Before we had Convection ovens the only option for oven cooking was radiant heat and while radiant heat can provide great results with baked items, it tends to have a drying effect on meats. To counter this drying effect the technique of brining lean meats before roasting became was the best option. Basically, the brine infused additional liquid into the meat to prevent it from drying out, an added bonus was the ability to add different flavors to the brine.
Nowadays we have more options for cooking a turkey without having to brine or baste including the spatchcocked method.
The Evolution of Turkey Roasting Techniques
The first major change in turkey roasting techniques came about with the design of the V-rack. Instead of the turkey sitting directly on the pan and the heat of the pan leeching the moisture from the turkey, it could cook through beautifully and retain more moisture.
Even when the V rack became popular and Convection ovens more common, recipes still didn’t reference using Convection and still recommended brining and using copious amounts of butter as well as frequent basting to prevent drying out the bird during the long cooking time.
As people began to look for other options than oven roasting, techniques such as smoking and deep-frying became popular, and since the turkey didn’t take up all the oven space that made cooking all the oven-side dishes easier.
Then Along Came Convection and a Better Way to Roast Turkey
Convection is better for roasting because the heated air cooks the food from the edge to the center helping to keep the moisture in the meat. A benefit of cooking with Convection is a much faster cooking time, and no turning or basting is needed. Once the turkey is resting then the oven can be loaded with the side dishes so everything will be ready to serve at one time.
In order to benefit from roasting in Convection it’s important to cook the turkey on a rack in a shallow pan to allow the heat to evenly penetrate into the bird.
If Convection Does a Great Job, What is the Benefit of Spatchcocking a Turkey?
There are many benefits to cooking a turkey in this method.
Faster cooking time, a 12 - 15lb turkey cooked in this method will cook in approximately 1 hour and 15 - 20 minutes.
Carving is much easier. Simply remove the leg and thigh at the joint then the breast meat can be sliced on the bone.
The backbone can be removed a day in advance of cooking to make stock and the gravy made can also be made in advance so there is no last-minute gravy making. Then the pan can be de-glazed and the drippings added to the gravy for color and flavor.
The turkey cooks more evenly when laid flat so the leaner white meat doesn’t become dry and the skin will be crisp all over.
Roasting a Spatchcocked Turkey in Convection
The hardest part about roasting a turkey in this method is cutting the backbone out of the turkey, to keep the turkey stable while cutting out the backbone hold it steady with a kitchen towel. Placing a damp kitchen towel or paper towel under the cutting board or a rimmed baking pan to remove the backbone will also keep it stable. Poultry shears are the safest tool for cutting out the backbone, but a strong sharp knife will also work.
Begin by cutting along the backbone from the tail end to the neck cutting through the rib bones. Spread the turkey open slightly, then holding it steady with the towel cut out the backbone on the other side.
Once the backbone is out press down on the highest point of the breastbone until you hear it crack, this will allow the turkey to sit flatter. Now it’s time to season the turkey and get it ready for roasting.
Even spatchcocked turkey is best roasted on a rack in a shallow pan. If you don’t have a rack then place the turkey over some large carrots and other root vegetables.
Ideally, season the turkey with kosher salt and your preferred seasoning a day in advance, and be sure to bring it to room temperature before cooking. Remember to add at least 30 minutes of resting time to the cooking time before carving the turkey. If your side dishes are ready to go into the oven when the turkey comes out everything should be hot and ready to serve at the same time. All the details are in this recipe.
Cooking a spatchcocked turkey is one way to make cooking a holiday feast easier and in my next post, I will cover make ahead side dishes to go with the feast that will make the cooking easier and less stressful.
Larissa, Your Convection Enthusiast