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Fresh Herb and Salt-Rubbed Roasted Turkey

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Serves 8 to 10, with leftovers

  • To learn more, read:
    Test Drive: Roasting Pans
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 107

A dry brine (an herb and salt rub applied directly to the turkey) creates satiny leg meat and juicy, perfectly seasoned breast meat. Air-drying the turkey on the last day of the 4-day process will make its skin super crisp when roasted. This recipe can be adapted to turkeys of all sizes—use 1/8 oz. of kosher salt per pound.

For more turkey recipes visit The Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner.

  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • One 16-lb. turkey, preferably fresh (not kosher or self-basting)
  • 2 oz. kosher salt (1/2 cup if using Diamond Crystal; 1/4 cup if using Morton)
  • Herb Gravy for a Brined Turkey (optional)
Dry brine the turkey

Four days before you plan to roast the turkey, mix the herbs and oil in a small bowl. Loosen the skin around the shoulders of the bird and around the cavity. Carefully slide your hands underneath the skin to loosen it from the breast, thighs, and drumsticks.

Rub the herb mixture on the meat, under the skin. Pat the skin back into place.

Rub the salt inside the cavity and on the skin. Tuck the wing tips behind the neck and tie the legs together with kitchen string. Put the turkey in a large food-safe plastic bag (such as a turkey-size roasting bag) and tie. Put the bag inside a second bag and tie.

Refrigerate the turkey, turning it over every day, for 3 days.

Remove the turkey from the bags and pat dry. Put it in a flameproof roasting pan and refrigerate, unwrapped, to let the turkey air-dry overnight (for the fourth day).

Roast the turkey

Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. Roast the turkey for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325°F. Continue to roast until an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F in the thickest part of a thigh, about 2 hours. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes before carving to allow the juices to settle. If making the gravy, do so while the turkey rests.

Leftovers

Store leftover meat and the turkey carcass in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 510; Fat (g): fat g 24; Fat Calories (kcal): 220; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 7; Protein (g): protein g 68; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 8; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 0; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 6; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 1500; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 200; Fiber (g): fiber g 0;

Photo: Scott Phillips

With over four decades of thanksgivings, I can say, without hesitation, this was the finest, moistest turkey I have ever had. I am a dark meat lover, primarily because it is always moister, but with this recipe I went for the white meat over the dark. It was also the easiest because there was no prep the day of - just popped it in the oven. I made a 15# bird which took slightly longer than the 2-1/2 hour instruction (no doubt because I stuffed it), but the 170 degree guidance was perfect. Make it, you won't be sorry.

Amazing.

I've been making the Thanksgiving turkey for more than 20 years. I've brined. I've baked it in a roaster. I've baked it in a bag. But NEVER have I had such a moist, delicious bird as the one I fixed this past Thanksgiving using this recipe! Even the finicky four year old grandson ate it! Thank you for the recipe! It's all I'll ever use from now on!

All my guests said that this was the best turkey they had ever tasted. It was certainly worth the investment in time.

OMG, this is an amazing recipe. It was my first Thanksgiving hosting the parents and I was a little nervous since I had only made one turkey before and not very good. I made a 14lb turkey, kept the herbs the same, and modified the salt. The turkey turned out fantastic! The skin was cripst golden brown and moist juicy meat. The drippings made a delish gravy. Everyone raved about this flavorful turkey. It also cooked very fast, about 2 hours total. This will now be my go to recipe for turkey.

Absolutely the best and easiest turkey recipe! Used a 14 lb turkey. Followed the instructions except cut back on the salt. Cooked turkey to 163 degrees with thermometer in the thigh meat. Followed the instructions...30 min at 425 and then 2 hrs at 325. Then tented it with foil for 40 min. Turned out perfectly. Used the drippings to make gravy and did not need to add any salt to gravy. By all means, use a fresh turkey.

This is a wonderful recipe and I will be adapting it for chicken to cook for weekend meals. Changes I made: I had a 13.7# fresh turkey. I love to brine and am very experienced in dry and wet methods. I dropped the 2oz of kosher salt to 1/4 cup kosher salt. I did not use fresh herbs but dry instead, cutting the amount to half called for in the recipe. I did crush the herbs before mixing with the salt. In the end, I used a little more than 2 Tbls of the herb/salt mixture following the recipe method. I followed the four day brine method in the recipe. Today, Thanksgiving, I stuffed the turkey with bread, onion, celery, thyme and celery seed but did not add salt. Rubbed the bird with butter and roasted at 325f for 3.5 hours. Everyone loved it, even my son who doesn't care for turkey at all. I also used my meat stock that does not have any added salt cutting down the saltiness. If using canned broth try to find one with little or no salt.

Made this for Canadian Thanksgiving and all the guests loved it. I'm only giving it 4 stars because it was a little too salty BUT, I didn't have a 16-pound bird, plus we don't have the Kosher Salt brands mentioned in the recipe so it was probably more my doing than the recipe. I'd definitely try making it again and just fiddle a bit using a bit less salt. It was my first time doing a dry brine, and it was definitely easier than the wet brine I usually do. It didn't taste quite as herby as I was expecting it to, but still good. Edited: Dec 31/11: I've made this twice since now and I've figured out just the right amount of salt for the brands sold in Canada, so I'm upping my rating to 5-stars. My local brand of Kosher salt is "Sifto Kosher Salt" and I've found that one scant or level Tablespoon per three pounds of turkey is just right [one level quarter cup for a 12-pound bird]. My last time making this recipe (this past week), I realized I've been misreading the recipe: I've been mixing the salt with the herbs (omitting the oil) and spreading it all under the skin (rather than just the herbs and oil under the skin and the salt ON the skin). But I rather like it this way, so I'll keep doing it like that.

We used this recipe for a 26 pound turkey. It was by far the best turkey I've made (and I've made lots). It was perfectly moist and quite flavorful. Everyone loved it. It did cook very fast--only 4.5 hours for such a big bird--so beware.

I made this recipe this christmas and the turkey turned out REALLY bitter...could somebody tell me what I did wrong? the turkey looked beautiful, it was really juicy and easy to make, but the skin and the meat on top was uneatable :(

Excellent! I was amazed by the moistness of the turkey meat and also found the short roasting time convenient. This is probably my favorite turkey recipe yet--the herbs, olive oil, and salt create a delicious flavor combination!

We have been brining the Thanksgiving turkey for years using the traditional wet-brine method. Tried the dry-brine approach this year with a twenty pound bird. Not only was it easier, the results were outstanding. This recipe is now on the Thanksgiving Greatest Hits List... a real keeper!

I was nervous because there were very few drippings and I thought it was going to be dry but it was juicy throughout and not salty. My husband raved that it was the best turkey he ever ate. It did cook pretty quick, so check the temperature of the meat earlier than you think you should.

Finally! After all these years, the best of the best! Absolutely delicious - seasoned to perfection, tender and moist. It was NOT salty. I used a 14-lb turkey and calculated the salt @ 1/8 oz/lb. as directed (measured on digital kitchen scale). I did not adjust the herb mixture and used the full measure. I was skeptical of the time specified for roasting because the minutes/pound was so much less than the usual formula; however, after 30 minutes 425º and at just under 2 hours @ 325º, an instant-read thermometer in the breast meat read 155º and 165º in the thigh meat; temperature rise during the specified 30 minute rest period resulted in perfectly cooked turkey. This will be my go-to recipe from now on.

Best turkey I ever made, the herb flavourings were awesome. it was all so juicy. My only problem was the gravy recipe - i need to find a trick to better separate the fat.

Also tried this for our Canadian Thanksgiving. It was wonderful but we too found it a little salty - still very tasty. I think I didn't adjust the amount of salt to the weight of the bird properly. The herb flavouring was mild but it was there. Best bird I've ever cooked. Also made the sweet potato pie which was as tasty and much easier than the recipe we used to use.

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