Letters: Alton Brown And 'Spatchcocking'

Audie Cornish and Melissa Block read emails from listeners about celebrity chef Alton Brown's tips on cooking the perfect Thanksgiving turkey.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

I'm Melissa Block.

And it's time now for your letters, all about my interview yesterday with Alton Brown, host of "The Next Iron Chef" on the Food Network. We talked turkey. But not just any turkey...

ALTON BROWN: Oh, my dear Lord. Wow. That's turkey.

BLOCK: Yes, turkey that wows.

CORNISH: Brown gave us some helpful tips for Thanksgiving, such as brining the bird, typically using sugar, salt and some seasoning, to which Ramon Rivera(ph) of Eugene, Oregon, explains: Believe Alton. Brine is magical. Ever since I started using Alton's method, my turkeys have been amazing.

BLOCK: Brown also gave two crumbs down to stuffing a turkey. Actually, he called it evil.

BROWN: Yes, stuffing's evil.

BLOCK: Oh, come on.

BROWN: I think it's evil because - here's the thing. If you're going to cook stuffing inside a turkey, you're basically making an edible envelope for that stuffing. It's now about the stuffing, because you need to make sure that that stuffing gets above the instant-kill temperature for salmonella.

BLOCK: Basically, Brown says stuffing is a recipe for overcooking the bird. But Jay Sweat(ph) of Nobleboro, Maine, disagrees. He believes stuffing and turkey enjoy a kind of symbiotic relationship. He writes this: Stuffing helps cook the turkey. And the flavors of the turkey help the stuffing, while the flavors of the stuffing help the turkey. The trick is to make the stuffing hot and stuff the bird in the cavity as well as between the skin and the breast meat.

CORNISH: Finally, in yesterday's chat, we learned a new word.

BROWN: Have you ever spatchcocked a turkey?

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: I don't even know what that is.

BROWN: It's the fancy word for butterfly.

CORNISH: Spatchcock.

BLOCK: Spatchcock. That's right.

CORNISH: And that reminded William Klein(ph) of Silver Spring, Maryland, of a Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago. He and his family were on the road much of Thanksgiving Day. He writes: By the time we arrived, it was past 7 p.m., and cooking the bird in the traditional way was just not an option. Happily, my go-to source for all things epicurean, Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything," contained a recipe for cooking a turkey in 45 minutes.

Just as Alton Brown described, we removed the backbone, butterflied the bird and put it into the hot oven. And darn if it wasn't done in 45 minutes, delicious too. It was a Thanksgiving miracle. And now, thanks to Mr. Brown, I know the proper way to describe it.

BLOCK: Spatchcock.

BROWN: And you can use it for other things too. It's great to say: If you don't get out of my face, I'm going to freaking spatchcock you, I swear.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: I might try that.

BROWN: People would back off, because it's like, whoa, I don't know what that meant, but I don't like the way it sounds.

BLOCK: Audie, don't you think that's an excellent word, spatchcock?

CORNISH: I am fearing that word.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: I think we need a campaign to get that into the lexicon. Thanks to everybody who wrote in. And please do keep your letters coming. Just go to npr.org and click on Contact Us at the bottom of the page.

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