How to Dry Brine and Cook an Herbed Butter Turkey!

In preparation for this Thanksgiving, the wonderful folks at Sun Basket  decided to take a tip from California cooking legend Judy Rogers (the late chef and owner of Zuni Cafe), and created a flavorful dry brine for turkey. Judy, who’s best known for her perfect roast chicken, uses a simple salt brine technique to produce the juiciest, well-seasoned and most succulent bird.
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How to Dry Brine and Cook an Herbed Butter Turkey!

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Why Dry Brine?

It’s well known that brining improves a turkey’s ability to retain moisture, since the salt helps break down the muscle fibers and season the bird throughout. But while wet brining is the conventional way to prepare a turkey — (and there a zillion resources on the web to show you how to do that) — dry brining is arguably the best way. Our top reasons:

1) Dry brining is faster.
2) It produces less mess and less cleanup.
3) It’s way more delicious than wet brining (and way WAY more delicious than not brining at all).

How to Dry Brine and Cook an Herbed Butter Turkey!

 How To Do it:

To make a dry brine, combine kosher salt, brown sugar, baking powder (this helps produce a crispier skin) and a combination of your favorite spices. We like a blend of crushed coriander, mixed peppercorns, smoked paprika, rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. We also toss in a little citrus zest for good measure. Printable recipe below.

How to Dry Brine and Cook an Herbed Butter Turkey!Start by toasting and grinding your spices together. Mix those all up with the salt, sugar, baking powder and citrus zest. Then pat the bird dry and sprinkle on your salt and spice mixture. Rub it in to coat it well, stick the bird in a brining bag and place everything in the fridge for a minimum of 12 hours and up to 3 days — the longer, the better.

When you’re ready for the big day, remove the bird from the bag and either rinse the mixture off or wipe it clean with a wet paper towel. If you do rinse, make sure to pat dry again. Then, prepare to cook that succulent bird by placing herbed butter under and over the skin!

The Recipe: How To Dry Brine a Turkey

5 from 24 votes
How To Dry Brine A Turkey
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
4 hrs
Total Time
4 hrs 15 mins

An excellent dry brine that makes for a flavorful and moist turkey!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easy dinner recipe, holiday recipe, Thanksgiving
Servings: 1 turkey
Author: Sun Basket Meal Delivery
For Dry Brine:
  • 1/4 cup Kosher Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar if you live sugar free, skip it
  • 2 Tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 Tablespoon peppercorns toasted
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander seeds toasted
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Zest of two lemons
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 fresh turkey I love Diestel
Herbed Butter to Cook Turkey:
  • 1 stick butter room temp
  • 3 sprigs thyme chopped
  • 2 sprigs rosemary chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic peeled and chopped
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste, be generous
  • Additional herbs and 1 onion to place in cavity if desired
Dry Brine:
  1. Place a pan on medium heat. Add peppercorns and coriander and toast until peppercorns start to pop. While waiting for peppercorns to pop, remove thyme and rosemary leaves from stems
  2. When peppercorns begin to pop, remove from heat. Put peppercorns, coriander seeds, bay leaves, thyme and rosemary into a grinder (I use a coffee grinder) and grind until fine
  3. Use a microplane to scrape the zest off both lemons and orange, only scraping until the white appears, then move to a new area
  4. Mix together all herbs, zest, salt, sugar, and baking powder
  5. Pat turkey dry and sprinkle with dry brine, all over that turkey! Then massage the brine into the skin for a few minutes, place in a big plastic bag, seal it tight and place in the fridge for 1-3 days...the longer the better!
To Cook Turkey:
  1. Remove bird from refrigerator, wipe off brine with paper towel and allow turkey to come to room temperature
  2. Finely chop garlic, thyme, and rosemary, and then zest lemon
  3. Add herbs and lemon zest to butter, generously add sea salt and pepper to butter and mix well using a fork
  4. Use your hands to gently separate the skin of the turkey from the meat, then rub the herbed butter under the skin reserving 1/3 of it to melt and pour over skin
  5. If desired place additional herbs and one quartered onion into cavity of bird
  6. Then preheat oven to 425 degrees, place the turkey in oven and immediately turn heat down to 350 degrees, cook for 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 hours depending on size. A stuffed turkey requires about 15 minutes per pound while unstuffed turkeys require 12-15 minutes per pound. Internal temperature should be between 150-160 degrees (using a meat thermometer takes the guess work out of it)

  7. Allow bird to rest under foil tent for 20 minutes, carve and enjoy your feast!



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48 thoughts on “How to Dry Brine and Cook an Herbed Butter Turkey!

  1. 5 stars
    This is so much easier than wet brining, which is what I have done in the past! I will definitely have to try out this method the next time I host Thanksgiving.

  2. 5 stars
    Love the brown sugar in your dry brine! Yum! I used to dread getting the turkey ready for Thanksgiving because of all the bringing fuss and mess, but have been dry brining for about 4 years now and I really look forward to it! It is SO much more juicy – and way easier!

  3. 5 stars
    Yippee!! This is SO me!!! All those herbs ~ fabulous!
    Thanks for sharing.. I’ve been doing similar with chicken for years and never thought it was called a ‘dry brine’!
    We dunk our turkey in a herby brine in a big cooler… but I’ve never used dry brine with turkey.. will keep it in mind! Yay for healing fragant delightful power of herbs!

  4. 5 stars
    I like the sound of this, we don’t eat Turkey very often in here in New Zealand but I’m going to try this with a chicken. I bet the zest from the citrus brings out a really nice flavour!

  5. 5 stars
    This meal looks delicious! I have always wondered how dry brine a Turkey – perfect timing. The ingredients are what I use mostly so that will work perfectly. Thanks for the detailed post.

  6. I’ve never heard of dry brining, but now that I have I really want to try it! The herb and spice mixture you recommend in the brine and herb butter sounds yummy. I think I found a turkey recipe to try this Thanksgiving!

  7. I’ve never wet or dry brined a turkey. I grew up eating smoked turkey for years and then when I started making it on my own, just seasoned and roasted it all at once. I may have to try your technique this year. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  8. 5 stars
    Thanksgiving is serious business in my house and it’s my husband’s favorite holiday. The Turkey has to be the “star” . So, I am sure he will enjoy this recipe. I will be sharing it with him. Looks good!!!!

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