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Bought a huge turkey! Should I spatchcock it?

TrishUntrapped Nov 20, 2012 03:49 PM

I'm having 17 for Thanksgiving dinner.

The plan: Buy an 18 lb fresh Kosher turkey, plus a breast and a couple extra legs.

Things changed.

For the past few days I've been checking out turkeys and prices at various stores. My husband was leaning towards a fresh Kosher. We hadn't done one of those in several years, but it was good that one time. So I said fine.

Today I went to a local store and the Empire Kosher birds were $3.99 a pound. A 20 lb bird was $80. Expensive! Bell & Evans were $3.29 lb, and the store's own brand - all natural, were $2.79 a pound. At Trader Joe's I think I saw turkeys for $1.99 lb., I wasn't paying attention.

Then at the store I spied a group of Jaindls. I bought a Jaindl last year, brined it in a pineapple soy brine and it was tasty. Last year I think I paid $3.49 a pound. So I was SHOCKED today to see Jaindls being sold for $1.99 lb! The store's butcher said they were selling for $1.99 lb. because they were all over 24 pounds and they wanted to move them out.

So I bought a 28 lb Jaindl.

Hubby was with me, so he has to share some of the blame, and he knows it. We just couldn't resist that price.

Soooo.... How to cook this thing? If we stuff it, I reckon it would take about seven hours to cook, unstuffed around six. We're eating early - around 1 p.m.

So I'm thinking spatchcocking??? I'm guessing it might take what, three hours to cook? I can bring the bird back to the store tomorrow and have the butcher spatchcock it for me.

Anyone else do this with a turkey? What do you think? I'm wondering if about two thirds through cooking could I put stuffing under it to cook or should I just cook that separately?

Or should I just roast it like usual?

Your thoughts, opinions, appreciated. Thanks!

  1. TrishUntrapped Nov 23, 2012 05:26 AM

    Good news and eh news. I like cooking a spatchcocked turkey. The 28lb beast was done in 3.5 hours. Started at 425 for 30 mins then dropped to 325.

    The eh news... the turkey was far from the best I've made. The meat seemed tougher. I won't buy one this large again.


    1. His majesty's throne awaits him.
    2. Buttering up the Beast.
    3. Barely fit in my oven.
    4. Took him out at 160, tented him with foil to finish cooking.
    5. Thunder thighs.

    8 Replies
    1. re: TrishUntrapped
      pine time Nov 24, 2012 10:17 AM

      I've read that, when feeding a herd of people, it's advisable to buy 2 smaller birds than one Beast. Sounds like that's what you decided, too? Although your spatchcocking was a brilliant solution.

      1. re: TrishUntrapped
        fourunder Nov 24, 2012 11:19 AM

        As a matter of rule for the home...I would always purchase two smaller turkeys 14 pounds and under...rather than one large bird. If you deconstruct the turkeys, they fit easily into the oven at one time.....cook faster and taste better.

        I don't present the Turkey at the table, but carve in the kitchen and reshape into the form of the bird with the legs and wings.. Much easier and everyone gets their fill immediately, rather than waiting.

        1. re: fourunder
          bartco67 Nov 24, 2012 02:16 PM

          I cut my 22lb bird in half long ways. It was difficult but not impossible. Smoked half and roasted other I
          n an oven bag
          Both turned out well. Both juicy. No problems here

          1. re: fourunder
            TrishUntrapped Nov 25, 2012 08:11 AM

            Yeah, I didn't want to make such a large bird. I just couldn't resist the price. But next time, no. I'll do two smaller birds.

          2. re: TrishUntrapped
            SWISSAIRE Nov 24, 2012 02:33 PM

            Nice photos Trish !

            1. re: SWISSAIRE
              TrishUntrapped Nov 25, 2012 08:11 AM

              Thanks Swissaire, all in all, a well-enjoyed Thanksgiving. When you have a good crowd around, that's what it's all about.

            2. re: TrishUntrapped
              sbp Nov 24, 2012 07:19 PM

              Kenji Lopez-Alt, who is Serious Eats' version of Alton Brown (and inventor of vodka pie crust) has an article indicating that the 160 degrees is overkill by the FDA (besides, that should be the final temp, so if you took out at 160, with resting it probably went to 175). FDA is going for "instant" bacteria killing, which requires 160. But it's a sliding scale, you could do 120 if you HELD it at that temp for a few hours (which is why sous vide is safe).

              He recommends taking it out as soon as bird hits 150 in the breast. With a half hour rest, it's safe.. With a spatchcocked bird, the dark meat will already be 10 degrees hotter. I did this the other day, and it was really great. Very moist, not undercooked.

              Though my guess is your turkey, being so large, was likely a bit tough just by virtue of being an older bird.

              1. re: sbp
                TrishUntrapped Nov 25, 2012 08:13 AM

                We kept the thermometer in and it didn't make it to 175.

            3. TrishUntrapped Nov 21, 2012 01:24 PM

              So I took the plunge and brought the beast back to the butcher and he spatchcocked it for me! AT 28 pounds, this thing is MASSIVE!!


              1. Before
              2. After Spatchcocking , sitting in dry brine with fresh thyme and sage

              10 Replies
              1. re: TrishUntrapped
                greygarious Nov 21, 2012 01:33 PM

                Well, thanks a lot --- that rather lewd second image will now replace the "armadillo turkey" (that used to appear at the top right section of the CH page) in my nightmares, LOL! Definitely not gay, not that there's anything wrong with that...

