How To Dry Brine and Roast A Turkey
I confess: every year, when it comes time to deal with the bird, I feel I’m winging it.
The simple method I used last year, however, my notes have reminded me was a success. I bought the turkey from Butcher Box (photo below), thawed it in the fridge for a few days, then dry brined it with salt alone — 1 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound — for 48 hours in one of those giant plastic turkey bags.
On Thanksgiving morning, I patted the turkey dry, set it on a rack in a roasting pan, brushed it with butter, seasoned it all over with salt (lightly), and pepper; then transferred the pan to the oven and roasted it till it looked done, a little over 2 hours.
My notes have also reminded me that the power went off while the bird was in the oven! Such an adventure! There is a recipe below for dry brining and roasting a turkey.Print
How to Dry-Brine and Roast a Turkey
- Total Time: 51 to 52 hours
- Yield: Serve 12
For this recipe, you’ll need:
- a turkey bag (for brining)
- a roasting pan with a rack
- a thermometer — can’t recommend investing in a good instant-read thermometer enough
For the brine:
- kosher salt, I prefer Diamond Crystal
- turkey bag
- 12 –14 lb. turkey
- Roasting pan with a rack
- salt and pepper
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
- 1 cup white wine, plus more as needed
- Calculate how much salt you need: for a 12-lb. bird you’ll need about a quarter cup of salt. Place the turkey into the large plastic bag. Sprinkle the salt evenly all over the bird, rubbing it into the skin and sprinkling it into the cavity as well. Tie the bag, and transfer to the fridge for 24-48 hours.
- When you are ready to roast, remove the turkey from the bag and set it on a rack in a roasting pan. Pat dry. Let sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before roasting.
- Heat the oven to 450ºF. Calculate how many hours your bird should roast: a good rule of thumb is 12 minutes per pound, so for a 12-lb. bird that’s about 2 hours and 25 minutes.
- Melt the butter and brush it evenly over the bird. Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer pan to the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Open the oven, pour the 1 cup of wine along with 1 cup of water into the roasting pan, and close the oven. Lower the oven temperature to 350ºF.
- Continue roasting until the bird is done. In my experience, dry-brined birds cook more quickly, so I would start checking as soon as an hour and a half later, especially if your bird is 12 lbs. It may need another 30 minutes or even longer, but best to check early. An instant-read thermometer (or other) should register 160ºF.
- Transfer turkey to a board to rest. If there is liquid in the bottom of the turkey pan, pour it into a quart container or 4-cup liquid measure. Allow the fat to rise to the surface. If there is no liquid, pour some white wine into the pan and use a wooden pan to scrape up the drippings. Transfer them to a bowl.
- To finish: bring the make-ahead gravy to a very gentle simmer. Skim the fat off the turkey drippings and reserve for another use or discard. If you wish, fortify the make-ahead gravy with the fresh drippings to taste: Simply add as much of the drippings as you wish to the make-ahead gravy to taste.
- Once the turkey has rested for 30 to 60 minutes, carve it. Serve gravy alongside the turkey.
- Prep Time: 48 hours
- Cook Time: 3 to 4 hours
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: dry brine, turkey, simple, roasted
Bye for now! Good luck! Gobble Gobble!
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10 Comments on “How To Dry Brine and Roast A Turkey”
Thank you for sharing this Thanksgiving post. I always enjoy your recipes. Your tortilla quiche and baked steel cut oats frequent our table.
Wonderful to hear this, Maribeth! Thanks so much for writing.
I have absolutely no idea what this Thanksgiving will bring yet. It’s too early and there are too many variables at play yet to make any concrete plans, but if I’m in a position to host Thanksgiving (which I haven’t ever done) for my immediate family of 5, like I was on Easter of this year (without a good plan!), I will make this entire menu. Top to bottom. And I will follow your schedule word-for-word. Thank you for this, and for giving me peace of mind in October that in November we will have a fantastic meal no matter what. Thank you!!!
Oh Allison, I know … it’s so hard to know what the holidays are going to look like this year. I’m glad this post and menu have given you some peace of mind. Thanks for writing! Wishing you well as we head into this holiday season 🙂 🙂 🙂
Hi Ali! I found a 10 pound turkey breast at the grocery store on sale so I bought that. Would I follow the same instructions as a full size turkey? Obviously it would take less time to cook. I also don’t have a roasting pan and rack (feels like overkill for just the breast). Can I follow this recipe and use a cast iron pan instead? Loved your cooking class last night!
So nice to hear this, Sonia! Thanks so much for coming 🙂 🙂 🙂
Regarding your question, I think so! No rack is fine. I think dry brining is great for breast meat. And I think you would need less than a cup of wine and water… 1/2 cup of each would be fine. And yes, cook it for less time.
Smart to buy a 10-pounder this year!
Wondering if you wipe the salt off after dry brining the turkey for 2 days? I also usually rub butter under skin and on top of skin. Can I do this after brining and if so still use 450 oven temp ?
Hi Mia! I do not wipe off the salt, but I do pat the turkey dry. You can definitely put butter under the skin and on top of the skin, and yes, you can keep the oven at 450ºF. It’s only at this high temperature for the first 30 minutes. You may want to take a peek after 15 minutes just to ensure it isn’t browning too quickly.
This year we bought our turkey at TJs and it is pre-brined. How do I adapt this kind of bird to your recipe? I assume I do not dry brine it. Should I expect the cooking time increase?
Thank you so much for all your amazing recipes! I have used your website for10+ years and nearly all our family favorites come from here!
Oh my goodness, Emilia, it’s so nice to read all of this 💕💕💕💕 Thank you so much. I would not brine it. And I think the cooking time should be roughly the same amount — a brined bird definitely cooks faster, so I would keep an eye on it.
Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!