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Dry Brined Turkey on a platter with herbs and oranges

Dry Brined Turkey

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Dry Brined Turkey is my favorite way to prepare a Thanksgiving turkey! Tired of the mess of brining your holiday bird? Try this dry brine turkey recipe for delicious, moist results!

This is my go-to Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe. So easy and the Best Turkey Recipe I’ve made in 30 years!!

Dry Brined Turkey on a platter with herbs and oranges

Dry Brine Turkey

After years of soaking our turkey overnight in a brine solution, I finally got wise and tried a new method. To make a Dry Brine Turkey, basically, rub your bird with kosher salt and let it rest in the fridge for 3 days. A couple of massages, a flip upside down for the last day and a night uncovered is all that’s needed. Seriously, this is the Best Turkey Recipe! You’ll just need to pick up and have your turkey thawed at least 3 days prior to roasting it. Making the Turkey Brine Recipe is a piece of cake!!

Dry Brined Turkey on a white platter garnished with herbs and oranges

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I Need to Rinse a Dry Brined Turkey?

No, you don't need to rinse your dry brined turkey before roasting. If you do, your skin will not crisp up to perfection. Note that your turkey will not end up too salty.

Which is Better, Dry or Wet Brine Turkey?

I used a wet brine for years, and the mess and hassle were worth it until I found this easier, tastier alternative. Dry Brining a turkey may take longer, but it's almost all hands-off time and the results are delicious.

What Do You Need to Dry Brine a Turkey?

First, you need a turkey. Do not buy a flavor injected brand like a Butterball. Also, have on hand some kosher salt, a few dry herbs like sage, oregano, thyme, and poultry seasoning. Plus, you'll need a turkey brining bag.

How Do You Roast a Dry Brine Turkey?

Place your unrinsed turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan. Roast as you would any other turkey, basting with butter or butter and wine as needed. You can stuff your bird, but the stuffing may be a little saltier than when cooked in a non-brined turkey. This doesn't stop us from stuffing our bird.

Tips for Making a Dry Brine Turkey

I didn’t realize the meat market was closed on Monday last year, so I didn’t get the full 3 days of dry brining. This year, I’m better prepared. The turkey was still a show stopper. Crispy skin and moist, lightly salted meat. I actually roasted a 22-pound bird and half was eaten by the end of the day. It is amazing what two twenty-something sons can pack away. PRO-Tip: Buy your turkey early enough so that it’s thawed and ready to brine on the Monday before Thanksgiving.

  • The process is a piece of cake compared to filling a huge bag with a brine of water, salt, sugar and spices, lifting a slippery turkey into its bath and placing it in a cooler. Then if you happen to have a paranoid husband who is sure that raccoons will break into our cooler set on the patio overnight, you will also need to rig it so it is critter proof.
  • PRO- Tip: The main point is to allot enough time for the osmosis to take place. Your turkey should be defrosted 3 days prior to roasting.
  • Use kosher salt and pick your favorite herbs for turkey. Sage, rosemary, bay, poultry seasoning, and thyme come to mind. You can just use 2 or 3.
  • Whiz them together in a food processor so they’re well interspersed with the salt.
  • Generously cover your dried turkey (pat the skin dry with paper towels) with the salt mixture place in a large food safe plastic bag.
  • Rub the turkey with the turkey brine recipe each day, and flip on the 3rd day.
  • PRO-Tip: Make sure you wash your hands frequently when dealing with raw turkey. Poultry is known for harboring bacteria like salmonella.
  • Bring the turkey to room temperature for about an hour before roasting. Baste with butter, then roast until the internal temperature reads 165 degrees both in the breast and inner thigh.

I’m exhausted just thinking of our previous exploits. If you haven’t heard of using a dry brine for your Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe, I think you’ll be delighted with the results if you give it a shot.

P.S. I have a delicious Holiday Honey Brined Turkey Recipe if you’d like to experiment with wet brining.

Use your dry brine Thanksgiving turkey leftovers to make these delicious recipes:

And if you have turkey leftovers, I love making Turkey Tetrazzini, Turkey Enchilada Casserole and Turkey Soup Recipe. Plus I’ve spotted these 21 Easy Recipes for Turkey Leftovers for more ideas, as well as this Leftover Turkey Monte Cristo and these Turkey Nachos! Don’t want to stuff your bird? Try this Crock Pot Stuffing!

