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Very Classic Dry-Brined Roast Turkey

Very Classic Dry-Brined Roast Turkey

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The brine doesn't just keep the meat juicy—it helps deliver that beautiful browned skin. If you feel like skipping the infused-butter baste, brush occasionally with a light coat of extra-virgin olive oil to get that golden brown skin.


  • ¾ cup Diamond Crystal or 7 tablespoons Morton kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 12–14-pound turkey, neck and giblets removed, patted dry
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

Recipe Preparation

  • Place salt and brown sugar in a medium bowl and work together with your fingers to incorporate. Place turkey on a flat or V-shape roasting rack set inside a large roasting pan. Pack dry brine all over turkey, inside and out, nudging some into areas where the skin naturally separates from the bird, such as around the neck and top of the breast and between the legs and breast. Chill, uncovered, at least 12 hours and up to 2 days.

  • Place oven rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 425°. Rinse turkey and pat dry. Rinse roasting pan and rack if needed. Place turkey, breast side up, on rack in roasting pan and pour 1 cup water into pan. This will prevent drippings from burning. Roast turkey, rotating pan back to front halfway through and adding more water by ½-cupfuls as needed to maintain some liquid in the pan, until skin is browned all over, 35–45 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, cook rosemary, garlic, butter, and soy sauce in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbling and fragrant, about 5 minutes; keep warm.

  • Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue to roast turkey, basting with butter mixture every 10–15 minutes and rotating pan every 30 minutes or so if bird is browning unevenly, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breast registers 150° (temperature will continue to climb as the bird rests), 40–70 minutes longer. Transfer turkey to a cutting board and let rest at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour before carving.

Reviews SectionWOW!! I usually do the bucket brine but this was so dang tidy. The turkey came out beautiful and so delicious with some fantastic drippings. Best turkey I ever made! AND I bought the store brand one for $12 for a 20 lb. Will make another soon.AnonymousCalifornia12/01/19Amazing! I have NEVER made a turkey on my own and I decided to use this recipe because of its simplicity. I have no regrets, it was the most amazing recipe! Our Thanksgiving turkey packed flavor and created a dish that was tender! Do not skip over this recipe-it’s amazing!AnonymousNorth Carolina11/29/19Thanks for the great recipe! Rave reviews all around, even from my husband, who has very high standards and doesn’t usually like turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!Absolutely fabulous turkey! This will be by go-to recipe for turkey in the future.AnonymousMontreal, Canada12/25/17Followed this recipe and we were all so impressed with how moist & delicious the turkey came out!!TY, Bon Appétit!AnonymousTEXAS + NEW JERSEY11/26/17Followed the recipe exactly, and was rewarded with the most delicious, flavorful and moistest turkey ever. Bookmarked to use this easy recipe over and over again.amaternDedham, MA11/26/17FAN-TA-Bulous! Gorgeous and tasty!AnonymousUSA living in Doha, QATAR. 11/26/17This was the easiest and tastiest turkey I've ever made. It cooks quickly, browns beautifully and is delicious!AnonymousDenver, CO11/24/17

Classic Roast Turkey

Why it works: a wine-and-butter soaked cheesecloth keeps the turkey breast moist and flavorful during cooking, and adds lots of flavor to pan juices to make delicious gravy. See notes at the end of the recipe for more details.

Recipe Summary

  • ¼ cup salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (12 pound) thawed whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 6 baby carrots, cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth

Mix salt, brown sugar, and pepper together in a small bowl.

Rinse turkey in cold water pat dry inside and out. Place turkey in a shallow baking pan. Rub outside with half of the salt mixture. Separate skin from the breast meat rub remaining salt mixture between skin and breast meat. Place uncovered in the refrigerator, 8 to 12 hours.

Remove turkey from refrigerator. Let sit until room temperature, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).

Rinse turkey with cold water to remove salt mixture place into a roasting pan. Stuff turkey cavity with celery, onion, and carrots. Separate turkey skin from the breast meat rub softened butter onto breast meat. Pour chicken broth over the turkey.

