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How To Cook a Super Juicy Turkey – Dry Brined

This Dry Brined Roast Turkey is a showstopper! The dry brine gives your turkey a deep and rich flavor while producing moist and tender meat with browned, crisp skin. This post will cover the basics of how to cook a great turkey.

Roasted thanksgiving turkey served on a bed of herbs and garnished with cranberries

How to cook a turkey

While a holiday meal is important in its own right, the turkey is often where your cooking talents shine (or flop). In this guide, I’m going to give you my tips for how to cook a super juicy turkey at home. With tips and advice that will help you cook a juicy, tender, and delicious holiday turkey this Thanksgiving.

I’ll be giving you a step-by-step tutorial on how to prepare a delicious turkey. I’ll be using my secret ingredient: Dry Brine!

In short, it is a method of marinating your turkey in salt. You may ask yourself “Why would I want to salinize my turkey?” Well, because the results are quite surprising. By dry brining your bird, you’ll get an incredibly juicy and flavorful turkey with a crispy skin.

Easy No Fuss Thanksgiving Roast Turkey

As the thanksgiving holidays get closer, we start thinking of what to cook for family dinners and gatherings. Thanksgiving turkey makes an excellent centerpiece for the table every time.

This Roast turkey especially is flavourful, juicy, and absolutely delicious, thanks to an easy dry brine.

While roasting the turkey, remember to add a finishing touch to other thanksgiving recipes on your menu. To accompany this roast, make perfect thanksgiving dishes like mashed potatoes, roasted baby potatoes, green beans, gravy, salad, garlic knots, and cranberry sauce.

You don’t need a fancy brine to create a juicy turkey. So bring on the cranberry sauce, gravy, and all your other side dishes this Thanksgiving! You are about to learn the easiest way to cook a tender, juicy turkey with flavor bursting from the inside out. Let’s get cooking…

Let’s talk about the dry brine

This is a dry brined roast turkey, brined in salt. Yes, you read it right! Salt only. I dry brined for 24 hours The meat stays juicy and succulent, while the skin crisps up beautifully in the oven. Dry brining yields a moist and flavorful meal with minimal hands-on time. The salt helps break down the proteins in the meat and gives it a juicy texture.

I learned this method from Kenji Lopez – A food science chef. In the article he wrote for serious eats – The Right Way to Brine Turkey, Kenji suggests dry-brining and air-drying your turkey the night before. I wouldn’t want to go into the science of this method but feel free to read the article here.

I prefer dry brining to the hassle of submerging it (wet brining) because of the hassle that comes with:

  • Trying to find a container big enough to house the bird.
  • Getting enough space in my already stocked-up refrigerator.
  • Finding all those aromatic ingredients for the brine.
  • Keeping the bird cold enough: All these processes are time-consuming and exhausting for me. 

So, what is dry-brining? It’s a simple process of pre-salting your meat. It involves salting the meat, then resting it before cooking it. This process eliminates the use of water because it uses the natural moisture of the food to create a concentrated brine producing juicy, flavorful results; dry brining also helps us achieve better browning and crispy skin.

Carved turkey well plated on a bed of herbs and garnished with cranberries.

Benefits Of Dry Brining

  • Dry brining yields a turkey that is moist and flavorful on the inside
  • while the skin is crispy and flavorful
  • with minimal hands-on time
  • and no basting is required.

What Type of Turkey is Best for Brining?

The best type of turkey for brining is one that hasn’t been pre-salted (no added sodium or ingredients). Make sure your package doesn’t say “kosher,” “enhanced,” or “self-basting.” These terms mean that the product has already been salted, so it won’t need additional salt.

How Much Salt?

The rule of thumb is to use 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of meat. However, you will need to reduce the salt when using table salt. So, the ratio will be 1/4 teaspoon of table salt per pound

Note that: you do not need to rinse off excess salt. All of it will be absorbed by the meat.

How Long To Rest the turkey after dry brining?

Kenji suggests Dry-brining for 12 to 24 hours. However, he stated a turkey brined for more than 24 hours will produce even juicier and better-seasoned meat. However, you will need to loosely cover the turkey with plastic wrap or cheesecloth before refrigerating to prevent excess moisture loss through evaporation.

Do I need to rinse the turkey after brining?

No, do not rinse the turkey after dry brining. I know it’s tempting but try to resist the temperature. Trust me, there will be no trace of salt on the surface. Rinsing it out will only make the skin less prone to browning.

Fresh young turkey ready to be brined in salt.

The spice blend

I’m a lover of seasoning and spices, so I used a simple spice blend to elevate the taste of my roast turkey.

The spice blend is so simple but gives the meat an incredible flavor boost. It’a a combination of paprika, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, sage, chicken stock powder and black pepper.

After dry brining, the turkey is then well seasoned, rubbed with delicious garlic herb butter, and roasted to give the turkey a crispy skin and tender and juicy inside. Perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any special occasion!

With its beautifully rich flavor, this is the kind of turkey that friends and family will be asking you for every year.

Ingredients for making Roast Turkey

  • Fresh Turkey:  You need fresh turkey thawed to room temp.
  • Brine: All you need for the brine is salt.
  • Garlic butter/oil mixture: For a deep aromatic flavor, make a garlic-oil mix that includes garlic cloves, rosemary, thyme, and olive oil or unsalted butter.
  • Seasonings: This turkey recipe isn’t bland. Season with herbs and spices like paprika, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, ground cumin, dried oregano, sage, chicken stock powder, and black pepper.
  • Stuffing: I didn’t do much with the stuffing because I wanted a bird that is not overstuffed, and I also don’t want any stuffing that would ruin the flavor of my bird so I used onion, garlic, rosemary sprigs, and thyme sprigs.

How to cook a turkey

  • Wash/Pat your turkey dry: Use a paper towel to dry excess water on the turkey skin before you brine and season the turkey.
  • Cover your turkey in salt: The process of covering your turkey with salt is called “brine.” Brining the turkey makes it more flavorful and tender.
  • Refrigerate your turkey uncovered: While thawing, remove the turkey from original packing and put the turkey in the refrigerator uncovered. This is to allow the skin dry out so that it get a nice crisp in the oven.
  • Don’t rinse: Even though rinsing the turkey seem like a good practice, it isn’t recommended for turkey because it ends up allowing bacteria to spread.
  • Roast the turkey: After brining, buttering and seasoning, roast the turkey in the oven till the meat’s internal temperature reaches 165 °F.

How to Choose a Turkey for this Recipe

The size of the turkey you choose depends on the number of people that will be taking the turkey. It also depends on your desire to have some leftover roast chicken after the gathering.

Approximately, you can calculate one pound of turkey per person. Is 1 pound of meat too much per serving? A pound is not too much because the weight of the bones is part of the calculation.

Carved turkey well plated on a bed of herbs and garnished with cranberries.

How long to cook a whole turkey?

As a rule of thumb, baking takes 13 to 15 minutes per pound

When you are baking any turkey below 10 pounds, it’s best to bake it at 350 F. But if you are baking above 10 pounds, it’s best to bake at  325 degrees F to prevent the turkey from drying out.

The USDA recommends placing your turkey breast side up, so there is less chance of overcooking the breast meat, which can happen when your turkey has been cooked too long. To ensure you don’t end up with a dry turkey, keep an eye on your bird’s temperature and stop roasting when the internal temperature reaches 165°F.

Do you still have questions in your mind about how to cook a turkey? Catch on with the best guidelines on how to cook a turkey here.

Other Turkey Recipes

Roasted thanksgiving turkey served on a bed of herbs and garnished with cranberries

How to cook a turkey

This Dry Brined Roast Turkey is a showstopper! The dry brine gives your turkey a deep and rich flavor while producing moist and tender meat – no basting required.
5 from 1 vote
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Resting Time: 1 day
Calories:

Ingredients

  • 1 Fresh Young Turkey approximately 10 lbs – Thawed to room temp.

Brine

  • 2 tablespoons salt

Garlic butter/oil mixture

  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 sprigs rosemary – minced
  • 5 sprigs thyme – minced
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter or oil

Seasoning

  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons chicken stock powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Stuffing

  • 1 onion quartered
  • 1 head garlic cut in half
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 5 sprigs thyme

Instructions

  • Remove the neck, liver, and giblets from the cavity of the turkey. (You can use that for making gravy). Wash the chicken well with lemon and water. (optional). Pat dry with a paper towel.
  • Brine the turkey by generously rubbing the salt on the turkey
  • Garlic butter/oil mixture: Mix the oil (butter), minced garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Set aside
  • Dry seasoning: Mix the paprika, chili powder, salt, onion powder, cumin, oregano, chicken stock powder, and black pepper.
  • Massage the body of the turkey with the garlic herb oil. Then season the turkey generously with the mix. You need to be heavy-handed here, ensuring you reach all the corners, under the skin, and inside the turkey cavity.
  • Stuff the turkey with the onion, garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Tie the legs with twine and tuck the wings under the back of the bird.
  • Place the turkey on a wire rack over a baking sheet (you can add some vegetables inside the baking sheet if desired).
  • Roast until the skin is golden brown and a thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 165 degrees F, about 13 to 15 minutes per pound.
  • Remove the turkey from the oven, cover it with foil and leave it to rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving it. This is an important step; otherwise, all the delicious juice in the turkey will run out and leave your turkey dry.

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