Herb & Brown Sugar Dry-Brined Turkey

Tested & Perfected Recipes

Dry-brining makes a juicy and flavorful turkey with golden-crisp skin.

This dry-brined turkey recipe, adapted from Rachel Ray Magazine, was passed on to me by the talented food stylist Rebecca Jurkevich, who styled my new cookbook. As a food stylist, Rebecca has made a lot of turkeys, and this is one of the best she’s made. Unlike a wet brine, which is a messy undertaking, a dry-brine simply involves rubbing salt and seasonings directly onto the skin of the bird and then letting it sit in the refrigerator overnight before cooking. This rest in the fridge allows the seasoning to penetrate the meat and dries out the skin, resulting in a flavorful and juicy bird with perfectly crispy, golden-brown skin.

What You’ll Need To Make Herb & Brown Sugar Dry-Brined Turkey

dry brined turkey ingredients

When brining a turkey, you want to avoid kosher and self-basting/injected turkeys, which are already salted and contain a lot of sodium. Note that many commercial turkey brands, like Butterball, sell turkeys that are injected with a solution of water, salt and spices to retain moisture. For turkeys that are already salted, I recommend following my easy high-heat roasted turkey recipe.

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 gravy.

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

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Herb & Brown Sugar Dry-Brined Turkey

Dry-brining makes a juicy and flavorful turkey with golden-crisp skin.

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 (not kosher or self-basting/injected), patted dry
  • 1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Morton kosher salt (or 1/4 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.
  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. If using a leave-in thermometer, insert it near the center of the breast through the thickest part until the tip touches the bone.
  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, 1-3/4 to 2-1/2 hours (see note). Check the turkey after 1-1/2 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: 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

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.

See more recipes:

Comments

  • This recipe is great! I used it on a turkey breast and the meat was delicious and moist for the three days we ate leftovers. Thank you!

    • — Debbie on December 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • I’ve been hosting the family Thanksgiving for the past 10 years. I’ve wet-brined and not-brined. This was the first dry-brined. It was THE BEST turkey I ever had.

    • — Marie on December 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • I tried this dry brine for the first time on this year’s Thanksgiving turkey and the result was outstanding! The turkey was so moist and even the white meat was juicy. I’ll never roast another turkey without it!

    • — Ann C on December 2, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn.
    I love your recipes and have been an avid follower for a few years. I’ve also found roast turkey to be a difficult thing to do. It either cooks too fast, takes too long, or is just so “blah”. As a result, I’ve tried a different recipe every year. This year, following your recipe, I think I’ve now found my “go to” recipe to be repeated next year. First, thank you for the advice (via the comments) that the oven temp is dependent on the size of the bird – I think this is one of my errors in past years. Second, I love this dry brine. I was able to brine the bird starting on Tuesday so it got nearly 48 hours in the fridge with the brine. I also filled the cavities with orange and onion wedges, and herbs. Here’s my question. We had a 17.4 lb (fresh) turkey in a 325 degree oven and it was done after 3hr 45 min so about 12 min per lb. I thought it would take closer to the 15 min per lb timing so it was done sooner than I planned and as a result rested (covered in foil) for about 90 minutes. While it was done, it wasn’t “fall off the bone” done and was a bit difficult to carve around the legs. Wondering if altitude makes a difference in the cooking time (or method). Also wondering what could I do to get “fall off the bone” done without being over cooked. Does resting time impact this? In the end, it was very tasty and I received lots of compliments. So, I’m capturing notes for next year. Thank you!

    • — Nicole on November 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Nicole, so glad you like the recipes/blog! Yes, turkey can be a difficult thing to master but glad you enjoyed this one. Regarding your questions about timing, 12 minutes per pound is on the low end of normal but still within the normal range. And the only way to get the dark meat to fall off the bone is to take the turkey out of the oven when the breast meat hits the correct temperature, carve the white meat off, and put the dark meat back in the oven for a bit longer. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on December 1, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. Is it possible to leave out or substitute the brown sugar in the dry brine? I have family members on a sugar restricted diet. Thank you

    • — Norma on November 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, Norma, that should be fine.

      • — Jenn on December 1, 2021
      • Reply
  • The turkey was amazing, the gravy as well.
    The one addition we made is to cook it at 375F, after turning it over so the whole thing was perfect. My son in law doesn’t care for turkey because it’s dry so often but he kept complimenting me this year.
    Brown sugar is my favourite thing, one of them at least, so it didn’t hurt that the aesthetic of it fit so well.
    Seriously this is my new best turkey and only one from now on. So thank you so much. And the leftovers were amazing as well.

