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Dry-Brined Turkey

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Discover the secret to a perfectly juicy and flavor-packed bird with this easy dry-brined turkey recipe—it’s a holiday game-changer!

Dry-Brined Turkey

This fantastic dry-brined turkey, adapted from a Jeff Mauro recipe featured in Rachel Ray Magazine, was passed on to me by the talented food stylist Rebecca Jurkevich, who styled my second cookbook. What I particularly love about this recipe is its simplicity. You start by rubbing a mixture of salt and seasonings—the dry brine—onto the turkey’s skin, then let it rest in the fridge overnight. The salt not only thoroughly seasons the meat but also draws out the bird’s natural juices, creating a self-brine that the meat reabsorbs, guaranteeing a turkey that’s flavorful and juicy from the inside out. Plus, the rest in the fridge dries out the exterior of the bird, so when you cook it, you end up with the most beautifully crispy, golden-brown skin. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a turkey first-timer, this dry-brined turkey recipe is a must-try for its ease and dependable results.

“My husband just declared this is the best turkey we’ve made in 40 years!!!! I concur!!”

Wendy

What You’ll Need To Make A Dry-Brined Turkey

dry brined turkey ingredients

Step-by-Step Instructions

In a small bowl, mix the sugar, salt, thyme, sage, and pepper for the dry brine.

dry brine mixture

Place the turkey on the rack of a baking sheet. Rub and pat the dry brine all over the turkey, including inside the cavity. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours.

Using damp paper towels, brush the dry brine off the turkey.

Scatter the onion, carrots, and celery in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Place a roasting rack inside the pan and place the turkey on the rack. Tuck the wings underneath the bird.

dry brine turkey ready in roasting pan

Using your hands, smear the butter all over the turkey.

butter rubbed all over turkey

Roast the turkey until the skin is deep golden and an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F when inserted into the thickest part of the breast and the thigh, 1-3/4 to 2-1/2 hours. Check the turkey after 1-1/2 hours. If it’s getting too dark, cover it loosely with foil.

Note: The cooking time will depend on the size of your turkey. For best results, I recommend using a digital thermometer with a leave-in probe and remote monitor, like the one shown below. That way, you can monitor the temperature of the turkey without ever opening your oven.

roasted turkey

Using clean oven mitts (that you don’t mind getting dirty), carefully tilt the turkey so any juices from the cavity pour into the roasting pan. Transfer the turkey to a platter or cutting board. Tent with foil and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan and discard (or if they aren’t too soft/brown, save them and arrange on the serving platter with the turkey). Reserve the drippings in the pan for the gravy. While the turkey rests, make the turkey gravy.

Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy on the side.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What’s the difference between dry brining and wet brining a turkey?

A: Dry brining involves rubbing salt, herbs, and spices onto the turkey skin and letting it sit in the fridge overnight (or longer). Wet brining, in contrast, requires soaking the turkey in a seasoned saltwater solution, often necessitating a large cooler or bag and can be quite cumbersome. While both methods enhance flavor and juiciness, dry brining is much simpler and produces crisper skin.

Q: How long should I dry-brine a turkey?

A: The recommended time for dry brining is at least 1 day and up to 3 days. The longer you allow the turkey to brine, the more flavorful and moist it will be. However, even just 24 hours of brining can make a significant difference. You can adjust the salt quantity based on the brining duration to avoid over-salting.

Q: What if my turkey is already injected with a solution?

A: If your turkey has been pre-injected with a solution (as is common with many store-bought turkeys), you can still use this dry-brined recipe effectively. These types of turkeys still benefit from additional seasoning for enhanced flavor. However, since they already contain some salt, you should reduce the amount of salt used in the dry brine by half to prevent the turkey from becoming overly salty.

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Dry-Brined Turkey

Discover the secret to a perfectly juicy and flavor-packed bird with this easy dry-brined turkey recipe—it’s a holiday game-changer!

