the interior as well.
- Place the turkey on a half sheet pan and transfer UNCOVERED to the refrigerator for 24-36 hours.
- You don’t want to cover the turkey, because the idea is to air-chill the bird. This will help to eliminate excess moisture and give you a golden-crisp skin — something that we all fight for in our house.
Make Ahead Cider Gravy
Incidentally, this whole process… from removing the backbone to making turkey dry rub and coating the turkey, takes about 15 minutes… Not too shabby… Now for the Cider Gravy! You can do this in advance or the day you make the turkey… but since we just took out the back bone and you’ve got the neck and giblets handy, I think it makes sense to make it ahead of time.
I was lured by an icy display of fresh apple cider at Sprouts when I went to pick up the other ingredients for my Friendsgiving. It quickly became the center piece of this Cider Gravy. This sauce is sweet and savory with a distinctive apple flavor you will LOVE.
Making Cider Gravy For Spatchcock Grilled Turkey
- Bring the cider to a boil in an uncovered saucepan.
- Cook until the cider is reduced by about half. (measure to be sure) This takes about 20 minutes.
The cider reduction is the first part of this gravy recipe. The other is a savory turkey broth made from the reserved turkey back, neck and giblets. I found the rest of the reasonably priced organic ingredients at Sprouts. In fact, Sprouts makes healthy eating affordable from coast to coast and now has more than 320 locations. Chances are if you don’t have one near you yet, it’s coming…
Turkey Broth Ingredients:
- Turkey neck, Backbone, Giblets
- Fresh Parsley
- Black Peppercorns
- Bay Leaves
- Kosher Salt
Making Turkey Broth
- Combine the turkey parts and enough water to cover in a large dutch oven.
- Tie the fresh herbs in a bundle with kitchen string and add to pot.
- Add the onion, salt, peppercorns and bay leaves to the pot.
- Cover and bring to a boil.
- Once the liquid is boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and set the cover askew on the pot so that some liquid can evaporate.
- Simmer and cook for 20 minutes until the stock is reduced by about half.
- Use tongs to remove the large pieces and discard.
- Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl or large, glass measuring cup and strain the turkey broth through the sieve.
Making Cider Gravy
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until a paste forms.
- Alternate whisking in a little cider reduction and turkey broth, until it’s all incorporated.
- Bring the cider gravy to a boil, whisking constantly, until it thickens to gravy consistency.
- Add the apple cider vinegar, worcesershire and browning sauce and stir to combine.
- Stir in the fresh chopped herbs and taste for seasoning.
- Transfer the gravy to a storage container and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook the turkey.
After the turkey has chilled for the appropriate time (24-36 hours), it’s time to cook the bird. You can roast it in the oven, but we live in a warm climate and love to cook outdoors on the barbecue. There’s a certain “wow” factor when you put a whole butterfly turkey on the grill. It also frees up the oven for side dishes, rolls and pies. Plus, grilling adds that char and smoke that makes this Friendsgiving turkey different from most traditional holiday birds.
Making Spatchcock Grilled Turkey
- Set up the grill for indirect heat. If you’re using a charcoal grill that means having the hot embers on either side of the turkey with the turkey in the center and a pan to catch the drippings directly below.
- If you’re using a gas grill, you’ll heat just one or two of the heating elements and place the turkey over the unlit portion.
- Note: if you want to toss in some wood chips for a kiss of smoke, that would be great too. We’d recommend Cherry, Apple or Pecan wood – (soak the chips in water or beer for an hour before adding to the fire).
- When the grill has reached 350°, place the turkey on the grill rack and cook for 90 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165° on an instant read thermometer.
- Baste the turkey every 30 minutes with basting butter.
When you’re making a butterfly turkey for your friends, there’s a bit of showmanship involved… and a lot of oohing and ahhing every time the lid is lifted for a swath of herb infused butter. The skin quickly gets that beautiful burnished glow and the aromas are incredible.
Letting Spatchcock Grilled Turkey Rest
The turkey needs to rest before carving it up and I’d recommend about 20-30 minutes so that the juices can redistribute throughout the flesh. While it’s resting, warm up the Cider gravy and if you have some turkey drippings, you can add some to the sauce.
So… What do you think? Pretty spectacular, isn’t it? This bird is tender, juicy and succulent.
What To Serve With Spatchcock Grilled Turkey
- Mac N Cheese
- Creamy Scalloped Potatoes with Thyme
- Oven Roasted Butternut Squash
- Holiday Cranberry Sauce
- Peas with Shallots Mushrooms and Tarragon
- Tangy Lentils and Quinoa
Dry Brined Spatchcock Turkey On The Grill
- 1 10-12 pound Fresh Turkey (not Kosher)
FOR DRY BRINE
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal)
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
FOR CIDER GRAVY:
- 3 cups apple cider
- turkey giblets (neck, heart, liver, turkey back)
- 5 cups water
- 1 small bunch fresh sage 5-6 sprigs
- 1 small bunch fresh thyme 6-8 sprigs
- 1 small bunch fresh parsley 5-6 sprigs
- 1 small bunch fresh rosemary 2-3 sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 medium onion roughly chopped
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 6 tablespoons Wondra Flour
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon worcesershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon browning sauce (I used Gravy Master)
- turkey drippings (if available)
FOR BASTING BUTTER:
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
- 2 teaspoons chopped sage
- 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
- 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons fresh chopped sage
- 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme
SPATCHCOCK THE TURKEY:
- Remove the turkey from the packaging and set the turkey neck and giblet package aside.
- Use paper towels to dry the inside and outside of the turkey. Turn the turkey so the breast side is down and the back is up. Firmly hold a turkey thigh with one hand and use a pair of sharp kitchen sheers to cut down just to the right of the turkey's back bone. Use the sheers to cut down just to the left of the turkey's back bone and remove the spine. Place the back bone with the rest of the giblets for the gravy.
