I usually brine my turkeys in a liquid solution that includes sugar, salt, and a variety of herbs and spices; then I rinse and dry it, loosen the skin, and schmear the whole thing, inside and out, with an herb-infused compound butter. It produces a moist and flavorful bird, but It's a very messy and time consuming process. This year I wanted to try a more simple technique, a dry brine made of nothing more than kosher salt. I'm glad I tried it because we were pleasantly surprised with the results.
If you're intimidated by the thought of brining in a liquid solution, this might be the technique for you. Plan to begin the process about 24 hours before you place your turkey in the oven. Here's what you should do.
Rinse and dry a 12-14 pound turkey well and place on a rimmed sheet pan. If there’s a pop-up timer in the turkey, remove it (they’re notoriously inaccurate).
Sprinkle the entire bird, inside and out, with 6 tablespoons of kosher salt.
Place the turkey in the fridge, uncovered, for 24 hours.
Be careful about accidental cross contamination - here I placed a barrier of homemade chicken stock in front of my turkey to reduce the risk that someone might accidentally touch it.
After 24 hours, remove the turkey from the fridge and rinse it very, very, very well (inside and out), then dry it thoroughly.
Next, tuck the wings, tied the legs smear butter all over the skin, and insert an oven-safe probe thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh (without touching any bone). Sprinkle the turkey lightly with salt and pepper. Not too much, the salt brine will have flavored the meat already so we’re just adding a little flavor to the skin.
Roast in a 325F oven for 15-18 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165F. I check both legs in a couple of places, just to be on the safe side.
Allow the turkey to rest for 30-40 minutes before carving. That should leave you with plenty of time to make gravy with all the yummy pan juices. Happy Roasting!
Dry Brined Turkey
12-14 pound turkey (thawed if applicable)
6 tablespoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
kosher salt and pepper for sprinkling
1 large onion, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1 large stalk celery, sliced
2 cups water
Remove neck, giblets, etc from inside turkey; reserve for gravy.
Rinse turkey well and dry thoroughly with paper towels; place on half sheet pan.
Sprinkle turkey inside and out with salt, refrigerate uncovered for 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 325F and place oven rack in the lower third position.
Rinse turkey well of all salt and dry thoroughly with paper towels.
Place a roasting rack into a large roasting pan; add sliced onion, carrot, celery and water.
Smear softened butter all over turkey and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and pepper; place on roasting rack.
Place turkey in oven, uncovered, and roast for 15-18 minutes per pound or until the meat in the thickest part of the thigh registers 165F.
Remove from oven and rest for 30-40 minutes. Strain pan drippings and use to make gravy.