11.08.21

Dry-Brine Thanksgiving Turkey

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!

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

Dry-Brine Thanksgiving Turkey
Print
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time2 d 1 hr 15 mins
Cook Time2 hrs 30 mins
Resting Time30 mins
Total Time2 d 4 hrs 15 mins

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

Important Note Regarding Cook Time:
  • 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
 

85 Comments

  • Reply
    Colleen
    November 30, 2021 at 10:32 pm

    Hi Alex,

    How do you think this would hold up on a Traeger grill (following the same process)? My husband is obsessed with the grill and I think this would be great for Christmas if we could pull it off.

    Thank you!

    • Reply
      Alex
      December 2, 2021 at 8:10 pm

      I think it would be AMAZING on the traeger!

  • Reply
    Heather
    November 28, 2021 at 3:56 am

    5 stars
    This was my first time cooking the family turkey and it turned out PERFECT! It was super flavorful and moist. Such a easy preparation and beautiful golden brown crispy skin. Thanks Alex!

  • Reply
    Sarah Ostrander
    November 27, 2021 at 4:15 pm

    5 stars
    This was AMAZING! I made gravy from the drippings at the end and I didn’t even need to season it because the drippings were so flavorful! My dad and I (the cooks of the family) were shocked at how good the brine was. And the turkey was so moist and delicious! So so good!!!

  • Reply
    Maureen
    November 26, 2021 at 8:53 pm

    5 stars
    2021 Thanksgiving Turkey was a great success! I added more of the fresh herbs to the butter under the skin. And I added whole shallots to the pan which went right into the gravy! Easy and wonderfully moist, very flavorful!

  • Reply
    Maren Hayes
    November 26, 2021 at 2:17 pm

    5 stars
    YUM! First time using a dry brine and wow. Easy and delish!

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 26, 2021 at 5:50 pm

      woohoo!!

  • Reply
    Sue
    November 26, 2021 at 2:02 am

    5 stars
    My turkey came out so juicy. This dry brine is so much easier than the wet brine I used to do. I will continue to use this recipe. Everyone really liked the turkey. Thank you

  • Reply
    Danielle
    November 24, 2021 at 11:53 pm

    Hey! This is probably dumb but don’t want to screw up the turkey! 😅 I usually stuff with herbs and onions and things. Would this still be okay with recipe as is?

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 25, 2021 at 12:45 pm

      absolutely! stuff however you please!

  • Reply
    Gina
    November 24, 2021 at 10:36 pm

    Should I dry rub the inside of the turkey too or just the outside?

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 25, 2021 at 12:46 pm

      you can do the inside too, but the outside is most important.

  • Reply
    Randi
    November 24, 2021 at 7:07 pm

    Hey Alex!! I’ve got my turkey all rubbed down and in the fridge ! 🙂 I just realized I didn’t get any cooking twine (my fault for not reading the whole recipe before I shopped lol) ! Will the turkey be ruined if I don’t tie the legs up? Is there another method of securing the bird I can do? Or can I just let this bird ride it out untied? What do you recommend?

  • Reply
    Kyla McDermott
    November 24, 2021 at 7:06 pm

    Hi Alex!

    If I am not using a roasting pan with a rack, should I still add the broth to my pan?

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 24, 2021 at 8:24 pm

      If you have a pan that has sides– i would!

  • Reply
    Ney
    November 24, 2021 at 5:47 pm

    Should we wipe away the dry brine rub/ bits from the turkey after taking it out of the refrigerator before roasting or leave on?

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 24, 2021 at 8:23 pm

      I left my dry brine on the turkey– however, if any fell into the roasting pan– i’d rinse that out first.

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    November 24, 2021 at 3:44 pm

    5 stars
    I made this for friendsgiving, and everyone was SHOCKED at how moist and delicious it was. I’ve cooked Turkey many different ways with the same dry result but this actually turned out TASTY and MOIST!!

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 24, 2021 at 5:35 pm

      yay!! Thanks so much, Stephanie!

  • Reply
    Julie
    November 24, 2021 at 4:51 am

    Hello. Excited to try the dry brine for the first time! Question, do I need to rinse the turkey before roasting as you do when it’s a liquid brine? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 24, 2021 at 11:50 am

      some people do rinse off their dry brines (you totally can!!), I didn’t and it turned out great

  • Reply
    Paula
    November 23, 2021 at 10:37 am

    Would the dry rub be ok if you didn’t use fresh herbs?

  • Reply
    Lindsey
    November 23, 2021 at 4:59 am

    Would you mind clarifying. I took my Turkey out of the freezer on Sunday like you recommended to thaw in the fridge. Your instructions say “once working with a thawed turkey” to dry brine it 2 days before. I don’t know that my turkey will have thawed by tomorrow. Do I have to wait until thawed to dry brine or can it do it tomorrow (2 days before Thanksgiving) ? Please advise. First timer here! Thank you in advance!

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 24, 2021 at 2:33 am

      I would wait until it is thawed out, ideally! and even if you dry brine for only 1 day– it will still be great!

