I am serious! I get so many compliments on my turkey every year, everyone is always so impressed. About 15 years ago, I took on the task of making the turkey for a huge friends and family gathering. Never having cooked a turkey before, I did a ton of research. Pretty much everyone said you had to brine a turkey. I had never even heard of the term and it was a tad overwhelming. How was I going to keep a 20+ lb. in brine and cold? My fridge wasn’t big enough and living in Southern California did not allow me to be able to just put it outside or in the garage as some other parts of the country did. This was the beginning of about a five year journey to creating the perfect dry brine turkey recipe.
For those that don’t know, a brine is a high concentrated salt water mixture that helps season a turkey, and it really does help! BUT the amount of space it takes to completely submerge a 20+ lb. turkey and keep it cold, doesn’t work for most. The first time I did this I used a cooler and lined the cooler with a trash bag to keep the raw turkey off a borrowed cooler. That turkey turned out really well, I also cooked it breast side down and flipped it half way…too much work and not needed! My dry brine turkey recipe has been perfected over the years, but this is the first time I have actually measured and wrote everything down! I learned to cook by sight and taste so actually writing down recipes is new for me. This is how I make my drinks also! The only time I measure is when I bake and even then I do it haphazardly half the time.
Over the years I experimented with many different types of turkey recipes, each time I liked part of it but not another part of it. Often as I am making something new I look at a bunch of different recipes for that dish and then just kind of wing it. This is how I got to where I am today with my perfect dry brine turkey recipe. Over the years I have done wet brine, dry brine, stuffed, not stuffed, kind of stuffed, covered, not covered, cooked on one side and then flipped and a few too many more labor intensive recipes. Once I found the dry brine recipe and perfected it, I never looked back. I just tweaked a few things to make this recipe perfect. Not just saying that cause its mine, I am just repeating the feedback!
Dry Brine Turkey Recipe
This recipe might seem a little long, but I put all my tips in here for you. This recipe is based on a 12-15 lb turkey, adjust as needed! Also below you will find even more tips over the years I have come across and save you the internet search!
1 Cup of Kosher Salt
1 Stick of Butter at room temperature
Fresh Thyme *
Handful of Carrots
2-3 Celery Stalks
1 Sweet Apple
Throw away pan
*If you don’t have or can’t find fresh herbs, you can use dried herbs!
Please reference my tips below before you start, your questions should be answered by my helpful tips! Also, this recipe is not for the squeamish, you have to quite literally get under the brides skin.
Step 1– First, make sure the turkey is completely defrosted. Please wash your hands very thoroughly! Take the turkey out of the bag and remove everything in its cavity (usually there is a little bag of giblets and the neck). Fully rinse the turkey inside and out and place on a throw away pan (much easier clean up in the end for you!).
Step 2-Once turkey is placed on the pan, pat it dry with paper towels inside and out. You want to get it as dry as possible as this will make for a crisper skin. Then you will need to lift the skin from the body of the turkey (but do not remove it), including the legs, thighs etc. as this is where the dry brine and seasoning will go. So the better you do this part, the better the turkey will turn out. This part will make your hands very cold quickly, so just be prepared, I always end up washing my hands with hot water after!
Step 3-Once the skin is completely lifted take handfuls of salt and spread all over the body of the turkey, get it everywhere and lightly rub it in. Make sure you throw some in the cavity as well. The ribs are exposed so I don’t recommend rubbing, I kinda just throw it in there. Rub a little on the outside of the skin as well.
Step 4-Mix softened butter and all of the chopped herbs together, then lightly rub all over the meat and skin of the turkey. Where you rubbed the salt.
Step 5-Place all of the aromatics inside the turkey and lightly tie together the wings.
Step 6-Place turkey in the fridge overnight uncovered. Make sure you leave the turkey uncovered, this is an very important step for crispy skin.
Step 7-In the morning take the turkey out and pre heat oven, using the guide below, put turkey in oven at the appropriate time. Cover the top of the turkey with a foil tent. Make sure the foil is not touching the turkey.
Step 8-About an hour before the turkey is done, remove the foil. This will make sure the meat doesn’t dry out, but still give you the golden brown, crispy skin you are searching for.
Step 9-Carve, set out and enjoy the best turkey you have ever had!
Sabra’s Turkey Tips
- Buy the turkey at least 2-3 days in advance.
- If it is frozen you will need 2-3 days to defrost the turkey in your fridge.
- Rule of thumb-1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person with some leftovers.
- I always get the biggest turkey I can, because turkey leftovers are m absolute favorite!
- Plan for approximately 15 minutes per pound at 350 degrees*
- If your turkey is done before your guests arrive, don’t fret! Just cover and lower your oven to the lowest setting it will go and baste the turkey every 15-20 minutes.
- Turkey’s have a mind of their own and despite ALL the planning, things may not go as planned. I have had a turkey cook over an hour fast than expected and of course that day half the guests were running late. AND I have had a turkey take way longer than expected. Needless to say I have shed a few tears on my favorite holiday.
- This recipe is a guide, if you don’t like carrots or can’t find a sweet apple don’t worry!
*This is based on a lightly stuffed turkey as the recipe calls for above, start temping your turkey an hour till you think it should be done.
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