In his iconic 1943 painting “Freedom from Want,” Norman Rockwell depicted the Thanksgiving ideal: a family-filled table anchored by a perfectly roasted golden turkey. While our Thanksgiving table is always crowded, my quest for that consummate bird has spanned years. I’ve tried wet brines, slow-roasting, and deep-frying. But for that truly delicious bird, with moist, tender meat and crisp herb-scented skin, the dry-brine method proved to be my Aha! moment.
Adapted from age-old salt-preserving techniques, the dry-brine method uses a salt and herb rub directly on the bird to draw out its juices, which are then reabsorbed into the meat along with the flavorings, making it succulent and tender. What’s more, all of the work is done four days in advance. Come Thanksgiving, the bird is oven-ready, meaning plenty of time to go to town on side dishes and desserts.
The flavorful meat of a dry-brined turkey also opens the door for a week of post-holiday feasting. Make an updated Bolognese with crushed red pepper flakes, fennel seed, and leftover turkey instead of beef or pork. Or use the leg and breast meat in a creamy-crunchy mushroom-packed noodle casserole. As it’s already seasoned, dry-brined turkey is also delicious in turkey soup, made sophisticated with pillowy herb-flecked dumplings. With this turkey and these leftovers, you’ll have more than a few reasons to be thankful this year.