Bake turkey in preheated oven, breast side up, for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) cook, basting occasionally, until no longer pink at the bone and the juices run clear, about 2 hours. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh should read 165 degrees F (74 degrees C). Remove turkey from the oven, cover with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil, and allow to rest in a warm area 30 minutes before slicing.

3. Dry Brine Turkey Recipe

Best Turkey Dry Brine Recipe
from Dry Brine Turkey Recipe
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If you prepare the bird breast down, the turkey skin over the bust will certainly not brownish well. If you desire browning on the breast, you’ll require to transform the turkey over in the pan as well as to brown it in the last few minutes of cooking. We hardly ever trouble with turning the turkey over, since we carve up the turkey in the cooking area prior to bringing it out, and also there is lots of crunchy turkey skin on the remainder of the turkey.

Recipe Summary

  • 1 14-pound turkey, neck and heart reserved for Easy Turkey Stock
  • 1/3 cup coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely cracked black peppercorns
  • Simple Turkey Gravy(optional)

Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Combine salt and pepper. Rub 2 tablespoons salt mixture evenly inside body cavity, then rub remainder all over outside of bird. Tuck wings under turkey and wrap in plastic wrap, or place in an oven bag, pressing out all air. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet refrigerate 24 hours.

Remove plastic from turkey let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Preheat oven to 425 degrees with rack in lower third. Rinse turkey inside and out pat dry with paper towels. Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack set in a roasting pan. Tie drumsticks together with kitchen twine. Pour 1 cup water into pan and roast turkey 1 hour.

Remove turkey from oven and check temperature. A thermometer inserted in breast should read 165 degrees. If it doesn't, continue to roast turkey up to 30 minutes more, checking temperature every 10 minutes. Transfer to a carving board and let rest at least 45 minutes and up to 1 hour before carving. If making turkey gravy, use only 2 tablespoons of defatted drippings (they're much saltier from a brined bird).

Classic Dry-Brined Turkey

Everyone will tell you that brining a turkey is a must. And for good reason. A few days in a salt water bath and the turkey comes out deeply seasoned and perfectly moist. With traditional brining, you submerge the turkey in a bucket of salt and seasoned water. I only did this one year and swore NEVER again. First of all finding a bucket big enough is a challenge, and second who has room in their fridge for a huge bucket of raw turkey water! The solution? Dry-brining. You simply cover the turkey in herbed salt and let it marinate for a couple days before Thanksgiving in a bag or pan. I’ve used a simple and classic combination of citrus zest, pepper, bay leaves and thyme.

For our dinner, we used a pasture raised turkey, which has much better flavor. Marin Sun Farms provided us with a Broad Breasted Bronze turkey from their farm for the occasion. Their turkeys are raised completely out on pasture in a way that resembles the natural behavior of wild turkeys– they even roost in trees and enjoy a diet of grasses, pasture plants and insects! Marin Sun Farms has a limited supply of several types of turkeys that you can have shipped to you, so order soon.

Photography shot with the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 digital SLR camera. Small in size, enormous in performance.

Dry-brine ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of kosher salt (for a 13-15 pound turkey)
  • 2 tablespoons of black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon of pink peppercorns
  • 1/2 tablespoon of white peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
  • zest of 2 large oranges
  • zest of 4 lemons
  • 5 bay leaves
  • Unsalted butter, softened

At least 24 hours before Thanksgiving, start by making the herbed salt brine. Toast the peppercorns and bay leaves in a skillet until they become fragrant. Keep them moving in the pan to prevent them from burning. Crush in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

In a bowl, mix together, thyme, salt, toasted peppercorns and bay leaves, and orange and lemon zest. Rub over entire outside of the turkey.

Place in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. Flip the bird breast-side down on the last day.

Remove turkey from bag and rinse all the salt off. Pat dry with paper towels and let the turkey sit out in room temperature for at least an hour to get to room temperature before roasting. Rub softened butter all over the turkey and lightly season with salt and pepper all over. Stuff in the inside cavity with stuffing or if not stuffing, quartered onions, cloves of garlic, lemon halves and bundles of herbs. Tie the legs together with string and tuck the wings under the breast.

