This easy Turkey Dry Brine recipe will add significant flavor and moisture to your Thanksgiving Turkey. And simple? It’s unbelievably easy to dry brine without the mess of a wet brining a turkey. The result is a delicious, juicy, flavorful turkey perfect for Thanksgiving Day!
If you’ve never brined a turkey before, take heart, it’s easier than you can imagine. Here’s your step-by-step guide for the easiest way to brine a turkey, and enjoy all of the delicious benefits it brings. Seriously, once you try it, I’m confidant you’ll want to always, always brine your turkey before roasting!
This dry brine recipe is a bit of a deviation from traditional brines. Often, dry brining consists only of salt and sugar. I’ve added aromatic herbs to the mix to elevate it’s flavor.
Why Brining is Important
Every year around the holidays the question of brining comes up. Should I or shouldn’t I? Here’s why brining a turkey is important.
First of all, let’s explain what this process is. Brining is simply a technique used to season uncooked meat (and sometimes seafood) to produce juicy, tender, flavorful results. It’s especially helpful with bland flavored proteins like chicken, turkey, and pork which can dry out when exposed to high heat. Essentially squeezing out its moisture during the cooking process.
Brining helps solve this problem. The mixture of salt and sugar are absorbed into the meat, and thanks to salt’s ability to dissolve proteins, it loosens the fibers and lets the meat trap moisture before cooking. Thus, juicier more delicious tender meat.
Dry-brining is my preferred method for turkey because it uses the bird’s natural moisture to create a concentrated brine that with time (patience is key here), it is naturally absorbed back into the meat. Plus… it’s a lot easier and less messy!
Why I Prefer to Dry Brine a Turkey
- Simpler to make and execute than wet bringing
- Dry brining is less messy than wet brining
- Requires much less refrigerator space
- Creates a juicy, flavorful turkey
- Dry brining help produce a dry, crispy, browned skin
Which Turkey to Choose for Dry Brining
Choosing a natural turkey without a saline solution is best for dry brining. Avoid turkeys with “enhanced” or “self-basting” descriptors. This simply means they have already been brined or treated.
To determine if your turkey has already been brined or injected with saline, check the label. Often it will reflect saline anywhere from 4% to 8%. If the turkey you’ve purchased shows saline, reduce the salt in this recipe by half.
As mentioned, dry brining a turkey is an easier way to deliver juicy, tender meat for any holiday, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. It isn’t messy with liquid sloshing around, and it doesn’t require a large container and space in your refrigerator. All you need to dry brine turkey is:
- Wire cooling rack set in a baking sheet or
- Turkey roasting pan with rack if you have space in your refrigerator
Dry Brine Recipe Ingredients
This easy-to-mix-together dry brine recipe is a simple mixture of pantry ingredients. The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. Here’s what you need:
- Kosher salt: This is the most important ingredient in the brine. Be sure to use kosher salt rather than table salt, which gave release an aftertaste. I’m using Morton’s Kosher Salt, if you use Diamond Crystal Salt, add an addition 1 and 1/2 teaspoons.
- Granulated sugar: This is a must for dry brining as it enhances the turkey’s browning capabilities, enhances it’s flavor and helps tenderize the meat.
- Spices: Cracked black pepper, dried oregano, dried thyme, and paprika
Turkey Brine Questions
These are the two most common ways to ensure a juicy bird. Dry brining, also known as “salting” is a salt mixture that is rubbed onto a turkey and left to rest in the refrigerator for 24 to 72 hours before roasting.
Wet brining, also known as “brining” entails creating a heated salt water solution that is cooled before submerging the bird in the liquid and refrigerating for at least 24 hours before roasting. This method requires a large container and ample room in the refrigerator. It can also get a bit messy.
You should always brine a turkey for a minimum of 24 hours and up to 72 hours. My preferred time is 48 hours.
Absolutely! I often dry brine my turkey while it’s still partially frozen. While I prefer to brine a fully thawed turkey so I can separate the meat from the skin and brine directly onto the meat, using a partially thawed turkey works just fine.
A good rule of thumb is to allow 24 hours per 5 pounds of turkey to thaw completely in the refrigerator. Alternately, to thaw more quicky the USDA recommends leaving the turkey in it’s original wrapping and submerging it in cold water. Then, change the water every 30 minutes until thawed.
It’s important to let the turkey rest in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat and break down the proteins to deliver a juicy bird!
Yes you can. I don’t like to dry brine turkey for more than 72 hours. Over-brined turkeys can become too salty and it will even begin to dry out the bird.
How to Dry Brine a Turkey
Much like dry rub recipes, dry brining a turkey is incredibly easy.
Simply combine the salt, sugar, and seasoning in a bowl. Then rub the mixture all over the bird from the underside to the legs, breast and cavity. For additional flavor, gently separate the breast and leg skin from the meat and rub seasoning into the meat.
Chill and rest the turkey for 24 to 72 hours.
After the Turkey is Brined?
Pat the turkey dry, season according to your recipe and roast!
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Easy Turkey Brine Recipe
- 8 tbsp kosher salt like Morton's
- 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp cracked black pepper
- 3 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 tbsp paprika
- Combine all seasonings together in a bowl and set aside.
- Place the turkey on a wire rack set on a baking sheet or use the roasting pan with a rack if it fits into your refrigerator. Rub the spices onto the backside, legs, wings, breast, and the cavity of the turkey. Leave the turkey uncovered and transfer it to the refrigerator and let chill for 24 to 72 hours.
- After the turkey has dry brined, pat the bird dry and remove excess brine before proceeding with roasting.
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.