Servings: 8
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes
Total Time: 3 Hours, plus at least 24 hours to dry-brine the turkey

Ingredients

  • 1 (12 to 14-pound) turkey, patted dry (see note)
  • ¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Morton kosher salt (or ¼ cup Diamond kosher salt)
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage leaves or ground sage
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into wedges
  • 2 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces

Instructions

  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up, and set an oven rack on top.
  2. Remove and discard the truss that holds turkey legs together (if the legs are held together with turkey skin, cut the skin to release them). Trim off and discard any excess fat in the neck or body cavity. Remove giblets and neck; discard or save for stock. Rinse the turkey inside and out with warm water. Pat dry with paper towels.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the sugar, salt, thyme, sage, and pepper for the dry brine. Place the turkey on the rack of the prepared baking sheet. Rub and pat the dry brine all over the turkey, including inside the cavity. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours. (For food safety, ensure the turkey remains in the refrigerator at 40°F or lower during the entire brining period. If brining for longer than 24 hours, you can cover the turkey loosely with plastic wrap for the first part of the brining process and then uncover it for the final 24 hours to allow the skin to dry.)
  4. Preheat the oven to 375°F and set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Using damp paper towels, brush the dry brine off the turkey.
  5. Scatter the onion, carrots, and celery in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Place a roasting rack inside the pan and place the turkey on the rack. Tuck the wings underneath the bird. Using your hands, smear the butter all over the turkey.
  6. Roast the turkey until the skin is deep golden and a leave-in or instant-read thermometer registers 165°F when inserted into the thickest part of the breast and the thigh, 1¾ to 2½ hours (see note). Check the turkey after 1½ hours. If the skin is getting too browned, cover it loosely with foil.
  7. Using clean oven mitts (that you don't mind getting dirty), carefully tilt the turkey so any juices from the cavity pour into the roasting pan. Transfer the turkey to a platter or cutting board. Tent with foil and let rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan and discard (or if they aren't too soft/brown, save them and arrange on the serving platter with the turkey). Reserve the drippings in the pan for the gravy.
  8. While the turkey rests, make the gravy.
  9. Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy on the side.
  10. Make-Ahead Instructions: If you don't mind losing the crispy skin, the turkey can be roasted and carved ahead of time. Pour a thin layer of the gravy into an ovenproof serving dish. Arrange the carved turkey nicely on top of the gravy; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to two days. Refrigerate the remaining gravy in a separate container. To reheat: remove the plastic wrap and cover the platter with aluminum foil. Place in a 325°F-oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the turkey is hot. Reheat the gravy in the microwave or on the stovetop.
  11. Note on Selecting Your Turkey: For the best results with this dry-brining method, look for a turkey that is not kosher, injected, or labeled as "self-basting." These types of turkeys have already been treated with salt or a brining solution. However, if you can only find a kosher, injected, or self-basting turkey, you can still use this recipe, as these birds do still benefit from additional seasoning. Just halve the amount of salt in the dry brine to avoid over-salting.
  12. Note: I've given a range for the cooking time, which will depend on the size of your turkey. For best results, I recommend using a digital thermometer with a leave-in probe and remote monitor (like this one). That way, you can monitor the temperature of the turkey without ever opening your oven.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (8 servings)
  • Calories: 1,075
  • Fat: 47 g
  • Saturated fat: 15 g
  • Carbohydrates: 6 g
  • Sugar: 5 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 147 g
  • Sodium: 1,619 mg
  • Cholesterol: 513 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

Gluten-Free Adaptable Note

To the best of my knowledge, all of the ingredients used in this recipe are gluten-free or widely available in gluten-free versions. There is hidden gluten in many foods; if you're following a gluten-free diet or cooking for someone with gluten allergies, always read the labels of your ingredients to verify that they are gluten-free.

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Comments

  • Hi Jenn! My grocer ran out of bone in turkey breasts so I have a boneless breast. Can I still use the dry brined method? Do I keep the netting on the bird? Many thanks for the help! Your recipes always turn out perfectly!

    • — Maggie on December 24, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Maggie, Yes you can absolutely still dry brine it — and keep the netting on. Hope that helps and everyone enjoys!

      • — Jenn on December 24, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi! I just began the dry brine process and it went on dry and now seems a bit wet. Is this ok?

    Thanks!