Overhead view of Dry Brined Turkey with sage, rosemary and oranges

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Dry Brining or Pre-Salting a Turkey

Can You Use Regular Table Salt to Dry Brine a Turkey?

No, table salt is too fine for dry brining. The turkey will be too salty. Instead use Kosher Salt, which is a coarse salt.

Can You Stuff a Dry Brine Turkey?

Yes! Ignore any advice to the contrary. If you wet brine your turkey, it must be rinsed thoroughly so the stuffing will not be too salty. With dry brining, you still should do a quick rinse of the cavity. The risk of the stuffing being extra salty is less likely with a dry brined turkey.

How Long Do You Air Dry a Dry Brine Turkey?

The rule of thumb is to brine the turkey covered for 2 days and uncovered, to air dry, for 1 day. Make sure to allot enough time for 3 days of brining.

Should You Rinse a Dry Brined Turkey Before Roasting?

There is no need to rinse your brined turkey before roasting. The skin will be salty, but I’ve never found it overly salty. 

How Long Do You Roast a Dry Brine Turkey?

Just roast as you would a regular turkey. Make sure the thigh meat is up to 160 degrees (after you let the turkey rest, the temperature will rise to a safe 165+ degrees). There is no different cooking method for a dry brined turkey.

To make your dry brine turkey, you might like:

Recipes for your dry brine Thanksgiving turkey leftovers plus more Thanksgiving recipes:

Shopping List for Your Turkey Brine Recipe:

PRO-Tip: DO NOT use a turkey that’s already brined, like a Butterball.

  • Turkey, not brined (Butterball and other turkeys are already brined. Double brining will make a very salty turkey!)
  • Kosher salt
  • Dry herbs like rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, I used about 1+ teaspoon of dried herbs. If you use fresh, use 1 tablespoon.
  • Butter
Dry brine turkey image and text collage
Dry-Brined Turkey

Dry-Brined Turkey

This winning recipe from the L.A. Times will make for a juicy and crisp turkey without the mess of traditional brining.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 10 minutes
Yield 12

Ingredients

  • 16 pound turkey, defrosted, giblets removed (just adjust salt if using a different weight turkey)
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt (1 tablespoon for each 5 pounds of turkey)
  • Herbs, optional (I used rosemary, thyme and bay leaves)
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter, to baste

Instructions

  1. Rinse and dry turkey. In a food processor, process salt plus about a tablespoon of any herbs you'd like to use (rosemary, thyme, bay).
  2. Lightly salt the inside of the turkey, then sprinkle the breast side with a bit more than a tablespoon of the herbed salt, and each side with a bit less than a tablespoon of salt. Place the turkey in an oven bag and remove the air before closing it with a twist tie. Place on rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Refrigerate for 3 days, starting breast side up, rubbing the skin through the bag once a day. Flip on day 3, then remove from bag to let skin dry 8 hours before roasting.
  4. Let sit at room temperature for one hour before roasting. Place on rack in roasting pan.
  5. Preheat oven to 425º, brush with melted butter and roast for 30 minutes. Decrease oven temperature to 325º, cover top with foil if browning too fast and cook till turkey reaches desired temperature, basting as needed. May add some wine and chicken broth to bottom of roaster as needed.

Cook time varies depending on size of turkey.

Notes

Do not use a turkey that has already been brined or injected (like a Butterball) or your results will be too salty.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 423 Total Fat: 20g Saturated Fat: 6g Trans Fat: 1g Unsaturated Fat: 31g Cholesterol: 196mg Sodium: 722mg Carbohydrates: 0g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 0g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 58g
Data from the LA Times recipe
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43 comments on “Dry Brined Turkey”

  1. We have turkey for Christmas and this is a fabulous idea, I am going to try it!

  2. wow…I am drooling! Did you make the stuffing too?

  3. I’ve always been hesitant to brine a turkey for the reasons you indicated, so much work, but this method looks truly easy, all you need is some good space in the fridge! Your bird looks incredible, the skin is beautifully crispy. I’m tempted to try this method with a chicken since a turkey is way too large for just the two of us. I do have one concern though, leaving the bird st room temperature for an hour.

