For the last few years, I’ve been preaching the joys of brining turkey to anyone who will listen. Brining really does make a big difference to your finished turkey, but most importantly, it gives you some margin of error. While a traditional brine involves gallons of liquid, this dry brine method is SO easy and there’s basically no reason not to try it if you are roasting a traditional turkey.
Tried this method this year and everyone raved about the turkey! It was perfectly seasoned and cooked thoroughly without drying out. (I did wash off the brine before roasting.) It was so easy! Thanks for this alternative to wet brining!ERIN
What is a brine?
If you aren’t familiar with brining, basically you submerge your bird (or any protein really) in a salty solution and using science the meat can better retain moisture. How it works is fairly complicated, but if you care an episode of the sporkful did a good job of explaining it.
But anyway, just trust me that brining is a good idea. In fact, I really like brining with apple cider. It’s out of this world.
One problem: It’s a pain in the butt. Mixing gallons of salty liquid and figuring out how to store a bird in it overnight can be a bit tricky.
That’s when the dry brine can really help you out!
Dry brining your turkey lets you skip all that nonsense and still get all the advantages of brining! Not only does this work great on turkey, but also can be used if you roast chickens. It’s a method that requires very little work and results in deliciousness.
In fact, some argue that it’s actually better than a liquid brine because it retains the natural juices rather than adding a lot of other flavors.
Personally, I like both ways, but most years I do a dry brine these days.
My step-by-step recipe will show you how to dry brine a turkey for the most delicious bird you’ve ever had!
Making the Salt and Sugar Dry Brine Mix
The first thing you’ll notice about this rub is how simple it is. While my apple cider brine solution has 13 (really?!) ingredients, this has just a handful and you probably already have most of them.
Just stir the ingredients together and feel free to add any other dried herbs you want. I wouldn’t make it too complicated but a teaspoon of something extra won’t hurt.
One important note though is that you do want to use a coarse salt for the brine. Something like kosher salt or coarse sea salt works fantastically. If you use table salt, it will be much too salty.
Once you mix the rub together, you want to season the bird liberally. While not necessary, I like to actually rub some under the skin of the bird also.
Crunch Time Tips
If you place your brined turkey on a raised rack in the refrigerator, air will circulate more evenly and you’ll get a dryer skin on the bird which will mean more browning later. If you do this on an oven-safe rack, you can roast it on the same rack!
How much brine to use on your turkey
There’s not too much of a risk of over-salting a turkey as long as you aren’t using table salt for the dry brine. It’s possible, but you can use a pretty liberal hand with the brine mixture.
If you are doing a 12-pound turkey, you should use at least 1/4 cup of the rub, but even a little more is okay. Get it on all surfaces of the bird, even the cavity. You should have a visible coating on the whole bird, inside and outside.
For the photos in this post, I roasted a 14-pound turkey and used almost all of the brine mixture in the recipe.
How long should the dry rub be on the turkey?
Just like if you are doing a liquid brine, this needs to sit on the bird to really do the work. Cooking it immediately is useless. Overnight is about the minimum you can let it sit, but a full 24 hours is a better bet. Really try to give it some time for the salt and sugar to break down and do its osmosis thing.
Crunch Time Tips
Letting the bird rest in the fridge for 24 hours very loosely covered, or uncovered if you can, will let the skin dry out better on the turkey and give you a really browned skin.
Do you need to rinse off the brine before roasting?
As far as rinsing the bird off, you definitely can. Or you can just wipe it down with a few paper towels to remove any excess salt. Personally, I didn’t do any of that. I just left it all on there and cooked it as is. Most of the salt is in the meat anyway at this point so you’re just washing off herbs and flavors. You can do it though if you are worried that you used too much rub. It won’t hurt the brining process to rinse it off.
Of course, if you do rinse off the brine, you’ve just destroyed all the work you did to dry out the skin…
Some Basic Turkey Roasting Tips
Roast the turkey however you want to after that.
Personally, I like to use a spatchcock method for turkey these days which means the turkey roasts really fast. If I roast my turkey at 400˚F, it’ll be done in under two hours.
Need a walkthrough on spatchcocking? Check out my Harissa Spatchcocked Turkey.
I also like to add some citrus to the bird cavity or layer some lemons under the turkey.
Whatever you do, please use a meat thermometer. The worst is to go through all this work only to overcook your bird by 15 degrees and have it be tough and rubbery.
The brine will give you some wiggle room in cooking time, but I always say it’s best to shoot for 165 degrees F. in the thick part of the breast (or thigh). The turkey will still continue to cook more after you take it out of the oven.
Look at that beauty!
Be sure to let the turkey rest for at least 15 minutes before you try to carve it up. If I’m cooking a full turkey, I’ll let it sit for 25 minutes or so before trying to carve it. There’s a lot of residual heat and cooking still happening in the turkey and cutting into it early is a bad idea.
Give this method of how to dry brine a turkey a try and you will love the results!
Maybe hard to see in the photo, but my turkey breast was super-juicy!
Dry Rub Turkey Brine
- ⅓ cup kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried sage
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 small lemon, zest only
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, opt.
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice, opt.
- Stir together dry rub ingredients in a small bowl.
- Rub your turkey with the dry brine. I like to separate the skin a bit and rub some of the brine rub under the skin. Most can go on top though. Rub the entire bird or breast. I would say to use 1 teaspoons of rub per pound of turkey. A 12 pound turkey should be rubbed with 1/4-1/3 cup of the dry rub.
- Lightly cover the turkey and let it rest in the fridge overnight (at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours).
- Before cooking the turkey, you can optionally rinse off any salt on the surface of the bird or just wipe it off with a paper towel. You can just cook it without doing that also and the skin will be saltier. I also recommend adding a sliced lemon and orange to the bird cavity before roasting also.
- Roast until the bird is 165 degrees F. in the thick part of the breast or thigh (if you’re cooking the whole bird). Let rest at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
Did you make this recipe?
Are you making a turkey this year for Thanksgiving? What’s your game plan? Curious to hear what people are planning to cook and happy to help if people have questions!
Leave a comment!
More turkey business!
Need more Thanksgiving recipe ideas? Here are a few or browse all the Thanksgiving recipes on Crunch Time Kitchen!