    Christine

    • — Christine on December 23, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Christine, Yes this is normal – enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 24, 2023
      • Reply
  • Please help! My husband brined our turkeys too soon. We are cooking 2 because we have a large crowd coming, and he couldn’t get a large enough one. It will be more than 48 hours. He hasn’t been feeling well and miscalculated his time. He did it a day ahead. So the turkeys will be brined for 48 hours tomorrow afternoon. What is your advice? Should we take the brine off of it? He is thinking of cooking them tomorrow to be safe with the meat even though we don’t need them until Monday night.

    • — Pam on December 23, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Pam, You could rinse off the brine, pat the skin very dry, and place back in the fridge until ready to cook. Or you can cook the bird a day ahead and then reheat — either way it should be fine!

      • — Jenn on December 24, 2023
      • Reply
      • Thanks so much! We have used this dry brine for Thanksgiving and it was great! I have also used your gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. They are all wonderful! I really appreciate your advice and recipes. They always turn out perfect and delicious!

        • — Pam on December 24, 2023
        • Reply
  • Hi Jenn
    Was wondering if the turkey needs to be fresh or can I use a frozen, defrosted turkey.
    Love all your recipes!
    Ruth

    • — Ruth Domaschenko on December 6, 2023
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes, Ruth! You can definitely use a frozen, thawed turkey. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 7, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hey Jenn!
    Great recipe, but did you ever try it on a bone in turkey breast? Like to try it for small group for Christmas. The stuffed looks good but looking for something a little easier.

    • — Kat on November 27, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Kat, I haven’t tried it with a turkey breast, but a number of readers have commented that they have successfully.

      • — Jenn on November 28, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hello Jenn,
    As we sat down for Thanksgiving dinner, one which included many of your recipes, I realized that you and your site make us novice cooks, like me, better than we really are. This is not meant as an insult to any readers/subscribers, but these step-by-step instructions provide results far superior to those most restaurants do at this time of year.

    This recipe was fantastic. I followed the 48-hour protocol and on the second day, added additional rub (without the salt). Using the link to get the thermometer, I programmed to 180F (our butterball suggested 175F) as a compromise to some skeptics on this method. This produced great results, even in a builders’ quality oven where actual temps seem to very quite a bit with the posted temp. Frankly, I too was shocked at the moistness of all the cuts.

    Question: Is there any types of meat you would not recommend to use this recipe?

    • — Keith Taylor on November 27, 2023
    • Reply
    • Keith, I’m so glad to hear that my recipes have given you a lot more confidence in the kitchen, and that you had success with the turkey! 😊
      Regarding your question about using the brine on other types of meat, what do you have in mind?

      • — Jenn on November 29, 2023
      • Reply
      • Does it have to be a meat with skin like chicken, duck, other fowl? Or perhaps other wild game which is sometimes very tough (instead of marinade)?

        • — Keith Taylor on November 29, 2023
        • Reply
        • I think this would work well on wild game or any kind of poultry.

          • — Jenn on December 5, 2023
          • Reply
          • Ok, I used the exact mix on a Cornish hen and duck with the thermometer and the resulting flavors for both were amazing. The duck carving, however, was a bit problematic, so the presentation was slightly barbaric. Can you give me any secrets?

            • — Keith Taylor on December 26, 2023
          • So glad to hear it! I’d recommend a video tutorial to help you. This one looks pretty thorough. Hope you find it helpful!

            • — Jenn on December 27, 2023
  • New Thanksgiving Turkey recipe!!! My family couldn’t stop going on about how moist and flavorful the white meat and the bird were overall. It probably brined for about 36 hours (not quite 48). I’m not a big fan of thyme; I cut that back to 1 tsp, added 1 tsp each of tarragon, onion powder, & garlic powder (I don’t think this changed the overall recipe much, just my taste). My bird was a 16lb butterball with solution so I cut the salt back as suggested (to about 1/2). There was plenty of rub and butter for the bigger bird. I forgot to wipe the rub off before the butter BUT it turned out GREAT for the turkey drippings/gravy later. The instructions were fantastic! I used foil at about the same spot the recipe said to check it. My turkey actually looked like a magazine turkey and tasted WONDERFUL overall!

    I liked that this recipe used spices/herbs I had in my cabinet rather than fresh herbs (most dry brine recipes-I just don’t grow the ‘Thanksgiving’ herbs and they are hard to find at the store during this holiday). Totally DOABLE! I’ve been doing this dinner for 10 years now and I feel like I FINALLY got the turkey RIGHT, not just good, but REALLY GOOD!

