How to Dry Brine a Turkey

November 5, 2013Katie


What is this thing called “dry brining” anyway?

It’s brilliant, that’s what. For those of you who don’t have room in your refrigerator for a giant bird in an equally giant vat of brining liquid or don’t want to mess with changing out ice in a cooler for days, this is a good solution to add some flavor to your turkey and some moisture as well.

The science behind dry brining is the salt mixture pulls out some of the moisture from the turkey, mixes it with the salt and spices and then reabsorbs it back into the turkey pulling the flavor with it. Heads up though – if you are on a medically necessary low-salt diet, this may not be for you!

Start out with a thoroughly de=thawed turkey or turkey breast, which we’re using today.  Pat it dry with a paper towel or two.

dry turkey with paper towel

Next, mix up your dry rub.  Measure 1/3 cup of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 tablespoon of garlic powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons of dry sage and 1 teaspoon of dried thyme together in a bowl.

Dry rub collage

Rub this all over your turkey.

dry rubbing turkey

Don’t forget the inside.

dry rub inside of turkey

Once you get your turkey thoroughly rubbed, place it in a large oven bag or brining bag (sometimes found in stores near Thanksgiving) and place it on a platter or in a shallow container for a minimum of 24 hours.

Photo Nov 04, 2 52 49 AM

For a turkey breast, I’d suggest 48 hours and for a turkey, I’d put it in the refrigerator on the Sunday night before Thanksgiving.

If you don’t want to spring for a bag, I’d just put it in a shallow roasting pan and cover it like I did. No fancy equipment needed folks.

Since we’re doing a turkey breast which is about 7 pounds, I am taking mine out after 48 hours.  There shouldn’t be a need to rinse it off as the dry brining process should have drawn the seasoning into the thickness of the meat. You might see a bit of spice from the pepper and herbs on the skin, but if you see too much salt, feel free to give it a rinse.

If you’re doing a large turkey, flip the turkey after a day and half and the night before you cook it, uncover it and let it air dry until the next morning.

Dry brined turkey

And you are now ready to go on to the next step and roast your turkey.  But this one is already packed full with layers of seasoned flavor!

How to Dry Brine a Turkey
Prep time
Total time
Recipe type: Main Dish
Serves: 12
  • 1 turkey or turkey breast (double the following recipe for a whole turkey)
  • ⅓ c. kosher salt
  • 1 t. black pepper
  • 1 T. garlic powder
  • 1½ t. dried sage
  • 1 t. dried thyme
  1. For turkey breast - do the following 48 hours before cooking
  2. For whole turkey - do this the Sunday night before Thanksgiving.
  3. Thoroughly pat the turkey dry
  4. Mix all ingredients together and rub all over turkey, inside and out
  5. place turkey in a brining bag or oven roasting bag and place in refrigerator until the night before Thanksgiving. Remove bag and allow skin to dry overnight or 8 hours before placing in oven.
  6. Roast as usual (see my butter herb roasted turkey for further instructions)

dry brine turkey recipe


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