Spatchcock Turkey With Anise and Orange

Spatchcock Turkey With Anise and Orange

There are many (many!) Thanksgiving turkey recipes out there. But this roast spatchcock turkey recipe with its aniseed, orange, and fresh herb dry brine is, as former BA test kitchen director Carla Lalli Music put it, “for people who want a turkey that actually tastes good, not a turkey that just looks good.” (Watch her make this recipe.)

Butterflying or spatchcocking a whole turkey (i.e., removing the backbone and flattening the bird) has a multitude of benefits: It creates more surface area, thereby exposing more turkey skin to direct heat—and greater skin exposure means more opportunity for crispy skin. It also lets the white and dark meat cook evenly, so everything stays juicy, and it significantly cuts the overall cooking time.

Most butchers will remove the backbone if you ask, but this video shows you how to spatchcock a 12–14-lb. turkey step by step if you want to DIY (make two if you have a big group). If you’re using a frozen bird, you must thaw it first, and if you don’t have sharp kitchen shears or poultry shears, now is the time to buy some.

There’s no need to wake up early for this recipe; all told, the prep time and cooking time combined is just about 90 minutes (though note you will need to be on hand as the turkey cooks to baste it). To test for doneness, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and breast and look for an internal temperature of 165°. Cover the cooked turkey with  foil for 30 minutes before carving so the juices stay put. (Meanwhile, make a killer turkey gravy from the drippings.)

That’s it. Now you have the rest of the day to finish your Thanksgiving side dishes, set the table, or simply pour yourself a drink and admire perfection.


8–10 Servings


tsp. aniseed


cup (72 g) Diamond Crystal or ¼ cup plus 1½ tsp. Morton kosher salt


cup finely grated orange zest, plus 4 wide strips orange zest


Tbsp. dark brown sugar


Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh rosemary, sprig reserved


Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, sprigs reserved


tsp. freshly ground black pepper


12–14-lb. turkey (neck, giblets, and backbone removed and reserved)


medium onions, quartered


large carrots, peeled, halved


celery stalks


heads garlic, halved


cup olive oil


  1. Step 1

    Toast 5 tsp. aniseed in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool; finely grind in a spice mill or a mortar and pestle. (Alternatively, chop with a knife.)

    Step 2

    Pulse ½ cup (72 g) Diamond Crystal or ¼ cup plus 1½ tsp. Morton kosher salt, ¼ cup finely grated orange zest, 2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar, 1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh rosemary, 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, and 4 tsp. toasted aniseed in a food processor until finely chopped.

    Step 3

    Place 1 12–14-lb. turkey (neck, giblets, and backbone removed and reserved), skin side down, on a cutting board. Use a knife to score down long oblong bone in the center of breast. Turn skin side up and press down on breastbone to flatten. You should hear a crack and feel the bones give way. Sprinkle salt mixture liberally all over turkey, patting to adhere. You may not need all of it, but it’s good to have extra since some will end up on the baking sheet. Place turkey, breast side up, on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet and chill, uncovered, at least 6 hours and up to 2 days.

    Step 4

    Preheat oven to 450°. Arrange 2 medium onions, quartered, 4 large carrots, peeled, halved, 4 celery stalks, 3 heads garlic, halved, and reserved rosemary and thyme sprigs in a roasting pan. Brush excess salt mixture off turkey and pat dry any damp parts with paper towels. Place, skin side up, on top of vegetables; let sit at room temperature 30 minutes.

    Step 5

    Meanwhile, heat ½ cup olive oil, 4 wide strips orange zest, and remaining toasted aniseed in a small saucepan until oil is sizzling, about 2 minutes; let cool slightly.

    Step 6

    Brush turkey with flavored oil, add ½ cup water to pan, and roast turkey 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue to roast, brushing with more oil every 20 minutes, until skin is deep golden brown and crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165°, about 1 hour longer. Transfer to a platter; tent with foil and let cooked turkey rest at least 30 minutes before carving. 

    Editor’s note: This spatchcock turkey recipe was first printed in our November 2014 issue. Head this way for more of our best Thanksgiving dinner recipes

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