  4. Dear Lizzy, what a wonderful idea. Brining is a delicious method, but it is certainty a lot of work and takes up a lot of precious room. This dry brine solution sounds like a must try! xo, Catherine

  5. Oh I start feeling sorry that we don’t have Thanksgiving! I would love such turkey!

  6. Wow! What a terrific way to brine turkey! My husband is actually the Thanksgiving turkey cooker in our house. I’m going to suggest this method to him. He is also the paranoid type who would entomb the turkey to safeguard it from critters. I am also wondering if you could do this on a smaller scale with chicken. It might be worth a try.

  7. I never heard of dry brining but so cool! Will keep that in mind for sure. It looks gorgeous, especially the skin. Wow half of it gone in a day!

  8. A friend of mine started doing this a couple years ago, she swears by it, good to know you like it too! Love that first pic:@)

  9. Wow. This might just be the sexiest turkey I’ve ever seen! I seriously butchered our bird last year and we suffered through a very, very dry turkey–I cannot WAIT to try this method!

  10. This turkey looks fabulous. I never thought about dry brining. Love it. Thanks for sharing the idea.

    Velva

  11. You wowed me this time Liz. Although Thanksgiving is not in our tradition but we do not mind eating the turkey :). I was just thinking of how messy brining is, I’ve never heard of dry one before. This deserves two thumbs up. Sharing on FB right away.

  12. YES-this is totally the method I would use!

  13. I’ve always brined my turkey, but never a dry brine! This is definitely a method that is much easier. Thank you!

  14. I love the crispy skin, Liz! I’m not a fan the traditional turkey, but this looks so good. xoxo

  15. That is one gorgeous looking turkey Liz! I have never dry brined…but it looks lit it gives a perfect looking turkey. Love the knife set too. 🙂

  16. I will definitely try this method for Thanksgiving! I am looking forward to this!!!!

  17. That is one gorgeous bird! And aren’t those self sharpening knives just the best!?!?

  18. Lizzy,
    My side of the family and I aren’t fans of turkey but my hubby and his side of the family love, I mean really LOVE turkey. I bet they would love this dry brining method. Pinned, of course.
    Annamaria

  19. Liz, just wanted to make sure before cooking the turkey, you do not rinse the turkey after the 3 days of brining right?

    • That’s right, you do not rinse. There should be no visible salt crystals and the skin should be moist, but not wet. Hope you enjoy!!!

      • Liz, help I’ve just realized that my turkey is pre-basted, it is honeysuckle, I’ve brined it yesterday to make it on Friday. Any suggestions?

        • By pre-basted, do you think it means it was already brined? If so, dry brining could make it really salty. I’d rinse the salt off the skin—if you were planning to dry brine for 3 days, I think you’ll be OK with only one day of brining. Fingers crossed it’s not too salty. If you’re really worried, you could soak it in plain water for an hour or two and by reverse osmosis, some of the salt can be pulled out into the water. Good luck, my friend!!!

  20. I sure would be proud to serve this turkey!

  21. Hello, quick question… do you salt on top of the skin, or put the salt under the skin? Or both?
    Many thanks,
    Leslie

  22. Sounds super easy! That’s right up my alley! Sharing On Fb & Pinned. Thank you for sharing on Merry Monday! Hope to see ya next week!
    Kim

  23. I’m months away from turning 40 so it’s about time I learn how to cook a turkey. I’ve heard good things about brining. Pinned.

  24. I made this recipe for thanksgiving and it was the best ever! It is my new go to turkey recipe! Wet brining a turkey has never yielded results this good. Thank you!

    • I totally agree! I did a wet brine for this years turkey for a change of pace, but it wasn’t nearly as good! Thanks for taking the time to give some feedback 🙂

  25. My teenage son requested turkey and I found your recipe! It was AMAZING! It was so moist and delicious!

  26. We love this dry brine recipe.

  27. I love a dry brined turkey!  Sooooo yummy. 

  28. Waaooww. Looks perfect and I will try it asap

  29. This is brilliant and exactly what I’ll do this year, thanks!

  30. Definitely on my to make list

  31. I have to try this out this year!

  32. Love this so much. This is easier than all that sloshing liquid!

  33. Definitely trying this for the holidays!

  34. This is gorgeous! I will be adding this to our Thanksgiving menu!

  35. My sister made this for Thanksgiving last year and just passed along the recipe to me. It’s my turn to make it! It was so juicy and delicious!

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