If you are intimidated by the thought of brining a turkey, let me et you mind at ease. This simple salt brine technique produces the juiciest, well-seasoned and most succulent bird imaginable. And I provide you with step by step instructions on How to Dry Brine and Cook an Herbed Butter Turkey!
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How to Dry Brine and Cook an Herbed Butter Turkey!
Why Dry Brine Instead of Wet 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 has long been a traditional 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. My 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:
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. I 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.
I like to start by toasting peppercorns and coriander in a pan and then grinding them up. Then I mix those together with the sea salt, brown sugar, baking powder and citrus zest. Pat your turkey 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!
Here is a helpful chart for cooking time.
- 10 to 12 pounds: 2 1/2 to 3 hours
- 12 to 14 pounds: 2 3/4 to 3 1/4 hours
- 14 to 16 pounds: 3 to 3 3/4 hours
- 16 to 18 pounds: 3 1/4 to 4 hours
- 18 to 20 pounds: 3 1/2 to 4 1/4 hours
- 20+ pounds: 3 3/4 to 4 1/2 hours
Note: For best results the turkey breast and thighs must reach different internal temperatures. The breast should read 165ºF and the thigh, 175ºF. Begin testing for doneness about 30 minutes before the total roasting time is reached.
- To test the breast: Use an “insta-read” meat thermometer so there’s no guesswork. Insert the thermometer into the meatiest part, several inches above the wings.
- To test the thigh: Insert the instant-read thermometer away from the bone, alongside the opening of the main cavity underneath the drumstick. This is the meatiest part of the thigh.
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The Recipe: How To Dry Brine and Cook an Herbed Butter Turkey
What you need: a large brining bag for turkey, an “insta-read” meat thermometer and an inexpensive hand held coffee grinder.
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
- 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
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 155-165 degrees (using a meat thermometer takes the guess work out of it) See tips in blog post above for using a meat thermometer.
Allow bird to rest under foil tent for 20 minutes, carve and enjoy your feast!
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I’ve wet brined a turkey but never dry but I love the idea. It could work well with an instant pot recipe too.
I have never tried it, can you fit a turkey in an instant pot? Mine is definitely too small.
Wow this sounds like such a yummy way to prepare a turkey! Just in time for Thanksgiving!
This sounds like a super flavorful way to make the turkey. Will have to try it!
That is such perfectly looking bird! Great tips and recipe, just ideal for this time of the year!
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.
The dry brine idea is so cool, I’ve never tried that before. That herbed butter sure made the skin look lovely!
I have all of these ingredients!! Need to make this on Thursday!
what a great tutorial for dry brined turkey! Sounds very delicious!
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!
Isn’t it great!
I’ve never dry brined before. This sounds absolutely delicious!
I’ve never brined a turkey! In fact, I’ve never cooked a turkey, but that looks delish!
I know! My mom still does it almost every year 🙂
I suck when it comes to anything turkey related haha these tips are great!
hahaha! I think we all do when we first start. I am sure you are quite capable!
I am SO doing this with my Turkey this year! So simple and I know the flavor is going to be incredible.
Thanks Kelly! Happy Thanksgiving to you!
Brown sugar and coriander!!! That sounds amazing! Plus the butter. 😉 Yes, please!
Yes…always the butter!
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!
I love your enthusiasm! 🙂
I’d never heard of a dry brine before! This is awesome – a very low fuss way to prepare the turkey. I’m going to try this!
I love dry brining! The crispy skin is the best part and I like your combination of flavors.
Brining is a new tradition for us. The flavor and richness brining adds makes it always worth the effort. Your turkey looks stunning!
Yes! So good. Once you brine you never go back. And a dry brine is so much easier than wet brine!
This is a great idea. Thanks for sharing your passion with us!
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!
This is the recipe I will be following when brining my Turkey this year! Loving all of the spices in this.
Haven’t dry brined a turkey before. Perfect to try this Thanksgiving!
