Herb-Rubbed Crisp-Skinned Butterflied Roast Turkey Recipe

The same crisp skin and juicy meat as our original spatchcock turkey, but with flavor-packed herb butter.

Herb-Rubbed Crisp-Skinned Butterflied Roast Turkey on a rack in the oven.
Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Why It Works

  • Butterflying the turkey exposes more skin to improve browning and creates more channels for rendering fat. This creates extra crisp skin.
  • A low profile means the turkey cooks through in under 90 minutes.
  • The legs lay flatter than the breasts, helping them to reach a higher final temperature without overcooking the breast meat.

So you've seen our spatchcock turkey and you're intrigued by the promise of extra-crisp skin and ultra-moist meat, all in about 90 minutes...but there's just one thing that bugs you: You're the kind of person who likes to put decals on their car or glitter on their greeting cards. In other words, plain old salt and pepper just ain't gonna cut it for ya.

I hear you. Despite the simplicity and turkey-forward flavor of a roast with nothing but a little salt and pepper, I, too, occasionally crave something with a little more excitement. Every once in a while, I just have to reach for that packet of pink Japanese bath salts instead of the box of Mr. Bubble, if you know what I mean.

Well, here's the recipe for you. It's got all of the same crisp skin and juicy meat as the original recipe, but with a flavor-packed herb butter to coat it.

Step 1: Butterfly

To begin, start with a natural turkey that weighs between 10 and 15 pounds. I find 12 pounds to be just about the sweet spot. Next, either ask your butcher to remove the backbone (make sure he gives it to you for your gravy!), or follow the step-by-step instructions here to do it yourself.

Step 2: The Herbs

A food processor filled with unchopped green herbs, shallots, and garlic cloves.

Though we're calling this an herb butter, in reality it's equal parts herbs and equal parts alliums. I use a mix of parsley, sage, and thyme (rosemary proved too overpowering every time), along with shallots, garlic, and chives, all pulsed in the food processor until chopped.

In goes a stick of butter. Remember, Thanksgiving is the time for giving thanks and being with family. Not for counting calories.

A food processor with finely chopped herbs, processed with soft butter to form a paste.

Season with salt and pepper, then blend it all up into a nice, even paste, like this.

Step 3: Skin the Bird!

Now we could melt this herb butter and just paint it all over the surface, and believe me, we'll be doing that in a bit. But why stop there? We're going to put the herb butter under the skin as well.

To do that, you first have to separate the skin from the flesh underneath. Enter the space under the breast from the bottom of the bird. Don't be shy here, this turkey has seen a few things in its time, and it's anything but coy.

A hand reaches underneath the skin of a raw turkey to separate the skin from the flesh.

The turkey will need to have its legs serviced as well, so make sure you get way in there, lifting the skin from the thighs.

Step 4: Butter Up!

A hand holds an uncooked turkey steady while a second hand holds a large knob of herb butter, ready to be inserted underneath the skin.

Pick up the herb butter in big clumps with your hands then insert those clumps all around the turkey under the skin. You should end up using about half of the herb butter under the skin.

Two hands massage the herb butter underneath the uncooked turkey skin to form an even layer.

Once the big clumps are in place, massage them from the outside until they form a relatively even layer of butter and herbs.

Step 5: Paint It On

Melt the remaining herb butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave, then paint it onto the bird using a pastry brush. I like to use a silicone pastry brush because it lasts forever, is heatproof, and doesn't shed hairs onto your turkey the way a standard pastry brush can.

Your turkey is now primed, pumped, pre-gamed, and ready to party. And the party is gonna be HOT.

An uncooked, whole, spatchcocked turkey covered in melted herb butter sitting on a wire rack over a foil-covered baking sheet.

Step 6: Roast!

How hot, you ask? Oh, about 450°F (230°C) hot. Into the oven the turkey goes. We're aiming for skin that's deep brown all over and irresistibly crisp and crunchy, and it all takes place in under 90 minutes. I mean it. If you're able to resist taking a grab at a little corner of skin as you take the turkey out of the oven, then you are stronger than I am.

When all is said and done, your legs should register no lower than 165°F (74°C) on an instant-read thermometer, while your breast meat should register between 145 and 150°F (63°C - 66°C) for optimal juiciness.

Now is the time to break out that fancy-pants instant-read thermometer your dearest loved one got you for your birthday last year. (They did get it for you, didn't they?)

Step 7: Rest and Carve

Once the turkey has had a chance to rest (this helps keep it nice and juicy), it's ready to be carved. Just follow this video.

Incredibly crisp skin, juicy meat, and a blazing-fast cook time all come together in one recipe. It's why I recommend it year after year and why it's what's going to be on my table for all the foreseeable Thanksgivings to come.

November 14, 2014

Recipe Facts

4.5

(10)

Active: 35 mins
Total: 2 hrs 15 mins
Serves: 10 to 12 servings

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Ingredients

  • 4 medium cloves garlic

  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped chives

  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves

  • 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves

  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

  • 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced

  • 1 stick butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 whole turkey (10 - 15 pounds total), butterflied and brined (reserve backbone and neck if making stock for gravy, see note)

  • Gravy, for serving

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan with aluminum foil. Place slotted broiler rack or wire rack on top.

  2. Combine garlic, chives, parsley, sage, thyme, and shallots in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse, scraping down sides as necessary, until finely chopped and no large pieces remain. Scatter butter chunks on top. Pulse until homogeneous paste is formed. Season generously with salt and pepper and pulse to combine. Transfer half of butter mixture to a small saucepan and melt over low heat.

    A food processor containing finely chopped green herbs with butter chunks on top.
  3. Gently separate the skin of the turkey from the flesh using your hands, going in through the bottom of the breast and working up along both breast halves and the thighs. Using your hands, rub butter directly on the turkey meat underneath the skin all over. Massage the skin from the outside until the butter is distributed in an even layer.

    A hand separating uncooked turkey skin from the turkey so butter may be distributed underneath the skin.
  4. Brush exterior of the turkey with the melted butter until evenly coated. Season the turkey with salt and pepper and transfer to the wire rack.

    Using a silicon pastry brush to paint an uncooked turkey with herb butter.
  5. Transfer turkey to oven and roast, rotating occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the breast registers 150°F (66°C), and the thighs register at least 165°F (74°C), about 80 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before carving. Serve immediately.

    A hand inserts an instant-read thermometer into the deepest part of a roasted turkey breast. It reads 146.7 degrees Fahrenheit.
    Cut up roasted turkey on a wooden cutting board with a pitcher of gravy and a bowl of cranberry sauce.

Special Equipment

Half-sheet pan and wire rack, instant-read thermometer, food processor

Notes

For best results, dry-brine your turkey. If dry-brining, omit any additional salt in herb butter. The neck and backbone of the turkey can be used to fortify stock used to make gravy. Chop them into rough chunks with a cleaver, brown in oil in a medium saucepan along with chopped onions, carrot, celery, and bay leaf, then cover with homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock. Simmer for one hour before straining and using to make gravy. We have full step-by-step instructions for how to spatchcock your turkey.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
817 Calories
37g Fat
5g Carbs
109g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10 to 12
Amount per serving
Calories 817
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 37g 48%
Saturated Fat 13g 67%
Cholesterol 435mg 145%
Sodium 1617mg 70%
Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Dietary Fiber 0g 2%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 109g
Vitamin C 4mg 19%
Calcium 71mg 5%
Iron 4mg 25%
Potassium 971mg 21%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)