45-Minute Roast Turkey

Melina Hammer for the New York Times

Melina Hammer for the New York Times

10 servings

45 minutes

This novel approach to roasting the Thanksgiving turkey allows you to cut the cooking time of the average turkey by about 75 percent while still presenting an attractive bird. Simply cut out the backbone (it’s not that difficult, but you can ask your butcher or anyone who’s handy with a butcher’s knife to do it for you) and spread the bird out flat before roasting. 

The technique, known as “spatchcocking,” is commonly used with chickens. Roasted at 450 degrees, a 10-pound bird will be done in about 45 minutes. Really. It will also be more evenly browned (all of the skin is exposed to the heat), more evenly cooked, and moister than birds cooked conventionally. Simply put, it's the best way to roast a turkey. (Check out the video here.)


1 8- to 12-pound turkey
10 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed, or more to taste
1 branch fresh tarragon or thyme separated into sprigs, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or tarragon
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil or butter
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Put turkey on a stable cutting board breast side down and cut out backbone. Turn turkey over, and press on it to flatten. Put it, breast side up, in a roasting pan. Wings should partly cover breasts, and legs should protrude a bit.

2. Tuck garlic and tarragon under the bird and in the nooks of the wings and legs. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

3. Roast for 20 minutes, undisturbed. Turkey should be browning. Remove from oven, baste with pan juices, and return to oven. Reduce heat to 400 degrees (if turkey browns too quickly, reduce temperature to 350 degrees).

4. Begin to check turkey's temperature about 15 minutes later (10 minutes if bird is on the small side). It is done when thigh meat registers 165 degrees on an instant-read meat thermometer. Check it in a couple of places.

5. Let turkey rest for a few minutes before carving, then serve with garlic cloves and pan juices.

Recipe published in The New York Times


Meat & PoultryMark Bittman