  • Reply
    Candice
    November 22, 2021 at 8:16 pm

    First time making a turkey this week and I’m so excited to try this recipe, especially after all the great reviews! When roasting, breast up or down? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 24, 2021 at 2:35 am

      good luck!!! and breast up!

  • Reply
    Claire
    November 22, 2021 at 7:13 pm

    Do you continue basting every 20-30 minutes until the end, or just until you tent it? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 24, 2021 at 2:36 am

      until the end (even after you tent)

  • Reply
    Jen
    November 22, 2021 at 1:42 pm

    I’d like to cover the turkey with tin foil while it’s in the refrigerator. Will covering it change the flavor or texture of the final dish?

  • Reply
    Fran
    November 21, 2021 at 2:59 pm

    Hi Alex,
    We have always cooked our turkey with the stuffing inside the bird (I know some people poo poo this but this is what I grew up eating). Do you think the outcome of this recipe will be affected if I stuff and cook? Obviously I will have to cook longer but other than that what do you think?

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 22, 2021 at 5:43 pm

      Yes! you can defintiely stuff it with stuffing

  • Reply
    Sue
    November 17, 2021 at 4:40 pm

    I’m going to try this this Thanksgiving. Can I substitute coconut or maple sugar for the brown sugar?

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 17, 2021 at 8:35 pm

      I find that coconut sugar burns more easily — so i don’t recommend using that. I’ve honestly never cooked with maple sugar- so I can’t say for sure on that one.

      • Reply
        Michelle
        November 23, 2021 at 9:37 pm

        When I put the brine seasonings on the Turkey after drying off, they didn’t stick. Lots fell off to the side. Should I do another round and try to stick more on? Also, when I cook Turkey, should I rinse out baking Pan before I add broth? Thanks so much!!!

        • Reply
          Alex
          November 24, 2021 at 2:29 am

          It’s ok if some falls off– and yes– if its oveerly salted in the baking pan that’s a good idea.

  • Reply
    Steph
    November 15, 2021 at 3:29 pm

    Can I use this dry brine recipe-but spatchcock the turkey instead of leaving it whole? We loved your spatchcock turkey last year !!!!

  • Reply
    Mack
    November 15, 2021 at 1:07 am

    Can I use a turkey breast roast for this recipe? I have no idea how it would need to be altered so i was wondering if you had any tips! Thanks

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 16, 2021 at 9:02 pm

      Hi! I know a dry brine would work well on it; however, I don’t have tips on roasting time! Also– depending on how large the Turkey Roast is, you’ll likely need to half the amount of salt in the dry brine.

  • Reply
    Carey
    November 14, 2021 at 11:44 pm

    Where do I find the Herby Gravy recipe?

  • Reply
    Hillary
    November 14, 2021 at 6:04 pm

    5 stars
    Just made the dry brine turkey for my annual Friendsgiving and wow!! So tasty, so flavorful, and so less intimating than I imagined! I usually chicken out and buy a smoked bird but tried my hand for the first time cooking the turkey with this recipe. And it restored some confidence! Another winner from Alex for sure.

  • Reply
    Hillary
    November 14, 2021 at 3:26 pm

    5 stars
    Just did the dry brine turkey for our annual Friendsgiving and WOW. So tasty, so flavorful and honestly so less intimidating than I thought! My first time actually making the turkey (I usually chicken out and buy a smoked), and this recipe gave me all the confidence. Kudos to Alex on another winner!!

  • Reply
    Maureen OBrien
    November 13, 2021 at 6:59 pm

    Alex, your plan is my plan this Thanksgiving! How many people did your 16lb turkey feed?

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 15, 2021 at 6:39 pm

      I’d say (with all the sides, etc) it could easily feed 16 people. The general rule of thumb (since most of the turkey is a lot of bone) is 1 to 1.5 lbs per person at your gathering.

  • Reply
    Amber
    November 13, 2021 at 4:02 am

    Would you cook at the same temperature if you are using a roaster instead of the oven?

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 15, 2021 at 6:37 pm

      Hi Amber,
      I’ve honestly never cooked with a Roaster before so I am not positive how they work/cook and if there would be a difference. So sorry for the lack of help onthis one.

  • Reply
    Linda
    November 11, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    Can I still dry-brine a grocery store turkey that has been injected with a sodium solution? or will it be too salty?

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 15, 2021 at 6:42 pm

      ohhh i worry it could be too salty.

    • Reply
      Emily Kenyon
      November 19, 2021 at 10:09 am

      Got the turkey all prepped for our Friendsgiving! Question; I’ve never dry brined before. Do you leave the salty herb mix on the turkey when you roast it?

      • Reply
        Alex
        November 22, 2021 at 6:16 pm

        I do!! some folks rinse theirs off.

  • Reply
    Steph
    November 11, 2021 at 3:41 am

    Can you use this dry brine on a spatchcocked turkey? We loved your recipe last year cannot imagine going back to the traditional roasting method!!!!

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 15, 2021 at 6:41 pm

      absolutely. The two combined will be fantastic.