    • — Melody on November 26, 2023
    • Reply
  • This was astonishingly excellent! I followed the recipe exactly as written, allowing about 36 hours of refrigeration with the dry brine. Combined with a digital thermometer as recommended, this came out PERFECT! (I don’t usually even like turkey, but I loved this, as did my entire family. Thanks, Jen!

    • — Jarah on November 24, 2023
    • Reply
  • This is a great recipe and was so moist and delicious! I did the 48 hour brine and it was easily the best Thanksgiving turkey I’ve made to date. Thanks Jenn, I predominately used your recipes for gravy, cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes and our dinner was a big hit!

    • — Trina W on November 24, 2023
    • Reply
  • Dry brine worked perfectly! Turkey was moist and flavorful. Everyone raved

    • — Camille vaccari on November 24, 2023
    • Reply
  • I used the dry brine recipe for the first time. The turkey came out beautifully brown with extra crispy skin. The meat itself was exceptionally tender. I made, as always, your cranberry relish recipe, which I always add a pinch of clove. I made the most flavorful stock for gravy that I’ve ever had, and the taste was outstanding. I have been cooking for almost 60 years and I am still learning. I love your recipes. I had a friend over and we had a lovely meal, so thanks, Jen.

    • — Sherry Mason on November 24, 2023
    • Reply
  • Made the dry brine turkey today and it was the best turkey I ever made. And I’ve been doing it for over 40 yrs. Decided not to stuff it. Really a better way to roast. The skin was crisp and beautiful and the turkey was perfectly done and juicy! (Used your recipe for stuffing which was great as well)!

    • — Kathy on November 23, 2023
    • Reply
  • I used this brine for the third year in a row and it continues to be a winner. This year I spatchcocked my turkey and it was outstanding. I highly recommend cooking it that way. All the meat, both dark and light came out moist and delicious and it cooked in 70% of the time it usually takes. Combined with Jenn’s dry brine, it was my best turkey ever. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • — Elizabeth on November 23, 2023
    • Reply
  • Did this for the first time for Thanksgiving 2023.
    Brined it for 36 hours,
    Wow,wow best turkey ever.
    Very moist and perfectly seasoned.
    Very easy to do.
    Will use this brine from now on 👏👏👏

    • — Mary on November 23, 2023
    • Reply
  • If I am just now seeing this recipe and don’t have a full 24 hours, is it still worth using this method?

    • — Shari Buchanan on November 22, 2023
    • Reply
    • Yep

      • — Jenn on November 23, 2023
      • Reply
      • Made it this year for Thanksgiving. Everyone enjoyed it, and not much left but bones. I did spatchcock it though.

        • — Scott on November 23, 2023
        • Reply
  • Hi Jen! I dry brined my turkey yesterday and plan on roasting tomorrow, but I will not be serving this until Friday. I realize I will unfortunately lose the crispness of the skin by reheating, but do you have any tips on how to reheat this before serving? I’m worried it will be dry.

    This is only the second time I’ve roasted a turkey, but your recipes are my go-to because they are fool proof! So many of my family’s favorite dishes come from your recipes. Thank you!

    • — Jessica on November 22, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Jessica, It should be just fine (in fact, I often make and carve my turkey ahead!). Simply our a thin layer of the gravy into an ovenproof serving platter. Arrange the carved turkey nicely on top of the gravy; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to two days. Refrigerate the remaining gravy in a separate container. To reheat: remove the plastic wrap and cover the platter with aluminum foil. Place in a 325°F-oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the turkey is hot. Reheat the gravy in the microwave or on the stovetop.

      • — Jenn on November 22, 2023
      • Reply
      • Wonderful! Thank you!

        • — Jessica Backen on November 22, 2023
        • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! Thank you for all your wonderful recipes, I’ve been a loyal follower for years!!

    A question about Kosher Salt – I live overseas and the brands you mention are not readily available in the grocery store (nor is anything labeled “Kosher Salt”). The most commonly available thing is iodized fine sea salt. Can this be substituted? If so, do I need to make any adjustments to the amounts. Thanks in advance!

