Buttermilk Brined Cajun Turkey + How To Spatchcock Turkey

If you’re looking for the fastest way to cook a juicy Thanksgiving turkey, the answer is a Buttermilk Brine and Spatchcocking!  If you’re wondering what spatchcocking is, it’s a fancy way of saying butterflying.  Spatchcocking allows the turkey to cook as evenly as possible, allowing the legs to reach a safe temperature without overcooking the breast, resulting in a perfectly cooked turkey in 90 minutes!

This turkey was the star of the show at Friendsgiving this year.  We made two turkeys, an herb roasted turkey, and this Buttermilk Brined Cajun Turkey.  This was the first turkey to go, and we only had the wings left for leftovers.  I wish I got a better picture of the turkey, but, I was cooking for 26 people in a kitchen that wasn’t mine… sometimes, you don’t get the most beautiful photo.  But, you can see what the turkey actually looks like in real life, and not a styled bird for the picture.

Buttermilk Brining Basics + How To Make Buttermilk

Buttermilk has been used for a long time as a tenderizing marinade for fried chicken, and works just the same for turkey.  Buttermilk tenderizes the turkey without toughening up the meat like citrus and vinegar do. The enzymes in buttermilk also help in breaking down the protein in the turkey, resulting in tender, juicy, flavorful turkey.

Using a mixture of salt and cajun seasoning in the buttermilk brine helps draw moisture and flavor into the turkey.  A long soak in a seasoned buttermilk brine ensures the turkey will be juicy and extremely delicious.

You may be thinking that buttermilk is expensive, but you can make it yourself.  All you need is a gallon of whole milk and ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice, or white vinegar).  Mix the vinegar and milk together and let it sit for 10 minutes.  Give it another stir, and you have buttermilk!

Cajun Buttermilk Brine Recipe

1 gallon whole milk
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp hot sauce
3 tbsp honey
¼ cup cajun seasoning
3 tbsp salt (1 tbsp if seasoning already contains salt)

Mix everything together in a large stock pot, big enough to hold turkey and liquid.  Let mixture sit for 10-15 minutes.  Stir, and then add turkey to stock pot.  Use something heavy to hold turkey in brine.  I used a metal trivet to keep my turkey submerged in the brine.

How To Spatchcock A Turkey

A spatchcock turkey, also known as a butterflied turkey, is a turkey with its backbone removed.  The turkey is then laid completely flat and roasted, skin side up.  When the turkey is flattened, it cuts the cooking time to about 90 minutes by exposing more surface area of the turkey to the oven heat.  The legs and thighs that were once covered, are now exposed, and will cook at the same rate as the breast.  This results in a juicy bird with extra crispy skin!  Better yet, a spatchcocked turkey takes up less vertical space in the oven, giving you more room for side dishes and desserts! 

To spatchcock the turkey, you are going to need a boning knife, poultry shears or strong kitchen shears. It takes a little bit of muscle to get through the turkey, but the end result is totally worth the effort.

Steps:

  1. Start with the turkey breast-side down, and starting at the tail, use poultry sheets to cut along both sides of the backbone.  Turn the turkey breast-side up.
      
  2. Save the backbone to make turkey stock with for gravy
  3. Place your hand on one side of the breast, and push down firmly until you hear a pop.  Repeat on the other side.  Try to get the turkey as flat as you can.
  4. Pull the thighs outward so that the turkey lies completely flat.
  5. Tuck the wing tips under the breast and place turkey on a baking sheet, breast side up. 
  6. Pat the skin dry and season or place in brine.  
  7. Cook turkey according to recipe.

How To Cook Turkey

Spatchcock turkey, and marinate 18-24 hours in Cajun Buttermilk Brine.

Smash 2 cloves garlic, slice 1 onion, and roughly chop 1 green pepper.  Spread across the bottom of a rimmed sheet pan, and place a wire rack in the pan.  Jiggle the rack around to move the veggies to make sure that the pan is flat in the sheet pan.

Remove turkey from brine, and pat try with paper towels.  Place turkey breast side up on rack.

Season turkey with 3-4 tbsp cajun seasoning, and roast in a preheated 425 degree oven for 1 ½ – 2 hours, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees.

Remove from oven and let rest at least 30 minutes before carving.

It really is simple, I promise!

Yields1 Serving

 1 12-15 lb turkey
 1 green onion, roughly chopped
 1 onion, sliced
 3 cloves garlic, smashed
 3 ½ tbsp cajun seasoning
For Cajun Buttermilk Brine
 1 gal whole milk
 ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
 2 tbsp hot sauce
 3 tbsp honey
 ¼ cup cajun seasoning
 3 tbsp salt (1 tbsp if cajun seasoning has salt in it)

To Prepare Turkey
1

In a large, deep stockpot, big enough to hold turkey and brine, combine all ingredients for Cajun Buttermilk Brine, and let sit for 10-15 minutes.

2

Meanwhile, prepare turkey by removing the popup timer, plastic clamp holding legs together, and then remove the neck and all of the gizzards. Spatchcock turkey. Save the backbone and neck for turkey stock.

3

Place the spatchcocked turkey in buttermilk brine, place something heavy over the top keep it submerged, and place in the fridge. Let turkey marinate in brine for 18-24 hours.

To Cook Turkey
4

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread green pepper, onion and garlic across the bottom of a rimmed sheet pan, and place a baking rack inside the sheet pan, jiggling it around to move veggies so that it sits flat.

5

Remove turkey from brine, and place on prepared sheet pan.

6

Roast for 1 ½ - 2 hours, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees.

7

Remove turkey from oven, and transfer to a large, wooden cutting board and let rest 30 minutes before carving.

Save pan drippings for gravy.

Ingredients

 1 12-15 lb turkey
 1 green onion, roughly chopped
 1 onion, sliced
 3 cloves garlic, smashed
 3 ½ tbsp cajun seasoning
For Cajun Buttermilk Brine
 1 gal whole milk
 ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
 2 tbsp hot sauce
 3 tbsp honey
 ¼ cup cajun seasoning
 3 tbsp salt (1 tbsp if cajun seasoning has salt in it)

Directions

To Prepare Turkey
1

In a large, deep stockpot, big enough to hold turkey and brine, combine all ingredients for Cajun Buttermilk Brine, and let sit for 10-15 minutes.

2

Meanwhile, prepare turkey by removing the popup timer, plastic clamp holding legs together, and then remove the neck and all of the gizzards. Spatchcock turkey. Save the backbone and neck for turkey stock.

3

Place the spatchcocked turkey in buttermilk brine, place something heavy over the top keep it submerged, and place in the fridge. Let turkey marinate in brine for 18-24 hours.

To Cook Turkey
4

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread green pepper, onion and garlic across the bottom of a rimmed sheet pan, and place a baking rack inside the sheet pan, jiggling it around to move veggies so that it sits flat.

5

Remove turkey from brine, and place on prepared sheet pan.

6

Roast for 1 ½ - 2 hours, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees.

7

Remove turkey from oven, and transfer to a large, wooden cutting board and let rest 30 minutes before carving.

Save pan drippings for gravy.

Buttermilk Brined Cajun Turkey

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Next Up:

Pumpkin Banana Bread

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