Butterflied Turkey Recipe with a Spicy Pomegranate Glaze


Butterflied Turkey with a Spicy Pomegranate Glaze

Let’s Talk Turkey.

Holiday turkey recipes can be challenging. And, there is a huge debate about what’s the best way to cook a turkey.  Lots of non-traditional approaches abound. There are even video tutorials! I am one of those folks who makes turkey once a year, maybe twice, max, if I buy an extra bird this time of year while they are cheap and keep it in my freezer to throw on my barbecue grill in the summer.

So, I decided to experiment. I am thrilled to report that my experiment last weekend with a butterflied turkey was a HUGE success! The turkey was cooked evenly and had a delicious flavor and – biggest problem solved here!- was perfectly moist. I can’t say enough about this technique. It works like magic. Maybe there is something about cooking the bird completely flat that helps keep the moisture level high. This is the best turkey we have had at our house for years!

I followed Cook’s Illustrated technique closely but I changed up the glaze quite a bit – using 100 per cent pomegranate juice instead of apple juice in the glaze. Verdict on the glaze: tangy, spicy and beautiful color.

The only downside to this technique is that you need some upper body strength to get such a large bird flattened. Luckily, my 6 foot 4 inch son Matt was on hand and mastered the task!

Here’s the Cook’s recipe, with my changes at the end (deleting the cranberry and adding pomegranate):


1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey , giblets and neck removed and reserved for another use
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt (see note)
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large onions , peled and havled
3 cups apple cider
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup light or mild molasses
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons unsalted butter


  1. 1. FOR THE TURKEY: Following illustrations in step by step below, butterfly turkey. Using fingers or handle of wooden spoon, carefully separate skin from thighs and breast. Using skewer, poke 15 to 20 holes in fat deposits on breast halves and thighs. Rub bone side of turkey evenly with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Flip turkey skin side up and rub 1 tablespoon salt evenly under skin. Tuck wings under turkey. Push legs up to rest on lower portion of breast and tie legs together with kitchen twine. Combine remaining tablespoon salt, remaining teaspoon pepper, and baking powder in small bowl. Pat skin side of turkey dry with paper towels. Sprinkle surface of turkey with baking powder mixture and rub in mixture with hands, coating skin evenly. Transfer turkey to large roasting pan, skin side up. Place 1 onion half under each breast and thigh to elevate turkey off bottom of roasting pan. Allow turkey to stand at room temperature 1 hour.
  2. 2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 275 degrees. Roast turkey until instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted in thickest part of breast and 170 to 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, 2 ½ to 3 hours. Remove roasting pan from oven and allow turkey to rest in pan for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 ½ hours. Thirty minutes before returning turkey to oven, increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.
  3. 3. FOR THE GLAZE: While turkey rests, bring cider, cranberries, molasses, vinegar, mustard, and ginger to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1 ½ cups, about 30 minutes. Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer into 2-cup liquid measuring cup, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids (you should have about 1 ¼ cups glaze). Transfer  ½ cup glaze to small saucepan and set aside.
  4. 4. Brush turkey with one-third of glaze in measuring cup, transfer to oven, and roast 7 minutes. Brush on half of remaining glaze in measuring cup and roast additional 7 minutes. Brush on remaining glaze in measuring cup and roast until skin is evenly browned and crispy, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer turkey to cutting board and let rest 20 minutes.
  5. 5. While turkey rests, remove onions from roasting pan and discard. Strain liquid from pan through fine-mesh strainer into fat separator (you should have about 2 cups liquid). Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then pour into saucepan with reserved glaze, discarding any remaining fat. Bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat and cook until slightly syrupy, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter. Carve turkey and serve, passing sauce separately.


3 cups pomegranate juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/4 cup brown sugar

Other interesting takes on cooking your bird:
Turkey Roulade, PheMOMenon
Bacon Wrapped Turkey Roulade, Bitchin’ Camaro
Smoked Thanksgiving Turkey, Chaos in the Kitchen
Mustard Crusted Turkey, Food for my Family
Slow Cooker Turkey Breast, Andrea’s Recipes
Julia and Jacques Deconstructed Turkey, Al Dente
Alton Brown’s Roast Turkey, Annie’s Eats
Tandoori Turkey, Steamy Kitchen
Cider Brined Turkey, Amateur Gourmet

— posted by Donna


  1. Annabelle says

    Definitely want to try this. Does “butterfly” mean cut in half?
    Can’t see this on COOKS unless you have a membership. So, how do I butterfly….just take a knife and whack through it or ask the meat department to do it? Is it totally cut in half or just cut so you spread the two apart in the roasting pan? Thanks for helping a somewhat virgin turkey baker out.

    • says

      Hey Annabelle – You just lay your bird on a flat surface breast side down and then use kitchen shears or a large chef’s knife and cut the spine out completely. Then, flip over and press down so the whole bird is flat. It sounds weird, but works like a charm!

  2. says

    I actually just cooked my first turkey ever a couple of weeks ago! I’m loving this butterflied version, and the pom juice sounds perfect! Thanks so much for linking up to Taste and Tell Thursdays! :)

  3. says

    I’ve invited the whole family to ours this xmas for a traditional dinner, so obviously the roast is pretty important! I found a ton of recipes at this roast recipe site, but cant decide on one – there’s too many to choose from! It’s fun planning such a big christmas dinner though!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *