This year, I decided to change things up a bit by dry brining my Thanksgiving turkey. Since I am a bit of a perfectionist, I had a few dry runs with my rosemary dry brine.
Dry runs with dry brine – that makes me giggle.
This turkey is incredibly juicy and flavorful with beautiful, crispy skin. YUM. Seriously, if you have never tried a dry brine before, this is your year.
A wet brine can give the turkey meat a spongy texture, giving you the false-impression that it’s super-juicy. With a dry brine, there is no water to dilute the turkey juices so you get a richer flavor.
A dry brine may be added as the turkey is defrosting. However, I usually let the turkey defrost for at least a day or two before adding the brine.
So How Does a Dry Brine Work?
A dry brine works similarly to a wet brine, without the extra liquid. The salt rub pulls some of the moisture out of turkey, creating a salty mixture on the surface. The salty liquid is then absorbed back into the turkey, yielding a juicy and flavorful turkey.
If you decide to brine your turkey this year, it is vital to buy a natural turkey instead of a kosher one or one that has been injected with a salt mixture. Brining a salted turkey will make it way too salty.
I speak from experience.
Please, please, please use a digital thermometer when roasting your turkey. If you wait for the little red button to pop up, your turkey breast is going to be overcooked and dry.
A typical pop-up turkey thermometer is filled with a soft metal that is solid at room temperature and turns to liquid at about 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the metal turns into a liquid, it releases the spring and the little red indicator pops up. Even though you don’t need the pop-up thermometer, leave it in the turkey. If you pull it out, you’ll just have a little hole that will allow the juices to escape.
For a super-juicy turkey, remove it from the oven when the meat in the thickest part of the thigh just reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit (recommended by the USDA). The temperature will continue to rise a few degrees when it is resting on your counter.
For the Dry Brine:
- 1 tbsp kosher salt per 5 pounds of turkey (ex. 3 tbsp for a 15 lb turkey)
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 1 apple, quartered
- ½ onion
- 3 sprigs of rosemary
- 3 tbsp butter, melted
For the Brine:
- Remove any giblets from the turkey. Rinse the cavity and the outside of the turkey with cold water, then pat it dry. Set aside.
- Measure the correct amount of kosher salt based on the turkey's weight. Blend the salt and rosemary leaves together using a blender or mortar and pestle.
- Sprinkle a little of the salt mixture into the cavity. Then, turn the turkey onto its left side and sprinkle the right side with 2 to 3 teaspoons of salt, adding the most to the thigh. Turn the turkey over and repeat with the other side. Sprinkle the remaining salt over the turkey breasts.
- Place the turkey into a large zip-top bag or into a pan and cover with plastic wrap. Place the turkey into the fridge on its back and refrigerate for three days, turning the turkey over onto its breasts on the last day (optional).
- Dry the turkey by placing it breast-side-up on a plate in the refrigerator the day you plan on roasting it. Refrigerate uncovered for 6 to 8 hours.
Cooking the Turkey:
- Remove the turkey from the refrigerator an hour before roasting to bring it closer to room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Pat the turkey dry with a paper towel, then stuff the apple pieces, onion, and rosemary into the turkey's body cavity. Place the turkey breast-side-down into a roasting pan. Bake uncovered in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
- Remove the turkey from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Carefully flip the turkey over so the turkey lays breast-side-up and brush with the melted butter. Return the turkey to the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove the turkey from the oven and place on a serving platter to rest for 1 hour. Tent the turkey with foil to keep warm. Carve and enjoy!