Last year, our two sons hosted Thanksgiving dinner on alternative coasts. Both prepared their holiday turkey using alternative cooking methods with fantastic results!
Hubby and I drove across the state to youngest son D’s home in Philadelphia. His rowhouse is located in the historic and fashionable Fairmont area of the city. Joining us from Washington D.C., were my husband’s brother and his wife. All of us stayed in the three-story rowhouse, along with our Scottie dog, Whiskey and D’s lab-mix, Bentley. It was a full house, and lots of fun!
Meanwhile, oldest son R was in California celebrating the holiday for the first time with his now fiancé’s family.
Both our sons took charge of the Thanksgiving feast, but each used a more modern method to prepare and cook their big birds. Wanting to use his Traeger grill to smoke a turkey, D and his dad plotted out their plan before we even left Pittsburgh. After brining overnight, they splayed or spatchcock the bird before smoking. Spatchcock is to split open a chicken or game bird before cooking. In contrast, R deep-fried a whole turkey outdoors.
It was the first time anyone in our family had ever splayed, smoked or deep-fried a holiday turkey. Come see how well they both turned out!
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Alternative Ways to Prepare a Turkey
For Thanksgiving, I had always got up early to prep a big bird. Then, with the help of Mr. Buzz, stuffed the turkey and got it into the oven for the many hours it took to cook an 18-22 pound gobbler.
I never even heard of splaying poultry, and we only recently got a smoker grill as a gift from eldest son. What I did know about deep-frying a turkey sounded uncessasarily dangerous.
Benefits of Splaying a Turkey
Splaying or spatchcocking is removing the backbone from the turkey so the bird lays flat, rather than upright during roasting. That exposes the drumsticks and thighs to direct heat, resulting in a juicy breast and thighs with crispy, evenly browned skin.
Considered the modern method for preparing a turkey, splaying dramatically speeds up cooking time! Depending on how you cook the bird, it can cut the time in half, or more! Whether you roast the bird in a conventional oven or smoke it on a grill, a spatchcock turkey also cooks more evenly.
When prepared in an oven, a splayed bird is cooked on a rimmed baking sheet instead of in a bulky roasting pan. That translates into the turkey taking up less vertical space in the oven, allowing room for an additional rack to cook or warm side dishes.
From my perspective, the only possible downside to splaying, is that you can’t cook bread stuffing inside the bird. To some, that may not matter anyway? Others — like yours truly —prefers the taste and moisture. But, for food safety reasons the USDA recommends cooking stuffing out side of the turkey. That’s because bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165 F.
We always double the recipe of my great grandmother’s sage sausage stuffing. Which means most of of it is cooked in casseroles anyway. So, the benefits of fast and even cooking, make splaying a holiday turkey the method I’ll use from now on. Consider me an enthusiastic convert! Appears my adult sons have taught me a thing or two about cooking, lol!
Have you ever spatchcock a turkey?
How to Spatchcock a Bird
Although you can purchase a fresh turkey already splayed, there are only four steps to prep it in your own kitchen. It does require some physical strength or elbow grease. However, having a very sharp knife or kitchen shears makes it relatively straight-forward.
Step 1: Cut Out the Breastbone
Start with the turkey breast-side down. Beginning at the tail end, cut along both sides of the backbone to remove it.
Step 2: Open the Turkey
Set aside the backbone (and giblets) for making gravy stock. Next, take hold of both newly cut edges, and open the turkey. Remove any large pieces of fat and then turn the turkey breast-side up.
Step 3: Break the Breastbone
Now, place your hand on one side of the breast (close to the breastbone), and push down firmly until you hear a crack. Then repeat on the other side.
Step 4: Flatten the Turkey
Pull the thighs outward so the turkey lies flat, with the wings facing inward. Finally, tuck the wing tips under the bird to secure.
Cooking Tip: Search online for “spatchcock turkey” to find multiple, fully-illustrated instruction guides and videos. You’ll also find lots of recipe options and helpful suggestions.
Smoking a Holiday Turkey
Our youngest son, D, hosted Thanksgiving in his 102 year-old Philadelphia rowhouse. He and his dad spatchcock the18 pound turkey before smoking it in the Traeger grill on the outside patio.
In Using a Smoker Grill Enhances BBQ Meals & More, I shared how D has made us everything from ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket, to macaroni and cheese in an iron skillet. In the picture to the right, he is grilling barbecue ribs on our smoker for July 4th in a Return of Traditional Summer Activities & Family Visits.
