How to Dry Brine and Roast a Turkey

This turkey is packed with all the flavors of the season (and a little help from Simon and Garfunkel): parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. I used dried sage for ease in this recipe, but make sure you buy a high-quality brand that has large bits of sage in it; it might be labeled rubbed sage. You don’t want ground sage that looks like fine dust. If you can’t find a good dried variety, opt to use 1 tablespoon fresh, minced sage. Or use fresh sage from the get-go, if you prefer it.

For turkeys larger than 18 pounds, use 1 1/2 times the brining ingredients.

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours
  • Dry Brining time: 24 to 72 hours

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary, the leaves from about one 9-inch sprig
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
  • 3/4 tablespoon dried sage, or 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
  • 1 1/4  tablespoon whole black peppercorns, ground
  • 3 tablespoons Morton's kosher salt (add 1 1/2 teaspoons if using Diamond Crystal)
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Zest from 2 lemons
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (the juice from 1 lemon)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (12- to 18-pound) natural turkey, thawed (not kosher, saline-injected, or otherwise pre-salted)
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 2 to 3 cups of turkey or chicken stock, if needed

Method

1 Combine the dry brine ingredients: In a medium-sized bowl, combine the minced garlic, parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, ground black peppercorns, salt, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil. Stir to combine. Quarter the remaining lemons, and save them for the cavity of the turkey.

Brined turkey recipe make the brine

2 Prepare the turkey for brining: About 24 to 72 hours before you want to roast the bird, take the thawed turkey out of any packaging, and remove the pop-up thermometer, if it has one. Remove and reserve the giblets and neck for making gravy or stock.

3 Dry brine the turkey: Place turkey on either a cooling rack set on top of a rimmed baking sheet or directly on the roasting rack in the roasting pan (mine didn't fit easily in the fridge that way!). Thoroughly pat the turkey dry inside and out with paper towels. Loosen the skin of the breast and legs.

Spread about half of the brine mixture under the skin, massaging it into the breasts and legs, 1/4 on the outside and the remaining 1/4 inside the cavity. Refrigerate uncovered for 24 to 72 hours.

Dry Brined Turkey - transfer to rack Dry Brined Turkey - rubbing with salt

4 Prepare for roasting: When ready to roast the turkey, position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat the oven to 425°F.

If it's not there already, transfer the turkey to a roasting rack set in a roasting pan. Into the cavity of the turkey, put the quartered onion and lemon, and the rest of the fresh herbs you used for the dry brine.

To truss the bird, tuck the wings under the body as best as you can. Place butcher’s twine under the turkey, close to the wings. Cross the twine at the neck of the turkey, wrap each end of twine around the tip of the leg, and tie the legs together.

Setting dry brined turkey into roasting pan

5 Begin roasting the turkey: Roast the turkey at 425°F until the skin starts to brown in spots, about 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and roast for another 45 minutes.

6 Baste the turkey and finish roasting: Rotate the roasting pan, baste the turkey with the pan juices, and tent the breast with foil to prevent it from overcooking. (If you find that your turkey hasn’t produced enough juices to use for basting, warm a cup or two of extra chicken broth on the stovetop or in the microwave and use that to baste the turkey.)

Continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh without touching bone registers 160°F. This should take an additional 30 to 45 minutes; check the temperature and baste every 15 minutes until the bird is fully cooked.

baste your dry brined turkey during cooking Dry-brined turkey recipe tent the turkey with foil

6 Rest the turkey and serve: Transfer the turkey to a clean cutting board and tent with foil. Let it rest 20 minutes before carving. Pat yourself on the back. Pour yourself one of these bad boys, and put someone else in charge of the dishes.

Dry Brined Turkey Resting on Counter