Skip to content

Crisp-Skinned Butterflied Roast Turkey

November 9, 2015

By Kath Dedon


This Crisp-Skinned Butterflied Roast Turkey may be the best turkey I have ever made and it’s relatively easy. This recipe is from Serious Eats’ J. Kenji López-Alt. He’s been recommending this method for the last few years. Read what he has to say about it here.

In a nutshell, I found everything he said about this turkey to be true. It cooks much faster than roasting it conventionally, the skin is beautifully crisp, and the meat is juicy and delicious. You can add the backbone to the neck and giblets to make great turkey broth for gravy. Plus, there was enough room in the oven, with the turkey’s low profile, for me to use the second oven rack to slide in the casserole dish with the cornbread dressing to heat up.

I used Kenji’s dry brine which he says leads to a juicier bird with a crispier skin. You can, however, use this roasting method without brining the turkey.

I bought the turkey on November 2 and found that my supermarkets did not have fresh turkeys available yet. After reading an article in the San Francisco Chronicle rating several west coast turkeys, I decided to buy an O Organics (Safeway) frozen turkey. I have to say that it was a good looking bird in its raw state and delicious after roasting. The quality of the turkey probably had something to do with the success of my Crisp-Skinned Butterflied Roast Turkey.

I used a large rimmed baking pan with a rack for the recipe. Kenji says you could also use the top of a broiler pan if you don’t have a large rack.

If you’re looking for a fast and easy way to roast a turkey this holiday season, I highly recommend this Crisp-Skinned Butterflied Roast Turkey! The recipe may look long because I tried to make each step really clear, but, trust me, this is one of the easiest turkeys I have ever roasted!


EDIT (December 3, 2018):  This is the only way I have roasted a turkey since this post. Three months after making this in 2015, I bought a Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker’s Big Sheet. Its dimensions are 21 x 15 x 1 inches. It’s larger than the standard half-sheet I used in these photos, but it still fits in all standard ovens. It is the perfect size for roasting a 12.5-pound butterflied (aka spatchcocked) turkey, but I have found many other uses for it. It’s great to have the roomy pan for cookies, sheet pan meals, or granola.


Ok, so it’s not a Norman Rockwell beautiful roast turkey, but it was excellent! 🙂

Crisp-Skinned Butterflied Roast Turkey


Crisp-Skinned Butterflied Roast Turkey

(Adapted from J. Kenji López-Alt’s method on Serious Eats)


Although Kenji says you can use a 12 – 14 pound turkey, I found that my 12.5 pound turkey barely fit in the pan. You may want to stick with a turkey that’s no more than 12 – 12.5 pounds.

Be sure to allow adequate time to defrost a frozen turkey in the refrigerator. I bought the turkey on Tuesday. On Saturday it was defrosted enough to proceed, but it was still just a bit icy inside. The rule of thumb is to allow 24 hours for every 4 – 5 pounds.

For best results, dry brine the turkey, but this step can be skipped. You can just butterfly the turkey and roast it.


(print the recipe)


Special equipment: Rimmed baking sheet, wire rack or broiler pan top


To dry brine the turkey:

2 tablespoons kosher salt (use just 1 tablespoon if using regular salt)

1 tablespoon baking powder


  1. Butterfly the turkey. Remove the neck and the giblets from inside the turkey. Throw the liver out; reserve the neck and other giblets for broth. I also cut off the tail part (known as the “Pope’s nose”) to use for the broth. Turn the turkey on its breast and, using poultry shears, cut out the backbone. Turn it over, splay the wings and the legs, and press down hard on the breastbone to flatten it. You’ll hear a couple of cracking sounds. Check out Kenji’s excellent slide show to see step by step directions. (I enlisted Bob to butterfly the turkey for me and he did a great job!)
  1. Put the butterflied turkey on a rack in a large rimmed baking sheet. Stir the salt and the baking powder together and sprinkle it all over the turkey. Rub it in a bit. Place the turkey in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 12 – 24 hours. (You can brine it for up to 3 days, but if you brine it for more than 24 hours, cover it loosely with plastic wrap or cheesecloth to prevent moisture loss.)


Turkey with salt/baking powder mixture sprinkled on it ready to go in the refrigerator

Dry brine


Roasting the Turkey


1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped

2 large carrots, scrubbed and roughly chopped

2 stalks celery, roughly chopped

1 (12 – 12.5) butterflied turkey (dry brined, if desired)

1 tablespoon oil

Kosher salt and black pepper (use salt only if you did NOT dry brine the turkey)


  1. Put an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 450˚.
  2. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with heavy duty foil. Make the edge of the foil go up the sides if your turkey extends a bit over the edge of the pan.
  3. Scatter the chopped vegetables in the pan.


Note how I made the foil go up over the rim of the pan.

Veggies in the pan


  1. Place the rack directly on the vegetables and put the turkey on the rack.
  1. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. (If you did NOT brine the turkey, sprinkle it liberally with kosher salt and black pepper.) Drizzle the oil over the turkey and rub it all over.

Ready for the oven

  1. Put the turkey in the oven with the legs towards the back of the oven and roast the turkey for about 80 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer registers 165˚. (I checked mine at 85 minutes and the temperature was well beyond 165˚, so do check at 80 minutes.) If your oven roasts unevenly, you made want to rotate the pan halfway through the roasting. 
  2. Remove the turkey on the rack to a new baking sheet or cutting board. (I found this easiest to do using a sturdy fork to lift up a corner of the rack so I could get a grip on it with an oven mitt.)
  3. Carefully pick up the foil with the veggies and turkey broth in the pan. Fold the edges up and pour the broth through a strainer into a measuring cup. These drippings can be added to your gravy.
  4. Cover the turkey loosely with foil and let it rest 20 – 30 minutes.
  5. Carve the turkey and serve.


Turkey stock for gravy

(This can be made while the turkey is roasting, or the day before if you dry brine the bird.)


1 tablespoon oil

Turkey neck, giblets (except liver) turkey back, and tail

1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1 large stalk of celery, roughly chopped

1½ quarts low sodium chicken broth


  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet.
  1. Add all of the turkey parts and cook, stirring occasionally until browned.
  1. Add the vegetables and continue to cook until they have softened a bit and are beginning to brown.

for broth


  1. Remove the turkey and vegetables to a 3 – 4 quart saucepan.
  1. Pour a bit of the chicken broth into the skillet to deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan. Pour this deglazed liquid into the saucepan.
  1. Add the rest of the chicken broth to the sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a low simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes and then strain.

Turkey broth


  1. Use the broth to proceed with your favorite gravy recipe, or use Kenji’s recipe.


Crisp-Skinned Butterflied Roast Turkey 2


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: