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How-To

How to Dry-Brine a Turkey

A brine can make your Thanksgiving turkey juicy and full of flavor, but it can also prevent the skin from getting crispy. In this video, you'll learn how to work with a dry brine of kosher salt and herbs that draw out the turkey's juices—which are then reabsorbed—producing succulent, tender meat and gloriously crisp skin.

Sarah Breckenridge
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Brining has really changed the game for Thanksgiving turkeys. A brine makes the meat juicy, and full of flavor, but it can sometimes keep the skin from getting crispy, and who has the space in their fridge during the holidays for a big pot of brine? 

In this video, you’ll learn a twist on brining: a dry brine of kosher salt and herbs that draw out the juices, which are then reabsorbed with the flavoring, to make for succulent, tender meat and gloriously crisp skin.

Visit the Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner for more turkey recipes, holiday planning tips, and how-to videos.

Depending on your recipe, you may have different amounts of salt and different brining times, but the technique is basically the same. For Maria Helm Sinskey’s Fresh Herb and Salt-Rubbed Roasted Turkey recipe, apply an herb rub under the skin before dry brining the turkey. First, loosen the skin around the shoulders and the cavity of the turkey. Then mix together 1 Tbs. of olive oil with 2 Tbs. each of chopped fresh thyme and sage, and 2 tsp.of chopped fresh rosemary.

Rub the mixture on the meat, under the skin, and especially over the breast and thighs. 

For the dry brine, you simply sprinkle 2 oz. of kosher salt all over the turkey, and be sure to rub some of the salt on the inside of the cavity. 

Next, tuck the wings behind the neck, and tie the legs together with a piece of kitchen twine. If you weren’t brining the turkey, you’d do this right before roasting it, but brining will tighten up the skin so it’s better to do this now while you have a limber turkey. Next, put the turkey inside a large food-safe plastic bag—around Thanksgiving, you’ll see brining bags and roasting bags in the supermarket, these are both fine to use.  Because the salt draws off quite a bit of liquid from the turkey, it’s a good idea to double-bag it, which prevents any leaks in your fridge.

Refrigerate the turkey for three days, turning it over once every day.

After three days, you can see how much liquid the salt has pulled out of the meat. If we were to roast it right now, you’d have great flavor and tender meat, but there’s one last step for that great, crispy skin that everyone loves. Pat the turkey dry all over. Put it in a roasting pan, and refrigerate, unwrapped, overnight. After a night in the fridge, you can see the skin is quite tight, and fairly dry. Your turkey is now ready to roast. When the turkey’s done roasting, you’ll see that the results of the dry-brine technique are beautiful, crisped brown skin, and moist, juicy meat. 

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