    • — Carol on November 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Outstanding recipe. I used it on a 9 lb bone-in breast and it could not have been more flavorful and juicy. Because the breast already had a brine solution from the factory I used only half of the salt. I added a poultry seasoning blend (lazy) in the dry rub and rested it uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours. The next day I roasted in on a bed of celery and carrot sticks, along with two lemon halves and a package of fresh chopped poultry herbs. The house smelled wpnderful and the turkey was a huge hit. Thanks, Jen.

    • — Mike Stamm on November 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • Jenn, I followed this recipe for Thanksgiving. Best – Turkey – Ever. I bought a 23 lb bird that, after being thawed and had all the “innards” removed, weighed in at 18 lbs. Used a leave-in thermometer, (which, IMHO, is absolutely necessary to avoid under/overcooking) and cooked to 165F. (Took about 3hrs & 45 min at 335f). Rested it a good 20 min and enjoyed a juicy, tender, perfectly cooked turkey. Thank you for the perfect turkey!

    • — MaryKathryn on November 27, 2021
    • Reply
  • Thank you for the wonderful recipes that always work. I made this one yesterday and impressed everyone. Had 18lb Turkey and baked it at 350F. So delicious!

    • — Maya on November 26, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this recipe for the second time this year, and again, it was a huge hit. I recommend spatchcocking the turkey before dry brining it (use sharp kitchen sheers to cut out the backbone, then press down on the breast so it lies flat). I also spray it with olive oil instead of coating with butter. My 12-lb turkey finished cooking in 80 minutes (still at 375F, as written), and it was evenly cooked, crispy all over, simple to carve, and most importantly, delicious!

    • — Wendy on November 26, 2021
    • Reply
  • Best turkey I have ever made! I actually tried this recipe using a smaller turkey (about 8 lbs), and still had a fabulous outcome. The only change I made was that I did not remove the brine prior to adding the butter/cooking, and enjoyed the flavor it added to the crispy skin. My turkey reached 165F in about 90 minutes, and had perfect skin and juiciness. Definitely recommend giving this recipe a try!

    • — Allison on November 26, 2021
    • Reply
  • Best turkey ever! The white meat was moist and had great flavor. The skin was perfectly browned and crisp. I also made your make ahead potatoes, gravy and perfect pumpkin pie. (Truly perfect!) Everything was. delicious. I will put these recipes on repeat for next year. Thank you for saving my Thanksgiving, Jenn. I know I can always count on your recipes.

    • — Tonya on November 25, 2021
    • Reply
  • This was the best turkey I ever made. I followed the turkey exactly but used Americas Test Kitchen our favorite turkey gravy. I also made your make ahead potatoes, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin cheesecake with caramel sauce to die for. Spectacular meal. Thank you!

    • — Janet on November 25, 2021
    • Reply
  • Does anyone know if any modifications need to be made when using a roaster with a 16lb turkey? Thanks!

    • — Catherine Cleland on November 25, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Catherine, For a 16-lb bird, I’d cook it at 350°F and I’d start checking for doneness around 3-1/2 hrs. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on November 26, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. Love your recipes! I’m brining a 17 pound turkey using this recipe and I have two questions. Can you confirm that the turkey should not be covered in foil while cooking? I’m afraid it may dry out. My other question is how long to roast a 17 pound unstuffed Turkey at 325 oven temp? Is it typically 15 min per pound at 325? I’m also baking a fresh smoked ham in the same oven so 325 is the highest temp I can go for my ham recipe. Thanks!

    • — Rose on November 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Rose, That’s correct — there’s no need to cover the turkey with foil (unless it starts to get too brown towards the end). I’d count on 12-15 min per pound when cooking an unstuffed turkey at 325°F, so for a 17-lb turkey I would start checking around 3.5 hours. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on November 24, 2021
      • Reply
      • Thank you Jenn!

        • — Rose on November 24, 2021
        • Reply
  • Also my turkey probably wasn’t as dry as it should have been when i rubbed the brine on it – is that going to ruin it?

    • — Jen Beddia on November 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Jen, It will dry out in the fridge; I wouldn’t worry about it.