With oven preheated to 425 degrees, roast the turkey for 30 minutes.

Turn down the heat to 325 and continue roasting until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh, about 2-3 hours. During this time, baste the turkey with a brush and add a little water to the roasting pan if it starts to dry out.

Allow the turkey to cool for at least 30 minutes before carving.

I love decorating the platter with fresh herbs and bright fruits such as pomegranates. And don’t touch those pan drippings. Stay tuned tomorrow as we make classic gravy!

How to Dry-Brine a Turkey

Channel Judy Rodgers' legendary roast chicken recipe to make the best bird of your life.

For the juiciest𠅊nd easiest—turkey, there’s just one way to go: the Judy Rodgers way. The late chef of Zuni Cafe in San Francisco was the master of poultry, and the method for her famous roast chicken—using a dry brine to render meat deeply flavorful and very tender𠅊pplies to turkey as well.

After the initial layer of salt pulls moisture out of the meat, it’s drawn right back in, where “salt changes the proteins—they ‘open up,’ enabling them to entrap more moisture than before,” Rodgers wrote in The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. As for that crispy skin? Let the bird chill uncovered for the last hours to dry the skin out so it becomes shatteringly crisp in the oven.

In the F&W test kitchen, we spatchcocked the turkey for quicker, more even cooking and roasted it over a bed of lime and ginger for a fresh flavor profile that goes beautifully with a Coconut-Lemongrass Gravy (For a classic take, swap onions and sage for the limes and ginger, and make your favorite gravy.)


  • The night before: Remove the giblets from the turkey, cut off the tail, if attached, and reserve them for making the rich turkey broth. Rinse the turkey thoroughly. Sprinkle the salt all over it, starting on the back side, then the cavity, and finally the breast. Put the turkey on a wire rack set over a rimmed pan or platter and refrigerate uncovered overnight.
  • One hour before roasting: Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature. Fifteen to 20 minutes before roasting, position a rack in the lowest part of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F. Put half of the onions, carrots, and celery in the turkey cavity. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Tuck the wings behind the neck and under the turkey. Scatter the remaining onions, carrots, and celery in a large flameproof heavy-duty roasting pan fitted with a large V rack. Set the turkey, breast side down, on the V rack.

Roast for 30 minutes. Pour 1 cup of water into the roasting pan and roast for another 30 minutes. Remove the turkey from the oven and close the oven door. With two wads of paper towels, carefully turn the turkey over so that it’s breast side up. Add another 1/2 cup water to the roasting pan. Return the turkey to the oven and continue to roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thigh registers 170°F, about another 45 minutes for a turkey in the 10-lb. range, or about another 1 hour for a 12-lb. turkey. (Keep a close eye on the vegetables and pan drippings throughout the cooking process. They should be kept dry enough to brown and produce the rich brown drippings to make gravy, but moist enough to keep from burning, so add water as needed throughout.) Transfer the turkey to a carving board or platter, tent with foil, and let rest for at least 45 minutes and up to 1 hour before carving and serving. Meanwhile, make the silky pan gravy from the drippings.

How to Dry Brine a Turkey

You&aposll start with a completely thawed turkey and lots of kosher salt. You&aposll use 1 tablespoon of kosher salt for every 5 pounds of turkey. For a 15 pound bird, that&aposs 3 tablespoons. You can add any dry spice you like to the salt, but it&aposs the salt that&aposs going to work the magic here. Also, if you want to put flavored (but not salted) butter under the skin, do it now, before you salt, because dry-brining will make the skin quite firm and prone to tearing.

Citrus Dry-Brined Turkey

Get essential tips for dry-brining your Thanksgiving turkey from Adrianna Adarme at the Fresh Tastes blog.



Adrianna Adarme is a food blogger and author living in Los Angeles, California. She writes the blog A Cozy Kitchen, where she shares comforting, everyday recipes from her kitchen. She recently authored her first cookbook, PANCAKES: 72 Sweet and Savory Recipes for the Perfect Stack. She’s a lover of breakfast, pie (and sometimes even pie for breakfast), corgis and cute things. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.