In preparation for Thanksgiving, the wonderful folks at Sunbasket 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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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 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. For a video tutorial, click here.
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 and Cook an Herbed Butter Turkey
An excellent dry brine that makes for a flavorful and moist turkey! You can brine the turkey from 1-3 days.
- 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 dry bay leaves
- Zest of two lemons
- Zest of one orange
- 1 fresh turkey I love Diestel
- 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
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
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
Use a microplane to scrape the zest off both lemons and orange, only scraping until the white appears, then move to a new area
Mix together all herbs, zest, salt, sugar, and baking powder
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!
Remove bird from refrigerator, wipe off brine with paper towel and allow turkey to come to room temperature
Finely chop garlic, thyme, and rosemary, and then zest lemon
Add herbs and lemon zest to butter, generously add sea salt and pepper to butter and mix well using a fork
Use your hands to gently separate the skin of the turkey from the meat, then place 2/3 of the herbed butter under the skin, spreading out to cover as much of the turkey as you can. Melt remaining butter and pour over skin.
If desired place additional herbs and one quartered onion into cavity of bird
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)
Allow bird to rest under foil tent for 20 minutes, carve and enjoy your feast!
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