Last Christmas, eldest son made the family a delicious holiday Smoked Ham on the grill he gave us the previous holiday.
For Thanksgiving, D first brined the turkey overnight in the refrigerator. Before splaying the bird, he prepared a homemade rub to spread over the turkey. Then it went into the smoker.
Cooking Tip: Traeger offers numerous recipes and tips for smoking a holiday turkey. Another great online resource is Meat Church. That’s where our son found the delicious maple and bourbon recipe he used.
When smoking a turkey, you may also want to consider using seasonal wood pellets blends. Apple pellets produce a slightly fruity smoke flavor, while maple pellets give the turkey a mildly sweet tone. For a nutty boost, try oak or hickory blends.
D used a Turkey Blend of oak, hickory, and maple pellets — enhanced with rosemary. It added sweet and smoky notes to the holiday turkey.
Cooking the large, splayed turkey in the smoker only took an hour and a half! It was beautifully browned, incredibly juicy and tender. Hubby tells everyone it’s the best turkey he’s ever tasted!
Not only that, but smoking the holiday turkey freed up D’s sole oven to bake the stuffing, sweet potato casserole, and later roast seasonal vegetables.
Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, eldest son was also in charge of preparing the holiday turkey. Earlier, he purchased a large turkey fryer online (see below) and had it delivered to V’s mother’s home in California.
R had been bugging his dad and I for years to get a deep fryer to cook the Thanksgiving bird. Mr. Buzz was intrigued, but I always vetoed the idea. Why do men like to play with fire, lol?!
V sent us videos and pictures as R prepared and deep-fried the turkey. I’m thinking the key is to have quality equipment and set it up away from the house and anything flammable? So, I suspect I’ll get outvoted one of these upcoming Thanksgivings. It sure did look and sound scrumptious!
Have you ever deep-fried a holiday turkey? Tips to share?
Flying South for Thanksgiving
Our family will all be in Charleston for Thanksgiving this year. We’ve rented a house right down the street from Sistah B’s on Folly Beach island. We are looking forward to bringing our far-flung family together to celebrate the holiday and two engagements!
Because we will be away, I elected not to style and share a table for the annual Thanksgiving blog hop. Rarely do I set a table just for show.
But for those newer to Debbee’s Buzz, there are nearly a dozen previous tablescapes located in the Thanksgiving archive. My favorite, and one I regularly return to, is Cornucopia Takes Center Stage on Thanksgiving Table.
Other ideas for celebrating the holiday include; Craft Thanksgiving Bread Cornucopia & Pumpkin Rolls, Paint Thanksgiving Turkey Glasses as Table Favors, and DIY Thanksgiving Table Family Photo Place Cards.
How and where will you celebrate Thanksgiving this year?
Recently, I marked five years of blogging, and am grateful to those of you who follow along. I especially enjoy reading your comments and “chatting” with you!
Wishing you all a healthy and happy Thanksgiving!
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I regularly participate in: Metamorphous Monday, Turn About Tuesday, Centerpiece Wednesday, Whimsical Home Projects, In Link Party, Share Your Style, Tablescape Thursday, Thursday Favorite Things, Crafty Creators, Fabulous Friday, Saturday Sparks, Happiness is Homemade, and Love Your Creativity.
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I can only speak to the deep fried Turkey but it was delish! Looking forward to trying the smoked version someday soon. I’m sure it’s different and incredible in its own way. That’s the thing about turkey… no matter how you cook it you can’t go wrong!
Looking forward to a wonderful Thanksgiving down south!
Oh it can go wrong! Give you and your brother lots of credit for a job well done! I may have to “retire” and let you two take over cooking the turkey. Can’t wait to see you soon!
We have deep fried turkeys in a cooker and also a new metal trash can (trash can turkey). They both turned out awesome. Very intrigued by the splaying but I do love stuffing the turkey! Happy Thanksgiving! Just hubby and I this year!
A trash can, wow Karen, I never heard of that before! Hope you and your husband have a wonderful holiday and meal together.
Happy Thanksgiving!! We’re going to J & A house. Have a great time with family. Hope to see you soon!! 😘
It was great spending Thanksgiving with you guys last year! Will miss you and wish you a most happy holiday with J and A!
Looking good on all versions! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family. PS Look for a Publix and Barnie’s White Christmas ice cream in SC.
Just got back! This year we splayed but grilled the turkey — delicious! And, thanks to your tip, we found the tasty ice cream for decorating the tree.