Dry Brine Spatchcock Turkey: A Thanksgiving Masterpiece by Alton Brown

If youre looking for a new way to cook a turkey this Thanksgiving try this method for spatchcocking. The skin comes turns out brown and super crispy, plus the turkey breast meat is super juicy inside.

This week I tried spatchcocking a whole turkey for the first time and it turned out really great. Alton Brown’s recipe did not disappoint either as always. I was going to try smoking the turkey but it got way too cold out for that. You can either cook the turkey in the oven or smoke the turkey on a smoker.

Since cutting the backbone out of a turkey is difficult, if I were to make this again, I would definitely make sure to have some really sharp scissors!

Tired of the same old dry, overcooked Thanksgiving turkey? This year, impress your guests with Alton Brown’s legendary dry brine spatchcock turkey This recipe is a game-changer, guaranteeing a juicy, flavorful bird that will have everyone raving

What is dry brining? It’s a simple technique that involves rubbing a salt-based mixture onto the turkey and letting it rest uncovered in the refrigerator for several days. This process draws out moisture, resulting in a more tender and flavorful bird.

What is spatchcocking? It’s a method of butterflying the turkey, removing the backbone and flattening it out. This allows for even cooking and faster roasting times.

Alton Brown’s recipe combines these two techniques for the ultimate Thanksgiving turkey. The dry brine ensures a juicy bird, while the spatchcocking guarantees even cooking and crispy skin.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 (13-14 pound) whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons rubbed sage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • Heavy-duty kitchen shears
  • Silicone baking mat or stable surface
  • Large sheet pan
  • Wire baking rack
  • Probe or instant-read thermometer
  • Nitrile gloves (optional)
  • Freezer zip-top bag
  • Timer
  • Scale
  • Small bowl
  • Carving board
  • Pot holder or kitchen towel

Here’s how to make it:

1. Make the dry brine:

  • In a small bowl, combine the kosher salt, rubbed sage, black peppercorns, allspice berries, and dried thyme.
  • Grind the peppercorns and allspice berries in a coffee/spice grinder until coarsely ground.
  • Add the ground spices to the dry brine mixture and stir to combine.

2. Prepare the turkey:

  • Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
  • Place the turkey, breast-side down, on a silicone baking mat or stable surface set inside a large sheet pan.
  • Using heavy-duty kitchen shears, cut up one side of the backbone. Turn the bird over and cut up the other side of the backbone. Reserve the backbone for stock or gravy.
  • Discard any fat pockets or excess skin found inside the bird.
  • Flip the turkey breast-side up and use the heel of your hands to press down on both breasts until you hear a cracking sound and the bird flattens.

3. Dry brine the turkey:

  • Place the turkey, breast-side up, on a wire baking rack set inside a sheet pan.
  • Turn the wings backwards, tucking the tips under the forewings.
  • Flip the turkey breast-side down and season with half of the dry brine mixture.
  • Flip the bird back breast-side up and season with the remaining dry brine mixture.
  • Place the turkey, uncovered, on the lowest level of your refrigerator for 4 days.

4. Roast the turkey:

  • When ready to cook, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Place one oven rack in the center of the oven and a second one just below it.
  • Place an empty roasting pan or large rimmed sheet pan on the lower rack.
  • Place the turkey, still on the wire rack, directly on the center oven rack.
  • Add a cup of water to the pan below to prevent any drippings from smoking.
  • Roast for 30 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to 350°F and continue to roast the bird until a probe thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 155°F, an additional 40 to 50 minutes.
  • Remove the turkey from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving. Carryover heat will take the final temperature close to 165°F.

5. Carve and serve:

  • Carve the turkey and serve with your favorite Thanksgiving sides.


  • For extra crispy skin, let the turkey air dry in the refrigerator for an additional 24 hours after dry brining.
  • If you don’t have a wire baking rack, you can use a V-rack or simply place the turkey directly on the sheet pan.
  • Be sure to use a probe thermometer to ensure the turkey is cooked to the proper temperature.
  • Let the turkey rest before carving to allow the juices to redistribute.

With this recipe, you’re guaranteed to have the juiciest, most flavorful turkey on the Thanksgiving table. So grab your ingredients, put on your apron, and get ready to impress your guests with Alton Brown’s legendary dry brine spatchcock turkey!

Additional Resources:

What is Spatchcocking?

To simply put it another way, patchcocking is taking out the turkey’s back bone, turning it over, and then applying intense pressure to the breasts to flatten the bird.

Since the turkey is laying flat on the baking sheet in the oven, patchcocking it is a really simple method to ensure that the meat is cooked through. I could have given this bird more of a workout, but the more you use this technique, the more proficient you become at it! The turkey is also finished on time!

How to Make

  • Prepare the rub mixture and season the turkey four days prior to cooking: coarsely grind the peppercorns and allspice berries by pulsing them three to four times in a coffee/spice grinder with a blade design. Add the dried thyme and pulse 3 more times. In a small bowl, mix the ground spices, rubbed sage, and salt; set aside.
  • Place the turkey on a silicone mat or other sturdy surface that is inside a sizable sheet pan, breast-side down and tail facing you. One side of the backbone should be cut apart using strong kitchen shears. After turning the bird, recut the opposite side of the spine. Reserve the backbone for stock or gravy. Get rid of any extra skin or fat pockets inside the bird. Turn the bird breast-side up, then apply pressure with the heels of your hands to both breasts until the bird flattens and a cracking sound is heard.
  • Turn the turkey’s wings backward and tuck the tips under the forewings after placing it breast-side up on a rack inside a sheet pan. After turning the turkey breast-side down, sprinkle half of the rub mixture on it. Next, turn the bird back so that it is breast-side up, and season it with the leftover mixture.
  • For four days, store uncovered on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator.
  • Let the turkey sit at room temperature for one hour before cooking. Put one oven rack in the oven’s middle and another directly beneath it. Arrange a large rimmed sheet pan or an empty roasting pan on the lower rack. Crank the oven to 425°F.
  • Place the turkey squarely on the middle oven rack while it’s still on the cooling rack. Fill the pan underneath with a cup of water to stop any drips from smoking. Roast for 30 minutes.
  • Lower the temperature to 350°F and roast the bird for a further 40 to 50 minutes, or until a probe thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 155°F.
  • Before carving, remove the turkey and its rack and let it rest for fifteen minutes. The temperature will eventually approach 165 degrees thanks to carryover heat.

dry brine spatchcock turkey alton brown

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