Bacon-Wrapped, Spatchcocked Turkey in 80 Minutes
A Delicious and Easy Mashup
A bacon wrapped turkey is gorgeous and immediately grabs everyone's attention. Bacon wrapping is not just about aesthetics. The bacon wrapping also eliminates any need to brine or baste. Your turkey is all but guaranteed to come out perfectly moist so you can spend your time with your guests or attending to your other Thanksgiving dishes.
Spatchcocking, or butterflying, helps all the different parts of the turkey cook evenly and greatly speeds up the cooking process. The entire roasting time is 80 minutes! Thanksgiving preparation was never simpler. I see no reason to ever cook a turkey any other way.
How To Spatchcock A Turkey
Spatchcocking a turkey is to cut out the back bone so you can cook the turkey flat with all the skin facing up. You can spatchcock a turkey yourself with some heavy duty poultry shears, or make it easy on yourself and ask your butcher to do it for you. If your butcher isn't familiar with the term "spatchcocked" ask him to butterfly it for you.
The limiting factor for spatchcocking a turkey is size. When the turkey is spatchcocked and laid flat it takes up a lot of real estate. I find the maximum size spatchcocked turkey I can fit in my oven is 12- 14 pounds and that is pushing it. I use a 18" x 13" baking sheet with a 1" rim to cook the turkey on and it barely contains the turkey, with the drum sticks peeking over the edge of the pan, but it fits in a standard size oven.
There are two ways you can go if you need to cook more than a 12-14 pound turkey. You can cook two spatchocked turkeys, and because they are flat two will fit into a standard oven. Or you can spatchcock a larger turkey and then cut it in half by slicing through where the back bone was. Then spread each half on separate baking sheets. You miss out on presenting the whole turkey, but the two halves will taste every bit as good as the whole.
Weaving the Bacon Jacket
Weaving the bacon jacket is really a lot of fun. I use thick cut bacon because I find it creates a more uniform weave and keeps the turkey nice and moist. Take a look at the slider below for pictures of how the weave is done. Here are two tips to help you weave a beautiful bacon turkey jacket:
- If your bacon strips are thinner at one end than the other, place the thicker end at the neck as this is the widest part of the bacon jacket.
- Weave your turkey strips fairly tightly with minimal space between strips. This takes a lot of bacon, but will result in a beautifully tailored bacon jacket that will protect your turkey from drying out.
My Inspiration For This Recipe
I first learned about bacon-wrapping a turkey at a dinner party in Bend Oregon a couple years ago. Our hosts started talking about their Thanksgiving turkey and before I knew it everyone was whipping out their cell phones and showing off pictures of this amazing turkey in a woven bacon jacket. I went home and did some research and found several internet articles on bacon-wrapped turkeys going back to 2007. My first thought was how had I missed this! While there are several articles on bacon wrapped turkey, a recipe posted on The Runaway Spoon, was the most helpful. My Incredible Bacon-Wrapped Turkey was a simplification of The Runaway Spoon approach.
Last year in addition to posting my Incredible Bacon Wrapped Turkey recipe, I also posted a recipe for Spatchcocked Turkey in 80 Minutes. Again, there are multiple articles on spatchcock turkey, but I think Kenji Lopez at Serious Eats does the best job. Check out his article and video, including a tutorial on how to carve a spatchcock turkey.
This year's recipe is a mashup of these two cooking techniques. It is highly simplified as I don't rinse the turkey (and here is why - I promise it is the healthiest method), I don't brine the turkey, because the bacon keeps it moist, and it cooks in an amazing 80 minutes. Thanksgiving was never simpler.
My husband's comment? Why don't we make this turkey more often?
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 handful of mixed fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley, oregano)
- 3 pounds of thick cut bacon, divided
- 8 T butter, cut into 8 pieces
- 1 12 to 14 pound turkey, spatchcocked
- Fresh ground pepper
- 3 carrots, peeled and chopped into 3" pieces
- 2 leeks, cleaned and chopped into 3 inch pieces (white and light green parts only)
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 apples, unpeeled and cut into 8 slices
- ¾ - 1 cup of chicken or turkey stock
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put the garlic in a food processor and whirl to finely chop. Add herbs and pulse to chop. Add ½ pound of bacon and butter and pulse until you have a smooth bacon herb butter.
- Prepare turkey by running your hands between the skin and the flesh to separate the skin from the flesh. Separate the skin for as much of the turkey as possible, including the breasts and the drumsticks. Rub the bacon, herb butter all over the turkey and in between the skin and the flesh, giving the turkey a good bacon-butter massage. Lay three strips of bacon between the breast and the skin. Season with pepper.
- Spread the vegetables and the apples over a large sheet pan and lay the turkey skin-side up on the pan. Starting with the neck-side of the turkey, begin weaving a turkey jacket by laying one long strip horizontally across the width of the turkey and then weaving a strip vertically. Alternate between horizontal and vertical strips, until the body of the turkey is covered in a woven jacket. Then continue weaving the jacket to include both drumsticks and the wings. Trim any excess lengths of bacon.
- Pour the stock into the bottom of the pan. Carefully put the pan in the oven and roast for about 80 minutes, frequently checking to see the bacon is not over cooking. If the bacon starts to become too dark, remove from the oven and cover with a sheet of foil and return it to the oven to continue roasting. The turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 155 degrees. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 30 minutes before slicing. the internal temperature will rise to 160 to 165 degrees while the turkey rests. Always use a thermometer to safely and consistently determine when your turkey is done.