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Dry Brine for Turkey

PREP TIME 5 mins | TOTAL TIME 5 mins | SERVES 8

If you’ve ever been the unhappy victim of dry, tasteless roast turkey, this post is for you. Even a frozen turkey will get a flavour and texture boost from this simple brine (although I tend to prefer a fresh turkey, they’re usually yummier on the whole).

Brining works via the magic of salt, and instead of going all science-y on you (also, I failed first-year Chemistry, ahem), I’ll just tell you that the salt increases the moisture within the turkey meat and dries out the skin so it roasts up golden and photo-ready. Here, let J. Kenji explain it.

At its most basic, dry brining is just a salt rub and a long rest, but you can easily add spices and herbs as you like, and as I’m doing this year since my garden sage just won’t quit.

Warning: YOU MUST USE KOSHER SALT (preferably Diamond Crystal, it’s the nicest). Not rock salt, not table salt, not himalayan salt, not pickling salt. Kosher salt. Otherwise the poor turkey will be ruined. Also, this goes only for fresh or frozen unadulterated turkeys — nothing self-basting, pre-stuffed or koshered.

Dry Brine for Turkey


  • Several sage leaves or rosemary needles (optional)

  • ½ cup kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)

  • a 14-lb ish turkey


  1. Mince the herbs as finely as possible. Stir into the salt in a small bowl along with the brown sugar.

  2. Place the turkey in a large plastic bag or roasting pan (something that fits in the fridge). Sprinkle generously all over with the salt mixture, taking care to get some all over the legs and wings. Anything that's left can go into the cavity.

  3. Place the turkey, uncovered, in the fridge for 24 to 72 hours (if you're going for more than 24, loosely cover Mr Turkey with a plastic bag or plastic wrap.)

  4. TO ROAST THIS GLORIOUS BEAST, preheat the oven to 400F. Rinse the turkey well then pat dry with paper towels. Brush all over with oil or melted butter. Roast on a rack in a roasting pan for 15 min then reduce heat to 325F and roast another 2¾ to 3½ hours or until a thermometer poked into the inner thigh registers 175F. Let rest at least 30 min (and as much as 90 min) before carving.

TIP: Did I already tell you that it's critical to use kosher salt? Allow me to say it one more time. Critical.

Click below for a printable version of this recipe.

Dry Brine for Turkey_Claire Tansey
Download PDF • 113KB

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