The Ultimate Guide to Buttermilk-Brined Spatchcock Turkey: A Juicy and Flavorful Thanksgiving Masterpiece

Are you ready to take your Thanksgiving turkey game to new heights? Imagine a bird so juicy, so flavorful, and so perfectly cooked that it’ll have your guests raving and coming back for seconds, thirds, and maybe even fourths! Introducing the buttermilk-brined spatchcock turkey – a game-changer in the world of holiday cooking.

The Magic of Buttermilk Brining

Brining is a time-honored technique that has been used for centuries to infuse meats with moisture and flavor. But when it comes to turkeys, buttermilk takes this process to a whole new level. The combination of buttermilk and salt creates a brine that not only tenderizes the meat but also adds a subtle tanginess that perfectly complements the natural flavors of the turkey.

But why buttermilk, you might ask? Well, buttermilk is slightly acidic, and this acidity helps break down the tough proteins in the turkey, resulting in a texture that’s incredibly tender and succulent. Additionally, the natural lactic acid in buttermilk acts as a tenderizer, ensuring that every bite is a melt-in-your-mouth experience.

The Benefits of Spatchcocking

Now, let’s talk about spatchcocking – a technique that involves removing the turkey’s backbone and flattening it out before cooking. This method might sound a bit unconventional, but it’s a game-changer when it comes to achieving evenly cooked meat and crispy, golden-brown skin.

By flattening the turkey, you’re essentially exposing more surface area to direct heat, allowing for quicker and more even cooking. This means no more dry breasts or undercooked thighs – just perfectly cooked turkey from edge to edge.

Additionally, spatchcocking reduces the overall cooking time, which means you can enjoy your Thanksgiving feast sooner and spend less time hovering over the oven.

The Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you understand the magic behind buttermilk brining and spatchcocking, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of creating this mouthwatering masterpiece.


  • 1 whole turkey (10-14 lbs)
  • 3 quarts buttermilk
  • 7 tablespoons (128 grams) fine sea salt


  1. Spatchcock the Turkey: Place the turkey breast-side down on a cutting board and use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to cut along both sides of the backbone, removing it completely. Flip the turkey over and press down firmly on the breastbone to flatten it out.

  2. Prepare the Brine: In a large container or resealable bag, combine the buttermilk and salt, stirring until the salt dissolves completely.

  3. Brine the Turkey: Submerge the spatchcocked turkey in the buttermilk brine, making sure it’s fully covered. Refrigerate for 48 hours, flipping the turkey occasionally to ensure even brining.

  4. Prepare for Cooking: Three hours before cooking, remove the turkey from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. Let it sit at room temperature to take the chill off.

  5. Roast the Turkey: Preheat your oven to 400°F (205°C). Place the turkey breast-side up on a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. Roast for approximately 80-100 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 150°F (66°C) and the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F (74°C). Tent with foil if the skin starts to brown too quickly.

  6. Rest and Serve: Once the turkey is cooked through, transfer it to a cutting board and let it rest for at least 20 minutes before carving and serving. This resting period allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring maximum moisture and flavor.

Tips and Tricks

  • Use a Flavorful Brine: While the buttermilk brine is incredibly flavorful on its own, you can take it a step further by adding aromatic herbs like thyme, rosemary, or sage to the brine. Just be sure to adjust the salt levels accordingly.

  • Don’t Skimp on Brining Time: The 48-hour brining time might seem excessive, but it’s essential for ensuring that the turkey is properly seasoned and tenderized throughout. Resist the temptation to shorten the brining time.

  • Baste During Cooking: While the buttermilk brine and spatchcocking technique help to keep the turkey moist, you can further enhance the flavor and crisping by basting the bird with the pan juices every 30 minutes or so.

  • Consider a Dry Brine: If you’re short on time or simply prefer a different method, you can also try dry brining your spatchcock turkey. Simply rub the bird with a generous amount of salt (about 1 tablespoon per 4 pounds of turkey) and let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours before cooking.

  • Make Use of the Drippings: Don’t let those flavorful pan drippings go to waste! Use them as the base for a rich and decadent gravy or incorporate them into your stuffing or dressing for an added burst of flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I use a different type of milk or acid for the brine?

While buttermilk is the star of the show in this recipe, you can experiment with other types of milk or acidic ingredients. Yogurt, kefir, or even a combination of milk and lemon juice or apple cider vinegar can work well. Just be sure to adjust the salt levels accordingly.

2. How long does it take to spatchcock a turkey?

Spatchcocking a turkey might seem intimidating, but it’s actually quite straightforward. With a sharp pair of kitchen shears or a sturdy knife, the process should take no more than 10-15 minutes.

3. Can I brine and spatchcock a turkey ahead of time?

Absolutely! You can brine the turkey up to 3 days in advance and spatchcock it a day or two before cooking. Just be sure to keep it well-refrigerated and allow it to come to room temperature before roasting.

4. What should I do with the turkey backbone?

Don’t toss that turkey backbone! It’s a valuable ingredient for making flavorful turkey stock or gravy. Simply roast it along with some aromatic vegetables and herbs, and then use the resulting broth as the base for your gravy or stock.

Final Thoughts

The buttermilk-brined spatchcock turkey is a true showstopper – a dish that combines time-honored techniques with modern twists to create a mouthwatering masterpiece. With its juicy, tender meat, crispy golden-brown skin, and incredible flavor, this turkey is sure to be the star of your Thanksgiving feast. So, embrace the magic of buttermilk brining and spatchcocking, and get ready to impress your guests with a turkey that’s simply out of this world.

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