                1. re: greygarious
                  TrishUntrapped Nov 21, 2012 04:45 PM

                  Sorry Gray, that's why I call it "The Beast!" Also, it's dry brining in the fridge and the very lower part of the turkey is starting to turn a bluish/purplish color. Please tell me that's normal...

                  1. re: TrishUntrapped
                    King of Northern Blvd Nov 21, 2012 05:03 PM

                    Dry brining in my experience creates some very ugly birds before they are cooked. They turn out great afterwards though, don't worry.

                    1. re: King of Northern Blvd
                      TrishUntrapped Nov 21, 2012 05:36 PM

                      Whew, thanks King! The beast is starting to look like something Rocky Balboa practiced on!

                      I was starting to think I might have a 28 pound disaster and 18 very hungry mouths!

                      1. re: TrishUntrapped
                        King of Northern Blvd Nov 21, 2012 05:53 PM

                        My 20 #er is starting to look the same. I am planning on grilling it whole in my Weber tomorrow for the first time. Hope it works out...LOL....

                        1. re: King of Northern Blvd
                          TrishUntrapped Nov 21, 2012 07:20 PM

                          Grilled turkey is delicious! Enjoy that!

                2. re: TrishUntrapped
                  Dirtywextraolives Nov 21, 2012 01:37 PM

                  How are you planning to cook it? Does it fit in a pan in your oven or were you going to grill it? I would have suggested roasting it whole u stuffed, just because I don't think either of my ovens could fit it, unless I split it in two. Good luck!

                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                    TrishUntrapped Nov 21, 2012 04:42 PM

                    Good question Dirty. It didn't fit on my standard large baking sheet, or inside my blue roasting pan. We had to resort to a very large pan that is more commonly used in commercial kitchens. I never use this pan in my own home because it barely fits in my oven, but that's what I think we are going to do. Planning on roasting at 425 for half hour then lowering to 325 - 350 for the duration. Any thoughts about that?

                    1. re: TrishUntrapped
                      Dirtywextraolives Nov 21, 2012 04:53 PM

                      That sounds like the best plan I can think of. Unless you split it and use two racks in the oven and rotate the sheet pans. Or you can carve it up raw and roast the parts, that would probably take the least amount of time.

                      1. re: TrishUntrapped
                        Bryan Pepperseed Nov 22, 2012 04:35 AM

                        When I do turkeys, most of my attention goes to deaing with the issue of having the dark meat come to around 180 and the breast come to around 160 at the same time. There are various methods with whole birds such as removing the bird from the fridge and letting the dark meat come to room temp while keeping the breast cold with bags of ice so that the legs and thighs have a head start. In your case, I would probably consider removing the legs from you spatchcocked bird and put them in the oven first.

                        As an aside, I'm also a fan of Alton's method of forming a triangular piece of foil over the breast prior to cooking so that if you think you need it towards the end of roasting it's ready and waiting for you.

                  2. greygarious Nov 20, 2012 08:55 PM

                    "Ruth Bourdain" tweeted today: "Yes, butterflying is the gay version of spatchcocking (not that there's anything wrong with that)."

                    If your guests are way into the Norman Rockwell experience, you pretty much need to stuff and roast it whole. I've done them that big, and as I recall they always take less time than you think.
                    Another option would be to start it Wednesday evening, unstuffed, at 160 degrees. In the morning, take it out of the oven while you prepare your stuffing. Put the hot stuffing into the bird, return to the oven at 400 for as long as it takes to brown the skin. The low-roast method, fwhich Adele Davis popularized, creates a very tender bird. A concession to fear is to start it at 350 for maybe an hour, to kill any bacteria on the skin, then drop it to 160ish, where it can stay until you want to brown it.

                    1. TrishUntrapped Nov 20, 2012 05:00 PM

                      Thanks for the feedback. I've watched a few online videos now about spatchcocking. I think this is the way to go. Might brine it again too.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: TrishUntrapped
                        280 Ninth Nov 20, 2012 07:13 PM

                        Precisely what I've done. Mine is sitting in a brine even as I type....happy cooking/dining!

                      2. s
                        smtucker Nov 20, 2012 04:24 PM

                        Breaking through turkey bones is really difficult. In fact, some of those bones I have never gotten through. So, if you decide to spatchcock it, I would ask the butcher if he would do this for you. Just the other day, I read an interesting approach to spatchcocked birds. This person recommended cooking the turkey on a rack over the roasting pan with the stuffing mounded underneath. S/he claims that you get the benefits of the stuffing being infused by turkey juice and the faster cooking times. It sounded very reasonable to me. And quite delicious.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: smtucker
                          scubadoo97 Nov 24, 2012 07:54 PM

                          Any sharp heavy knife would do to cut through ribs

                        2. biondanonima Nov 20, 2012 04:02 PM

                          Yes, spatchcock it. It will speed the cooking and free up more space in your oven. If the store will do it for you, so much the better. I just did my 20 lb turkey the other night and getting through the bones took some doing - it's going to be that much harder with an even larger bird. You can definitely put it on top of your stuffing, or just buy a couple of extra parts to put on the stuffing for flavor.

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