Dry-brined and roasted turkey.

This simple method for dry brining and roasting a turkey produces a juicy, well-seasoned and beautifully bronzed bird.

The Turkey

For the past three years for Thanksgiving, I’ve bought organic turkeys in the 12-14 lbs ranges through Whole Foods, and they’ve been so, so tasty.

I have also had success buying turkeys through Butcher Box , which arrive frozen, and therefore require thawing in the fridge for a few days before brining.

The Method: Dry Brine

This dry-brine method calls for salt alone — 1 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound — as opposed to salt and sugar or salt, sugar and additional spices.

I use one of those giant plastic turkey bags: set the turkey in the bag, sprinkle evenly with kosher salt (Diamond Crystal brand) — for the small turkeys I’ve been buying this is about 1/4 cup — close the bag, then transfer to the fridge for 48 hours.

On Thanksgiving morning, pat the turkey dry, set it on a rack in a roasting pan, brush it with butter, season all over with salt (lightly), and pepper; then transfer the pan to the oven. You start the cooking at a higher temperature, then lower after 30 minutes. Consistently, my 12 lb. birds are done in under 2 hours.

A frozen, Butcher Box turkey in a box.
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Dry-brined and roasted turkey.

How to Dry-Brine and Roast a Turkey

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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
  • 1214 lb. turkey

For roasting: 

  • Roasting pan with a rack
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 1 cup white wine, plus more as needed

For finishing:


  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. Melt the butter and brush it evenly over the bird. Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. 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.
  6. 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. 
  7. 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. 
  8. 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. 
  9. 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

Bye for now! Good luck! Gobble Gobble!