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Spatchcocked Dry-Brined Turkey with Make-Ahead Gravy

Removing the backbone from the bird (aka spatchcocking) ensures the dark and light meat cooks evenly. Do it yourself with the help of our easy instructions below, or have your butcher do it for you. The turkey is marinated with a dry brine of sage, fennel, orange zest and salt for 24 to 48 hours for juicy, flavorful meat, but you can add the rub just before roasting if you’re in a rush.

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How to Spatchcock the Turkey

1. Place a thin towel on a surface and place a cutting board on top. Use heavy-duty kitchen shears to cut along both sides of the backbone.

2. Remove backbone. Reserve for making broth, if desired.

3. Turn the turkey breast side up.

4. Press down firmly with both hands on the breastbone until you hear it crack and the turkey flattens out.

10 with leftovers
Prep Time
90 min
270 min



  • 3 lb turkey parts (backbone, drumstick and/or wings) 1 tbsp olive oil

    ½ cup white whole-wheat flour

    sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup white whole-wheat flour<
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste


  • 1 12- to 13-lb turkey, thawed*
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp orange zest
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp rubbed sage
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and ground in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper


1. Up to 3 months in advance, prepare gravy. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place turkey parts, celery, carrots and onion on a large rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Roast until turkey parts are browned, 40 minutes.

2. In a large pot, combine roasted turkey parts and vegetables with 8 cups cold water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1½ hours. Strain into a large bowl and refrigerate until completely cooled. Skim fat off the top and discard. (You will need 4 to 4½ cups for gravy; use any extra for dressing).

3. To a medium bowl, add flour and gradually whisk in 1 cup broth. Pour 3 cups broth into a saucepan. Whisk flour mixture into saucepan and bring to a simmer on medium. Reduce to low and cook, whisking frequently, until thickened, 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Make-Ahead: The gravy can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight and reheat in a small saucepan, whisking frequently, until bubbly. Cover and keep warm over low heat for up to 2 hours.)

4. 1 to 2 days in advance, spatchcock and prepare the turkey. (See “How to Spatchcock the Turkey”) In a small bowl, combine oil, orange zest, salt, sage, fennel and pepper. Carefully slide your fingers under skin over breast and thigh to loosen and spread 2/3 of spice mixture on meat under the skin. Rub remaining spice mixture on outside of the bird. Set turkey on a rimmed baking sheet and tuck wing tips behind the bird. Refrigerate uncovered for 24 to
48 hours.

5. 3 hours before serving, remove turkey from refrigerator and let stand for 1 hour; preheat oven to 425°F. Set a flat roasting rack in a large baking sheet (a 12 x 14-inch baking sheet works best). Place turkey meaty side up on the rack. Roast turkey until an instant-read thermometer reads 165°F when inserted in the thickest part of the breast, about 1½ hours. (Tip: Calculate 7½ minutes per lb of turkey before taking out backbone.) Loosely tent the turkey with foil if it gets too brown while roasting.

6. Transfer turkey to a large cutting board, tent with foil and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving. If you’d like to add the pan drippings to the gravy, remove the rack, add
½ cup broth or water to baking sheet and scrape up browned bits. Strain drippings into a gravy separator and add to gravy. (Alternatively, strain drippings into a glass measuring cup and let stand for a few minutes; spoon off fat that rises to the surface before adding to gravy.)

7. To carve, cut thigh and drumstick away from breast. Separate drumstick and thigh at the joint. Thinly slice turkey breast from breast bone. Arrange on a platter and serve
with gravy.

Note: If your turkey is frozen, thaw in the fridge before removing the backbone; calculate 24 hours thawing time per 5 lb of turkey. Don’t use a prebrined or kosher turkey because the final product will be too salty.

Nutrition Information

  • Serving Size 4 oz turkey and 1/4 cup gravy
  • Calories 267
  • Carbohydrate Content 3 g
  • Cholesterol Content 123 mg
  • Fat Content 8 g
  • Fiber Content 1 g
  • Protein Content 35 g
  • Saturated Fat Content 2 g
  • Sodium Content 330 mg
  • Sugar Content 0 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat Content 3 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat Content 2 g