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How (and Why) to Dry-Brine a Turkey

How (and Why) to Dry-Brine a Turkey

Cooks have always used marinating and wet-brining to add flavor and moisture to a whole turkey, with mixed results. In recent years, advocates of dry-brining turkey praise the method because the texture of the meat remains firm and muscular, with none of the sponginess that can result from added moisture. Salt will pull moisture from the meat at first, but after three to four days, most of the juices (with the salt) will be reabsorbed. Kosher salt is best for dry-brining, but you can experiment with flavored salts or kosher salt blended with a dried herb and citrus zest. Don't worry about pulling back the skin to salt the meat; the brine will get through.

Dry-Brining Technique

Courtesy of the National Turkey Federation


1 15-lb. whole fresh turkey

3 Tbsps. kosher salt (do not substitute table salt)

  1. Remove giblets and neck from turkey cavities and reserve for gravy. Rinse turkey with cold running water and drain well. Blot dry with paper towels.

  2. Sprinkle the inside of the turkey with 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. salt. Rub each breast half with1½ tsps. salt. Rub each thigh and leg with ½ tsp. salt. Rub each wing with ¼ tsp. salt. Sprinkle remaining salt on the back of the turkey.

  3. Place the turkey in a sealable food-safe plastic bag, press out the air and seal. Place the turkey on a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate for 36 to 48 hours.

  4. Remove the turkey from the bag and rinse well. There should be no salt remaining on the turkey. Pat dry, inside and out, with clean paper towels.

  5. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, on the lowest shelf, uncovered, for at least 8 hours. Take care the turkey does not touch other foods.

  1. To Roast Your Brined Turkey:

    1/4 Cup unsalted butter, melted
  2. 1. Place the oven shelf in the lowest position and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

  3. 2. Fold under the neck skin and fasten to the back with 1 or 2 skewers. Fold the wings under the back of the turkey. Brush the breast, legs and thighs with melted butter.

  4. 3. Place turkey, breast-side down, on a V-shaped roasting rack in a shallow (about 2-1/2 inches deep) roasting pan. Add 1 cup cold water to bottom of roasting pan.

  5. 4. Roast turkey, on the lowest oven shelf, for 30 minutes. Remove the turkey from the oven. Using clean paper towels and oven mitts or potholders, rotate the turkey with the turkey breast-side up.

  6. 5. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Return turkey, with legs in first, to the lowest shelf in the oven. Continue to roast until a food thermometer, inserted in the deepest part of the thigh, reaches 170-175 degrees F, about 2+ hours.

  7. 6. Remove turkey from the oven and allow to rest, for at least, 20 to 30 minutes before carving.

  8. 7. Place on a warm large platter and garnish platter with fresh herbs and fruits.

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