Buttermilk-Brined Turkey Recipe with Onion Butter & Potato Slayer
The swoon-worthy results and surprising ease of cooking a whole turkey over a wood-infused fire just might make you rethink your traditional menu. Three things bring this recipe together. A seasoned buttermilk brine creates exceptionally moist, deeply-flavored turkey. “Spatchcocking” or butterflying the turkey creates a broad, flat surface that cooks more quickly and evenly. And to address the perennial quandary of how to cook the turkey through without drying out the breast meat, the coals are arranged in a crescent shape that allows both parts of the bird to reach the ideal temperature at the same time. If you’re not up for grilling, you can also roast this bird in the oven (method follows below).
Buttermilk-Brined Smoked Turkey with Onion Butter + Potato Slayer
1 hour 30 minutes
You can ask your butcher to spatchcock the turkey for you, or you can wrangle it yourself with heavy duty poultry shears (be sure to reserve the backbone, neck, and giblets for making turkey stock or gravy). Once you’ve removed the backbone, the folded turkey neatly tucks into a 2-gallon plastic bag. To make the buttermilk turkey brine, we use a combination of Onion Butter and Potato Slayer seasoning brings a fantastic herby, savory, and buttery flavor to the meat.
A day or two before you plan to cook, use heavy-duty kitchen shears to snip along both sides of the backbone to release it. Turn the turkey over, breast-side up, and splay out the legs. Use both hands to press hard on the breastbone (you’ll probably need to put your weight into it) until you hear the cartilage pop and the bird lies completely flat.
Combine the Potato Slayer, Onion Butter, and salt in a small bowl. Use your hands to season both sides of the turkey and distribute the spices evenly.
Place a 2-gallon resealable bag in a stock pot. Carefully folk the turkey in half, skin-side out, and tuck the turkey into the bag. Pour the buttermilk into the bag, expel excess air and carefully seal. If you’re worried about leakage or sharp bones, double- bag the turkey, then place it on a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate overnight, or up to 48 hours. Turn the bag every 6 or so hours, to ensure every part of the turkey gets marinated.
Three hours before you plan to cook, remove the turkey from the plastic bag, allowing excess moisture to drip off (discard buttermilk), and place the turkey on a wire cooling rack placed inside a rimmed baking sheet.
Prepare your grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire. When the coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, use tongs to arrange the coals into a crescent moon shape and add a couple chunks or hardwood to the fire. When the fire begins to release a steady stream of smoke, place the turkey directly on the grates, with the legs and thighs situated over the direct heat of the coals and the breast toward indirect heat.
Cook the turkey until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the breast registers 150 degrees and the thickest part of the thigh without touching bone registers 165 degrees, about 80 to 100 minutes. (You may want to tent the breast or other hot spots with aluminum foil, if it darkens too quickly.)
Transfer turkey to a cutting board or platter and allow to rest at least 20 minutes before carving.
Oven method: Roast the buttermilk brined turkey in a 400 degree oven, occasionally rotating the pan 180 degrees, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the breast registers 150 degrees and the thickest part of the thigh without touching bone registers 165 degrees, about 80 to 100 minutes.