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There are many (many!) Thanksgiving turkey recipes out there. But, this roast spatchcock turkey recipe with its aniseed and orange dry brine is, as former BA Test Kitchen director Carla Lalli Music put it, “for people who want a turkey that actually tastes good, and not a turkey that just looks good.” (Watch her make this recipe.)

Butterflying or spatchcocking a whole turkey does a lot of great things. By creating more surface area (i.e. exposing more of the bird to heat), it helps cook the dark and white meat evenly, so everything stays juicy. It cuts the overall cooking time in half. And last, but certainly not least, it results in even more golden brown, crispy skin. Most butchers will remove the backbone of the bird for you if you ask, but this video shows you how to spatchcock a 12–14 pound turkey step by step if you want to DIY (make two if you have a big party). If you’re using a frozen bird, be sure to let it thaw first, and if you don’t have sharp kitchen shears or poultry shears, now is the time to buy some.

Though there’s no need to wake up early for this recipe—total cooking time is just an hour and a half—you will need to be on hand as the turkey cooks to baste it often. To test for doneness, insert a meat thermometer into both the thickest part of the thigh and the breast meat and look for an internal temperature of 165°F. Let the cooked turkey rest, covered with aluminum foil, for 30 minutes before carving, so the juices stay put.

That’s it. Now you have the whole rest of the day to finish your Thanksgiving side dishes, set the table, or simply pour yourself a drink and admire perfection.


8 to 10 Servings


teaspoons aniseed


cup kosher salt


cup finely grated orange zest, plus 4 wide strips orange zest


tablespoons dark brown sugar


tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary, sprig reserved


tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, sprigs reserved


teaspoons freshly ground black pepper


12–14-lb. turkey (neck, giblets, and backbone removed and reserved)


medium onions, quartered


large carrots, peeled, halved


celery stalks


heads garlic, halved


cup olive oil


  1. Step 1

    Toast aniseed in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool; finely grind in a spice mill or a mortar and pestle. (Alternatively, chop with a knife.)

    Step 2

    Finely chop salt, grated zest, sugar, chopped rosemary, thyme leaves, pepper, and 4 tsp. aniseed in a food processor.

    Step 3

    Place turkey, skin side down, on a cutting board. Use a knife to score down long oblong bone in the center of breast. Turn skin side up and press down on breastbone to flatten. You should hear a crack and feel the bones give way. Rub all over with salt mixture; place turkey, skin side up, on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet and chill, uncovered, 6–18 hours.

    Step 4

    Preheat oven to 450°. Arrange onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and thyme and rosemary sprigs in a roasting pan. Rinse turkey, pat dry, and place, skin side up, on top of vegetables; let sit at room temperature 30 minutes.

    Step 5

    Meanwhile, heat oil, orange zest strips, and remaining aniseed in a small saucepan until oil is sizzling, about 2 minutes; let cool slightly.

    Step 6

    Brush turkey with oil, add ½ cup water to pan, and roast turkey 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue to roast, brushing with oil every 20 minutes, until skin is deep golden brown and crisp and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165°, about 1 hour longer. Transfer to a platter; tent with foil and let rest at least 30 minutes before carving.

    Editor’s note: Head this way for more of our best Thanksgiving dinner recipes