  • Reply
    Jessica
    November 10, 2021 at 11:37 pm

    Will this work with a boneless turkey breast?

  • Reply
    Athina Hernandez
    November 9, 2021 at 4:25 pm

    So excited to make this! It will be my first attempt at making a Turkey 😜 2 quick questions, would you adjust the salt for an 8lb Turkey? And when you place the Turkey back onto the roasting pan once the broth is added, is the Turkey still going to be on the rack? So not placing it into the broth. Thank you so much!

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 9, 2021 at 8:58 pm

      Yes, keep the turkey on the rack the entire time.
      and yes– for 8 lbs I’d cut the salt to 2 tbsp.

      • Reply
        Athina Hernandez
        November 10, 2021 at 7:32 pm

        Okay Thank you! Last question- if I had to remove the brown sugar from this recipe for a family member that eat Keto, would that totally ruin the crispy skin factor? also wondering if that amount of sugar would even make a big deal?

  • Reply
    Erica
    November 9, 2021 at 3:55 pm

    Will a dry brine work out ok when turkey is cooked on a charcoal grill, you think? Hubs insists on grilling every year. We usually do a wet brine on the bird but interested in trying this!

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 9, 2021 at 8:59 pm

      Yes, I think a dry brine would work fine; however, I am not a grill master and have certainly never grilled a turkey– so I defer to your hubs on this one.

    • Reply
      Hillary
      November 14, 2021 at 3:25 pm

      Just did the dry brine turkey for our annual Friendsgiving and WOW. So tasty, so flavorful and honestly so less intimidating than I thought! My first time actually making the turkey (I usually chicken out and buy a smoked), and this recipe gave me all the confidence. Kudos to Alex on another winner!!

  • Reply
    Demi
    November 9, 2021 at 2:56 pm

    Hi there, is there any way to make this hours before serving to save oven space? I have heard of making the turkey then putting a heavy blanket on top to keep it moist and warm?

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 9, 2021 at 8:59 pm

      I’ve never tried that so I am not certain!

  • Reply
    Leigh Bloomfield
    November 9, 2021 at 1:21 pm

    So, additional 2 hours and 10 minutes meaning after the initial 20 minute roasting?

  • Reply
    Marissa Marcantonio
    November 9, 2021 at 2:46 am

    What was the total time your 16lb turkey was in the oven ? I know you said 2 hours but I’m confused by “ additional “ lol

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 9, 2021 at 12:55 pm

      sorry for the confusion– I mean it took mine 2+ hours after the original higher temperature roasting time. My turkey took about 3 hours– my oven does tend to cook more quickly I’ve found

      • Reply
        MArissa
        November 23, 2021 at 11:53 pm

        Thanks Alex!!

  • Reply
    Amy
    November 9, 2021 at 2:28 am

    We’re team dry brined and spatchcocked!!

  • Reply
    Katherine
    November 9, 2021 at 2:00 am

    Would the dry rub still turn out well if we smoked the turkey?

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 9, 2021 at 12:53 pm

      I think it would be great!

  • Reply
    Keely
    November 8, 2021 at 11:24 pm

    Did you spatchcock the turkey or just leave it whole? What was total roasting time?

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 9, 2021 at 12:55 pm

      I left it whole

  • Reply
    Megan
    November 8, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    Hi! Do you put dry rub underneath the skin too?

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 9, 2021 at 12:56 pm

      Just all over the top! I am sure underneath the skin would be great– but I didn’t bother and it turned out so juicy and delicious.

  • Reply
    Jenny
    November 8, 2021 at 10:28 pm

    Hi, planning out my thanksgiving cooking timeline😬 How many hours does the Turkey cook? I see the note that the Turkey took an extra 2 hours but how long should I reserve for Turkey roasting?

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 9, 2021 at 9:00 pm

      I just edited to clarify– it really depends on how big your turkey is.. but I’d hold 3.5 to 4 hours for a turkey (to ensure you have time for turkey to rest before carving, also).

  • Reply
    Courtney
    November 8, 2021 at 8:39 pm

    Is it crucial to use a roasting rack or can you just cook the turkey in a traditional roasting pan sitting in the broth?

  • Reply
    Carla
    November 8, 2021 at 6:56 pm

    This may be silly- but I’m hosting my first thanksgiving and want to get it right. Are the herbs you mentioned supposed to be fresh or dried?

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 8, 2021 at 7:14 pm

      not silly at all! it’s fresh! I just edited to clarify! 🙂

      • Reply
        Pilar O
        November 24, 2021 at 1:47 am

        Hi Alex, Could you use dried if I needed to? Eeek!

        • Reply
          Alex
          November 24, 2021 at 2:26 am

          Yes, but i’d half the amount of herbs.

  • Reply
    Mary
    November 8, 2021 at 2:40 pm

    Will this work on a chicken? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Alex
      November 8, 2021 at 7:14 pm

      yes but since chicken doesnt weight near as much, you’ll need to reduce the salt amount

      • Reply
        Nicole
        November 9, 2021 at 3:10 am

        Do you find that the pan juices are too salty for gravy?

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