I”ll bet brining this turkey gives it so much flavor and makes it moist. It sounds easy enough for me to do! Looks delicious!
Ooh this is definitely good info I can use, I’ve never brined a turkey but I like the idea!
I love dry brined chicken, but I’ve never done it myself! Thanks for such great instructions. Looks delicious!
Oh wow, I have always wanted to try this! This is the year. Thanks for the directions 🙂
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.
You are welcome!
The whole idea of dry brining is new to me…and sounds much more appealing!! Brining in a liquid and huge 15 pound bird is not and easy feat!
No it’s not! This is so much easier!
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!
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. 🙂
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!!!!
am so glad! Thanks Mimi!
I’ve actually never brined a turkey any way, this sounds easier than a wet brine to me and a great way to flavor it!
My kids have been asking me how we are cooking the turkey this year…this recipe looks amazing!
And soooo much easier than wet brining!
Truth be told, making Turkey always intimidated me but not anymore! This is the perfect recipe!
It is so intimidating! My mom cooked the turkey all but twice the first 35 years I was married lol!
Thank you for this simple way to brine turkey! So flavorful and moist!
Love how easy this is! Also love that it’s so tasty!
I always wondered how to do this actually! So thank you so much! And the photos are gorgeous!
I recently discovered the magic that is a dry-brined turkey but your version has so much more flavor than what I did. That is one gorgeous bird!
Dry brine is the way to go!
Perfect timing. I’m going to do this for this Thanksgiving this year! It looks so good!!
did not know that about adding baking soda to a dry brine — definitely need to try that – thanks!
I am hosting Thanksgiving this year , I’m going to try this out.I love brined turkey, but not all of the mess with the liquid brine.
I have to try this, dry brining sounds so much easier than my usual brining method!
Such a helpful recipe. I’m so excited to try this out!
Ok, I’m a rookie at this…but do you cook your turkey covered or uncovered ? Your recipe sounds delicious by the way 🙂
Hi Katy, great question. Turkeys are usually cooked uncovered, unless otherwise specified. Happy Thanksgiving!
Really looking forward to trying this technique this year! I’m considering also trying an heirloom turkey this year. What adjustments to the recipe (timing, temperature, etc.), if any, would be needed if going the heirloom route?
I don’t know, I have never made an heirloom turkey. I am sure google knows though, good luck!
Do you use fresh or dry bay leaf?
Hello, dry:) Happy Thanksgiving!
What is the importance of kosher salt? I only have Morton’s regular NaCl or sea salt. Does kosher salt have something else in it?
Good question, let’s discuss table salt, sea salt and kosher salt. Table salt is collected from land sources and processed so it considered less healthy than sea salt which is collected from evaporating sea water. Sea salt is not stripped of it’s healthful properties such as magnesium, calcium and potassium, table salt is. Kosher salt is more like table salt as far as it is collected form land sources, but because it does not contain anti-caking agents or iodine it has a much cleaner taste. Iodine is bitter and lends that bitterness to table salt. I almost exclusively use sea salt with the exception of brining because so much salt is used (especially in wet brining), in those cases I use Kosher because it is less expensive and for the purposes of brining, it works! But for the ‘clean’ taste, it’s sea salt hands down!
This is my first Dry Brine. I subbed smoked paprika for the hotter pepper. I cant wait to put it in the oven. The herb butter is much easier to put under skin if you put half of it in fridge wrapped log style in plastic wrap them when solid slice in disks. The other half leave soft to spread over outside. I didn’t wrap turkey in fridge. I wanted to try a article I read for crispy skin that said to do it this way. Mixing it up a bit
Nice! I hope it was wonderful!
So when do you pour the butter over the turkey? I don’t see it in the directions.
The instructions for placing the herbed butter under the skin and pouring on the skin seen found step 4 in the recipe. Happy Thanksgiving!
Thanks for sharing this amazing information it will be really helpful for me.