Dry brining your turkey will change your Thanksgiving forever. This Thanksgiving Turkey Citrus Herb Dry Brine is my favorite dry brine to use for a classic Thanksgiving flavor for my family's turkey.
How does dry brining work?
When you rub the outside of the meat with a dry brine, the salt pulled moisture out of the meat. That moisture then dissolves the salt and spices and allows it to seep back into the meat. You sometimes see people inject their turkeys using syringes to get a similar effect, but it is not nearly as affective or easy as dry brining.
Should you dry brine your Thanksgiving turkey?
If you have never dry brined a turkey, you should try it this year. Dry brining is a safer and more delicious way to cook a turkey. It is far easier than a wet brine which requires submerging your turkey in a bucket of salted water while keeping it at a safe temperature. Before you start, make sure your turkey is not already brined.
Some frozen turkeys come pre-brined or "pre-basted" which means they have been injected with a saline solution already and don't require basting. I try to buy fresh and local when possible, but if I am buying a frozen turkey, I do look for turkeys that are not already pre-brined. By doing this, I have more control over the final product. Again, look at the label and decide if you need a dry brine.
Do you cover a dry brined turkey?
You can, but I don't. By allowing your turkey to dry brine uncovered, you allow the skin to dry out properly. If you want crispy, golden skin, you need to allow your turkey to dry out in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours.
How long should you dry brine a turkey?
A whole turkey should be dry brined for 24-72 hours. I usually do 24 hours because I also have aromatics in the cavity and compound butter under the skin.
Can you use table salt to dry brine a turkey?
No. It's, at least, not ideal. All salts are different and kosher salt is ideal. The reason why kosher salt is ideal is because it is larger, lighter grains of salt and it doesn't clump. Whenever I write recipes and use salt, it is always kosher salt. 1/4 cup of table salt is almost double the weight of 1/2 cup of kosher salt.
Do I need to rinse my turkey after dry brine?
No, you do not need to rinse a dry brined turkey. Rinse poultry can spread salmonella all over your kitchen station. 1/4 cup of salt may sound like a lot to some, but 4 tbsp. of salt on a 12-16 pound turkey is still conservatively salted.
If the salt on the skin grosses you out, you can use a wet paper towel to remove it from the skin. Alternatively, most of the outside salt will come off when you brush your bird with oil. I should note, by this point the salt has already done its job and is in the meat.
- 1/4 c kosher salt
- 2 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. rosemary, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp. sage, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp. thyme, finely chopped
- zest of one orange
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
- Rub all over the inside and outside of the turkey.
- Allow to brine for 24-48 hours.
- Rinse brine off and pat dry before cooking.
For more Thanksgiving recipes, check out my blog
- The Ultimate Guide to Cooking and Planning Thanksgiving Dinner in 2020
- The Best Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe
- How to Make Gravy from Turkey Pan Drippings
- Simple Roasted Green Beans
- Candied Sweet Potatoes
- Homemade Cranberry Sauce Make-Ahead