How to dry brine a turkey: a complete guide to brining for the best texture and flavor. Your holiday roast turkey never tasted this good! There is nothing worse than carving into the turkey you spent days preparing only for it to be dry and flavorless. Dry turkey no more! The dry brine method will ensure a juicy turkey with extra crispy skin that is golden brown perfection.
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his dry brine comes together in a matter of minutes and will take your holiday turkey to the next level. Dry brine once and you’ll never go back.
Ready to roast your dry-brined turkey? Check out my Roast Turkey with Sage and Orange Recipe!
📖Why This Recipe Works
There are two brine methods. The wet method submerges the turkey in a brine solution of cold water, salt, sugar, and herbs.
While the dry method coats the turkey in salt and rests uncovered in the fridge for several days. Dry brining adds moisture and flavor, making it the easiest way to prep your turkey.
- Simple. This dry brine requires six simple ingredients and takes a few quick minutes to whip up.
- Less mess. No giant pot taking up space in the fridge, no extra dirty dishes…a dry brine requires the least and does so much!
- Better flavor and texture. As the brine sits on the turkey, all of those delicious herbs and seasonings soak into the skin and infuse the meat with flavor. It also creates a juicier, more tender texture and crispier skin.
The amount of salt used in the brining process is dependent on the size of the bird. Scale the recipe up or down as needed based on the size of your turkey.
Kosher Salt - Make sure you are using kosher salt; not table salt. Table salt does not measure out the same and it will make your turkey much too salty.
Brown Sugar - Light or dark brown sugar will work.
Fresh Herbs - Fresh thyme and sage are the perfect herb duo to add freshness and flavor. While you can use dried herbs fresh ones will produce a better flavor.
Orange Zest - Lemon zest will work too. You’ll need the zest of 2 oranges or of 3 lemons.
Black Pepper - Adds a touch of spice to the brine.
See the recipe card for exact quantities.
🦃 Selecting a Turkey
When estimating the size needed, assume 1 pound of turkey per person for a bone-in turkey and ½ pound for a boneless breast.
Fresh turkeys are chilled below freezing but not frozen solid.
Fresh vs Frozen
When selecting a frozen turkey breast, look for any signs of frost. Skip those.
You will need to defrost the turkey fully before cooking. The average bone-in double turkey breast will need 48 to 72 hours in the refrigerator to completely defrost.
When it comes to turkey, labels can be confusing. Heritage, organic, pastured, free-range... it can be confusing. Buy the best quality turkey in your price range. There are only 2 things you need to look out for.
First, avoid basted and self-basting turkeys if possible. These will be the most highly processed. If you have already purchased a basting turkey, do NOT brine. They are injected with a saline solution that is intended to retain moisture. Your turkey may be too salty if brined.
Second, do not brine kosher turkeys. They are typically brined during the packaging process. Confirm with your butcher if you are unsure. Again, it will be too salty if doubled-brined.
⏲️How to Dry Brine a Turkey
Dry brining your turkey takes just a few extra minutes of hands-on time and the payoff is enormous. Unlike with a wet brine, you can dry brine a partially frozen turkey. But a defrosted turkey
Step 1 - Prep the Brine and Turkey
In a small food processor, pulse together all of the brine ingredients until combined.
Place the turkey on a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, remove anything inside the cavity including the neck and giblets, then pat the whole turkey dry with paper towels. Yes, pat dry inside and out.
Step 2 - Rub the Turkey
Add 2 teaspoons of the turkey brine mix to the cavity of the turkey and rub it in well, then loosen the skin over the breast and legs, and add more brine under the skin.
Sprinkle the outside of the turkey with the rest of the brine, then rub it in all over.
Step 3- Chill the Turkey
Bend the wings back, tuck them under the breast, and set the turkey in the fridge for 1-3 days.
The turkey should be uncovered or you can loosely tent it with aluminum foil. The skin needs to dry out to produce the best end result. Do not cover with plastic wrap or anything that would seal it up.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tips
- Make sure you use kosher salt, not table salt. They are not the same!
- Pat the turkey dry before brining. This removes excess moisture which results in crispier skin.
- Season well! Make sure you’re getting the brine under and over the skin and rubbing it in all over. We want that flavor in every single bite of the bird.
- Do not brine a kosher or self basting turkey. These were brined before packaging.
- You can brine a partially frozen turkey, but it may be hard to loosen the skin properly. For the best results, use a fully thawed turkey.
- Quantities are for a 15-pound bird, so adjust accordingly if your turkey is bigger or smaller.
Raw turkey should not sit at room temperature for more than an hour or two. Once you add the brine, stick the bird in the fridge to ensure bacteria can’t grow as it brines!
Thoroughly wash your hands and any equipment that touched the raw turkey meat.
Recipes Using Leftover Turkey
💬Frequently Asked Questions
While both the wet brine and the dry brine have their upsides and downsides, this dry brine is one of my favorite ways to brine a turkey. It requires just a few ingredients and a few minutes and results in the most flavorful turkey every time.
Overall, dry brining is a simple and effective way to add flavor and moisture to a turkey and can help ensure that your turkey turns out tender and juicy when cooked.
Improved flavor: Dry brining helps to season the meat from the inside out, resulting in a more flavorful and well-seasoned turkey.
Moisture retention: The salt in the dry brine mixture helps to draw moisture out of the turkey and then back into the meat, which can help keep it moist and tender while cooking.
Simplicity: Dry brining is a quick and easy way to season a turkey, as it doesn't require any special equipment or a large amount of liquid.
Time savings: Because dry brining doesn't require the turkey to be soaked in a liquid solution, it can save time compared to wet brining. This means you can prepare the turkey for cooking more quickly.
You can dry brine your turkey in the fridge for anywhere from 1-3 days. The longer it sits, the more flavor it will soak up! I don’t recommend brining for more than 3 days. If it sits too long, the texture of the bird will be negatively affected.
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How to Dry Brine a Turkey
- Place all the ingredients in a small food processor and pulse several times. The salt mixture will be a light green.3 Tablespoons kosher salt, 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme, 2 Tablespoons fresh sage, 1 Tablespoon brown sugar, 2 oranges, 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Remove the turkey from the wrapping and place the turkey on a clean roasting pan or large baking sheet. Remove the giblets and neck from inside the cavity. You can discard or save for another use. Remove or discard any plastic or metal cages. Pat the turkey dry, inside and out, using paper towels.15 pound whole turkey
- Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the salt mixture into the cavity of the turkey and rub it in.
- Gently loosen the skin over the breast and meaty part of the legs. Rub 4 teaspoons of the salt mixture into the meat of but under the skin. Then sprinkle the remaining salt mixture over all the outside of the turkey. Running it into the skin.
- Bend the wings back and tuck under the breast. Place the turkey breast side up uncovered into the refrigerator for at least 1 day up to 3 days.
- The quantities for brining the turkey are for a 15-pound bird. Adjust accordingly.
- You can brine a partially frozen turkey but it may be hard to loosen the skin properly.
- You must use kosher salt, not table salt.
- Do not brine kosher or self basting turkey. They were brined before packaging.