Dry Brine Turkey
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Ready for the easy way to cook moist turkey? Make Dry Brine Turkey!
Brining is the process of salting meat prior to cooking.
For turkey, plan on 24 hours of dry brining.
Have less than 24 hours or prefer a traditional wet brine? Check out our wet Turkey Brine recipe.
Why Brine at All?
During brining, the structure of the meat transforms.
Salt draws out the meat’s juices, dissolves into them, and then is reabsorbed.Once reabsorbed, it breaks down the meat, making it more tender.Brining seasons the meat from within so it has flavor all the way through, not just on the outside.Brined meat can better retain moisture.
Result: an ultra juicy, tender turkey with succulent flavor throughout.
If your turkey has dried out in the past, likely you did not brine it (or did not brine it for long enough or did not use enough salt)—or you overcooked the turkey (155 to 160 degrees F is the number; see How Long to Cook Turkey for details).
Now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you to brine, let’s talk.
Wet vs. Dry Brine
For a brine, you have two choices, a wet brine and a dry brine.
A wet brine involves submerging the turkey in a saltwater solution that is flavored with spices, herbs, and other aromatics like citrus peels for 12 to 24 hours. (This is the best wet brine turkey recipe).For a dry brine, a mixture of kosher salt and other herbs/spices is rubbed on the outside of the turkey, then allowed to sit on the skin for 24 to 36 hours.
Why Do a Dry Brine?
Each brining method has its pros and cons.
Nine times out of 10, I prefer a dry brine over a wet brine.
A dry brine is easier than a wet brine. All you do is mix up the brine, then rub it on the turkey with the brine. There’s no worry about boiling, submerging, etc.A dry brine is less messy than a wet brine. You don’t need to pour gallons of liquid in or out of a stock pot and bucket.No special equipment. You can brine the turkey right on a regular rimmed baking sheet; no bucket or bag required.No need to rinse. Unlike a wet brine, you don’t need to rinse dry brine off of the turkey, saving you a messy step.
The downsides to a dry brine are that it takes longer than a wet brine, and some argue that dry brine turkey is not *as* plump and moist as wet brine turkey.
Plan for at least 24 hours of dry brining time. If you only have 12 hours, do a wet brine instead.As far as moisture goes, dry brine and wet brine both make EXCELLENT juicy, moist turkeys.Wet brine is a little more moist and plump; it’s up to you to decide if the extra fuss is worth it.
For a visual of dry brine vs. wet brine, see this Baked Chicken Breast post. I tested both brining methods and took a photo of each so you can compare them side by side.
Dry Brine Ingredients
Turkey. Because you will be salting the turkey yourself, make sure you start with a bird that is not salted or seasoned in any way. Avoid kosher turkeys, which are pre-salted, and self-basting turkeys, which are injected with a salt solution.
If you aren’t sure if your turkey has been salted, just check the ingredients. You shouldn’t see salt listed.
Kosher Salt. Yes, the type of salt you use does matter. I used Morton kosher salt. Using kosher salt is non-negotiable, as table salt isn’t coarse enough and will make your turkey taste metallic. If you use Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt, add an extra 1 ½ teaspoons per tablespoon of Morton’s.Rosemary. One of the best herbs with turkey! Chopped fresh rosemary gives the turkey skin a cozy, earthy flavor that is perfect for the season.Lemon Zest. To give the turkey brightness. Lemon pairs well with rosemary.
How to Dry Brine a Turkey
Thaw your turkey (see How Long to Cook a Turkey for tips).
Prepare the brine mixture.
Pat the turkey dry. Add some of the brine to the inside of the cavity, then rub the remaining brine on the outside.
Cover the turkey with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator.
Uncover the turkey 1 day before cooking, allowing the skin to dry. Let the turkey come to room temperature 1 hour before cooking. ENJOY!
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day before brining the turkey, prepare the brine mixture as directed. Cover and refrigerate the brine until you’re ready to use it.
This dry brine works well with other cuts of meat, especially pork and poultry. Try it with Baked Chicken Breast, Grilled Pork Chops, Baked Pork Tenderloin, or Baked Chicken Thighs.
Frequently Asked Questions
I recommend dry brining a turkey for at least 24 hours. If you have less time, do a wet brine, which works in as few as 12 hours. If you want to brine a turkey in 1 day, do a wet brine.
Thawed is best when brining a turkey, because you know it will be fully thawed before it goes in the oven, but if your turkey is close and you still have 24 hours to go (which you should since you are doing a dry brine), you can certainly brine a frozen turkey.
No, dry brine does not need to be rinsed off of the turkey. It’s another reason this dry-brined turkey recipe is easy! The salt you use for the brine will also flavor the turkey as it cooks.
Absolutely! Simply scale down the amount of brine to suit your piece of meat. This dry brine works well with other cuts of meat too.
Any you like! Use this dry brine for roast turkey, smoked turkey, grilled turkey, or however you and your family enjoy preparing it.
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Dry Brine Turkey
*MAKE SURE YOUR TURKEY IS NOT PRE-SALTED: Kosher turkeys (which are already salted) and pre-brined or pre-salted turkeys will be far too salty if dry-brined. Look for a natural or heritage turkey; if you aren’t sure, check the ingredient list—you should not see added salt.
**USE KOSHER SALT: I used Morton’s kosher salt, which is coarser than table salt and has a much cleaner flavor. Do not use table salt, as it tastes metallic. If using Diamond Crystal, use an additional 1 ½ teaspoons, as it is coarser than Morton’s. If you use a fine salt, use ¾ of the amount called for.
SCALING THE BRINE FOR A LARGER OR SMALLER TURKEY: If your bird is smaller than 14 pounds or larger than 16 pounds, follow these guidelines: For every 5 pounds of turkey, use 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 ½ to 2- teaspoons fresh herbs, the zest of ½ a small lemon, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
FRESH VS. DRIED HERBS: I absolutely recommend using fresh herbs for turkey brine and roasting. They have far superior flavor and will make a big difference in your results; plus you need the sprigs for the cavity anyway. If you must substitute dried, use one-third the amount.
Nutrition information was calculated for a 14-pound turkey.
The total time for this recipe can vary based on the size of your turkey and whether or not it was fully thawed.
More Posts for the Perfect Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving Side Dishes
How Long to Cook a Turkey
Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes
READ: Dry Brine Turkey