Alright, this was my first time dry-brining a turkey and I do not think I will ever look back. So here is how to make my Dry-Brine Thanksgiving Turkey!
As we all know, Thanksgiving turkey can often get a bad rep. Flavorless, overcooked, dry…it can really go bad pretty quickly. Enter: dry-brining! This technique not only helps inject the turkey with flavor, but also helps with the moisture. You’ll simply rub the salt + seasoning dry-rub all over the turkey then let it sit for 24-48 hours in the fridge. During this time, the salt helps to draw out the meat’s juices then the salt dissolves into the juices, making a brine without adding any liquid. From there, the brine soaks into the meat resulting into a flavorful, moist turkey.
Now, for a few Dry-Brine Thanksgiving Turkey tips ahead of cooking:
- If you buy a frozen turkey, make sure you give it plenty of time to defrost. It will take a few days! I’d allocate 3-4 days just for your turkey to thaw in the fridge.
- Once you are working with a thawed turkey, I recommend dry brining it 2 days before Thanksgiving.
- On Thanksgiving, remove it from the fridge 1-2 hours prior to roasting so that it roasts more evenly and has a better chance at crispy skin — what we all love.
Follow these tips and the additional in the recipe below and you will have a perfectly cooked turkey and a recipe you will want to use for years to come! And don’t forget to pair it with my Herby Turkey Gravy!
Dry-Brine Thanksgiving Turkey
For the Dry Rub:
- 4 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp minced fresh sage leaves
- 1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp light brown sugar
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper optional
- 2 tbsp lemon zest from 2 small lemons
For the Turkey:
- 1 turkey 12-18 pounds
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth plus more as needed
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter optional
- Pat dry your turkey. Place a roasting rack on a sheet pan and place the turkey on top of the rack.
- Rub the dry rub all over the turkey, especially on the breasts. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 24 to 48 hours.
- Remove the turkey from the fridge to let stand for 1 hour at room temperature before roasting.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Working from the neck end of the turkey, gently loosen skin from breasts and rub butter under skin of the bird. Tie legs together with kitchen twine. *You do not have to do the butter under the skin. I’ve done it both ways and it turns out flavorful and delicious either way. Obviously, butter is always a delicious touch, but if you are having trouble getting it under the skin just move along.
- Fill a roasting pan with 2 cups of broth and place the turkey (which should still be on the rack) into the roasting pan. Transfer to the oven and roast until the skin starts to brown in spots, about 20 minutes.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and continue roasting, basting the turkey every 20 to 30 minutes with the broth/juices from the turkey (if there are no juices and the bottom looks dry, pour 1 cup of chicken broth over the breasts/body of the turkey).
- When the turkey is starting to look golden brown all over, tent with foil. Continue to roast the turkey until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (without touching bone) registers 160°F. It will continue to cook once you remove it from the oven.
- Let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving and reserve pan juices if planning on making my Herby Turkey Gravy.
- Cook time greatly varies depending on the size of your turkey
- For reference, my 16 lb turkey took 2 hours and 10 minutes in the oven to roast once I lowered the temperature
- A thermometer is key when cooking your turkey to ensure your turkey is cooked through