- Holding either side of the ribs, open up the turkey with your hands. Run a sharp knife down the interior breast bone (in the center) of the turkey. Don't cut all the way through, just about 1/8" to help you lay the turkey flat when flipped.Turn the turkey over so the breast is facing up and use both hands to press firmly into the center of the rib cage until you hear a little pop or snap and the turkey breast lays flat.
MAKE THE DRY BRINE:
- In a small bowl combine the kosher salt, dried thyme, black pepper and paprika. Stir well to combine.
BRINE THE TURKEY:
- Lift the skin of the turkey at the bottom of the bird and slip your hand between the skin and flesh, breaking through the thin membrane so that you can run your hand all along the meat of the bird. Season the bird with the Dry brine both over and under the turkey skin. Flip the bird over and season the interior.
- Transfer the turkey to a half sheet pan and refrigerate uncovered for 24 to 36 hours.
GRILL THE TURKEY
- You can use a gas grill or charcoal grill for this, but you'll be cooking in an indirect method with the heat source on one side of the grill and the turkey on the other. (Note you can also add some soaked wood chips (cherry, apple, peach or pecan) to the embers or to a smoking basket.
FOR THE BASTING BUTTER:
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the chopped herbs and worcestershire sauce. Simmer for one minute and remove from heat.
GRILL THE TURKEY:
- Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let rest at room temperature while the grill heats up. Remove the top grate from the grill.
- Use a chimney starter. Fill the bottom cavity of the starter with newspaper. Add charcoal briquets to the top of the chimney starter. Light the newspaper with a lighter stick or long matches. The briquets will catch fire and start to burn. When the briquets are quite hot and the embers look ashy with a fiery interior, pour the embers along two sides of the grill. Rest a drip pan that's about as large as the turkey in the center of the embers.
- Return the top grate to the grill. Place the turkey directly above the drip pan and cover tightly with the grill lid. Cook the turkey at 350° (adjusting the heat hotter by opening the upper and lower vents and reducing it by closing the vents) for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the thickest part of the turkey breast or thigh registers 165° on an Instant Read Thermometer.
- Baste the turkey every 30 minutes with herb butter.
FOR GAS GRILL:
- Set up the grill for indirect heat -- using 1 or 2 burner elements (depending on the style of grill you have) and the other side will be for cooking the turkey. Place a drip pan under the grates where the turkey will be. Preheat the other side of the grill to 350°-375°. When the grill is hot, place the turkey on the grates over the drip pan.
- Cook the turkey, basting every 30 minutes with the herb butter until the thickest part of the bird registers 165° on a digital thermometer. Transfer to a cutting board and let the turkey rest for 20-30 minutes before carving.
FOR OVEN ROASTING:
- Preheat the oven to 375°. Place a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet large enough to accomodate the turkey (a half sheet pan should do it). Place the turkey on the wire rack and transfer to the oven. Baste the turkey every half an hour with the herb butter.
- Roast the turkey for an hour and 20 minutes to an hour and 45 or until a digital thermometer reads 165° on the thickest part of the turkey. I start testing for doneness at the 1 hour and 20 minute mark.
FOR THE CIDER GRAVY:
- While the turkey is cooking, make the gravy. In a medium saucepan, bring the apple cider to a boil and cook, uncovered for about 15-20 minutes until the cider is reduced by half and measures 1 1/2 cups. Set aside.
- In a large stock pot or dutch oven, add the turkey neck, back and giblets and cover with 5 cups of water. Add the sage, thyme parsley, rosemary, bay leaves, onion, salt and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a rapid simmer. Cook for 20 minutes or until the stock is reduced by half.
- Use a pair of tongs to remove the large pieces of turkey neck, giblets and back. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the contents through the strainer. Press on the solids to release the juices and discard the solids. You'll need about 3 cups of turkey stock
- Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. When the butter has melted, whisk in the flour until a bubbly paste forms. Add the salt and pepper and continue to cook, whisking constantly, for a minute over the heat. Alternate adding turkey stock and cider reduction, whisking well after each addition. Do not add more liquid until the previous addition has been fully incorporated. The gravy will be very thick in the first few additions but will loosen up. Stir in the apple cider vinegar, worcesershire sauce and browning sauce and simmer for an additional minute. Remove from heat and whisk in the chopped thyme and sage.
If you're not using turkey drippings:
- If you aren't adding drippings, taste for seasoning now and adjust as needed... more salt, pepper, if you want more tanginess, add a bit more apple cider vinegar (one teaspsoon at a time).
If you're using turkey drippings:
- If you're using drippings from the turkey, wait until you add the drippings to adjust seasoning -- the turkey drippings will be very flavorful from the turkey brine and basting. Whisk in a few tablespoons of drippings and taste for seasonings. Note, if the drippings are very fatty, you may want to add an additional tablespoon of cider vinegar to cut the fat somewhat.
SERVING THE TURKEY:
- When the turkey registers 165°, remove it from the grill and transfer to a cutting board to rest. Tent with tin foil for 20-30 minutes before carving.
- Remove the thighs and legs by cutting through the thigh joint and then finding the joint between the thigh and drumstick and cutting cleanly through it. Repeat with the second leg. Remove the wings by finding the joint and poking the tip of the knife into that joint and cutting through it. Transfer to the serving platter and arrange neatly.
- Remove the breast from the bone by cutting into the center of the breast and slicing down to the bone, curving your knife and following the bone as closely as possible down the end of the breast. Slice the breast meat crosswise into 1/3" thick slices and arrange on the platter.
- Serve with warm gravy.