    • — Katherine on November 21, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Katherine, You can definitely use fine sea salt here. I would reduce the amount to 1-1/2 tablespoons.

      • — Jenn on November 21, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I have a 17.75lb turkey (packaged though so probably less once giblets are removed?). I’d love to try this recipe as your high heat one suggests a turkey less than 14lbs… My turkey is a butterball/premium young, and it says ‘contains up to 8% of a solution of water, salt, spicers and natural flavor’. Could I still make this? I was thinking of increasing all the ingredients by 1.5, eliminating the salt and roasting at 325. What are your thoughts?

    • — Stephanie Nicole on November 20, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Stephanie, Yes, you can still make this and I’d increase the ingredients by 1.25 to 1.5. Instead of omitting the salt, I’d cut it in half and roast it in a 325°F oven. I’d count on 12-15 min per pound when cooking an unstuffed turkey, so for a that size turkey, I would start checking around 3.5 hours. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on November 21, 2023
      • Reply
      • Hi Jen, I’ve a same size/type of turkey that Stephanie Nicole mentioned above. I just brined the turkey with the increased in ingredients 1.5 including the salt. I’m now worried that the turkey will be too salty. What should I do to fix the problem? Thanks in advance!

        • — Tina Kim on November 22, 2023
        • Reply
        • Hi Tina, I honestly wouldn’t worry about it — it’s hard to over-salt a turkey — but you can just brine it for a bit less time if you’re concerned.

          • — Jenn on November 22, 2023
          • Reply
      • Hi Jenn, just wanted to thank you for your reply and tell you this came out fantastic! Best turkey I ever had, a keeper for sure!!

        • — Stephanie Nicole on November 25, 2023
        • Reply
        • So glad to hear it came out well!

          • — Jenn on November 27, 2023
          • Reply
    • Hi Jen, thanks for the recipe! Is it safe to leave the turkey uncovered in the fridge with other items? Thank you!

      Andrew

      • — Andrew on November 22, 2023
      • Reply
      • Hi Andrew, As long as your fridge is clean and cold, and you avoid contact/cross contamination with other food items, it should be fine. However, if the thought of having the uncovered turkey in your fridge for an extended period worries you, you can loosely cover the bird with plastic wrap or put it in a turkey brining bag. But I would definitely uncover it for at least the last 12 hours before cooking to dry out the skin.

        • — Jenn on November 22, 2023
        • Reply
    • My turkey was a frozen 16 lb butterball. I did the dry brine. Didn’t stuff it. 375 degrees done in 2 3/4 hrs.

      • — Kat on November 23, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    My turkey is less than ten pounds and when I remove the giblets, etc. will probably weigh around 9 lbs. I’m going to stuff the bird. Should I still roast at 375 and for how long?

    • — Marilyn on November 20, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Marilyn, Yes I would still roast at 375, and I’m guessing with the stuffing the cook time will be about the same – but I would use a thermometer to be sure.

      • — Jenn on November 20, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen, We are celebrating Thanksgiving a week and a half late this year. I just bought a 20 lb fresh turkey and will have to freeze it for over a week since it won’t keep in the fridge long enough to be safe for our celebration. i anticipate defrosting the bird in the fridge for about 4 days (1 day per 5 lbs) and want to know if I need to wait til the bird is fully defrosted, or can I put the dry brine on the last day or two of the defrosting period? Or is it better to wait til fully defrosted and then let it dry brine for a day or two after thawed?

    Love your recipes!!
    Thanks,
    Jennifer

    • — Jennifer U on November 20, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Jennifer, it’s fine to start brining the turkey as it’s thawing. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 20, 2023
      • Reply
  • I am trying your dry brine method for the first time this year. I’ve noticed some dry brining recipes call for the turkey to be seasoned/brined and then wrapped tightly in cling wrap before refrigerating for the first day or two of brining followed by one final day in the refrigerator with the wrap removed. Is there any value in that method? I confess I’m nervous about an uncovered, exposed turkey in the fridge for days!

    • — Anna on November 19, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Anna, if you’re brining the turkey for 48 hours, you can wrap it with plastic wrap for the first 24. I’d remove it after that though as you need to give the skin some time to dry out. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 21, 2023
      • Reply

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