      • — Jenn on November 24, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn
    I have ancient kosher sea salt, will that work? and do i need to adjust?
    Thanks so much
    Melissa

    • — Melissa on November 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Melissa, Kosher salt pretty much lasts forever so you should be fine with no adjustments. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 23, 2021
      • Reply
  • HI Jen! Similar to other reviews I have used Alton’s recipe in the past but tired of a wet brine! Excited to try this…..what is your recommended brine time? Do you do 24 or closer to 48?

    • — Jen Beddia on November 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Jen, as long as you brine it for at least 24 hours, you’ll get the same amount of flavor if you do it for several hours beyond that. (The flavor doesn’t increase exponentially based on the number of hours you brine it.) Hope that clarifies and that you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 23, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I’m planning on trying this recipe for my thanksgiving turkey, however I plan to spatchcock my turkey. Will this work the same on a spatchcocked turkey? I’m guessing the cooking tine would be less.

    • — Pam on November 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Pam, Yes the recipe should work really well with a spatchcocked turkey. The cooking time would definitely be less; I’m guessing 6 to 8 minutes per pound (but always check with a thermometer).

      • — Jenn on November 24, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn- I have dark brown sugar, is it ok to substitute that for the light brown? Thanks!

    • — NJ on November 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure!

      • — Jenn on November 23, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn~ I have a 20-pounder and just noticed a comment that stated this should be cooked at 325-degrees. The recipe says 375-degrees. Can you please clarify? Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you for so many outstanding recipes!

    • — Rebecca on November 23, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Rebecca, Yes a larger bird should be cooked at 325 so the skin doesn’t burn before the turkey is cooked through. Hope that clarifies!

      • — Jenn on November 23, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, my mom says this is an excellent recipe so I’m looking forward to trying it. Can I do this dry brine & then cook it in my Big Easy Oil-less Turkey fryer?

    • — Brandi on November 22, 2021
    • Reply
    • Yep!

      • — Jenn on November 22, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn! Only ever did wet brines, but after all the positive comments, I’d like to try this dry brine recipe. My bird is 23 lbs and your responses say to cook that size turkey at 325. My question: Should the oven be started at 375 then lowered after a certain amount of time? Or just start to finish at 325? BTW: YOU ARE MY GO TO!!!

    • — MaryKathryn Wozniewicz on November 22, 2021
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes! For that size turkey, I’d keep the oven temp at 325°F the whole time. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 22, 2021
      • Reply
  • I make roast chicken with lemon, herbs, and garlic in the cavity. Would that help keep the turkey juicy or is it a bad mix of flavors with this rub? Thanks

    • — Matt on November 20, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Matt, That will work well here. Please LMK how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on November 21, 2021
      • Reply
  • Does the brown sugar make this sweet tasting? I have a 21 lb turkey I’m planning on trying this on. I have dry brined before but it didn’t have sugar. I’m relatively new to your recipes but so far the ones I’ve tried have been wonderful. Thank you!

    • — Galen on November 18, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Galen, the skin has a very subtle sweet flavor but you really won’t notice it once you’ve cooked it and added gravy to the mix. Glad to hear you’ve enjoyed the recipes to try so far and hope you enjoy this one if you make it!

      • — Jenn on November 18, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi! What temp do you cook the turkey? I don’t see it in the recipe. Thank you!!

    • — robyn berman on November 18, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Robyn, The turkey gets cooked at 375°F. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 18, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I love all your recipes!! In previous years, I have always used Alton Brown’s turkey recipe but I HATE the smoke in the kitchen for hours despite a clean oven,…and, not a fan of wet brining. So, this recipe sounds amazing and I would like to try it this Thanksgiving!! What is the temperature I should cook a 14/16 pound turkey? I didn’t recall seeing a temp setting in the recipe.
    Thanks!!

    • — Robyn on November 17, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Robyn, So glad you like the recipes! The turkey should be roasted at 375°F. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 18, 2021
      • Reply
  • I am wondering about thawing. Should I thaw all the way and then dry brine for a day? I’ve got a 20 pounder in the freezer that will likely take 5 days thaw. Thanks

    • — Susan on November 17, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Susan, I think you could brine the turkey toward the tail end of thawing. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 19, 2021
      • Reply
  • Just to confirm, I don’t rinse off the dry brine with water, I just wipe it off with a towel?
    Excited to try this! ( and I LOVE you new cookbook!)

    • — Sherri on November 16, 2021
    • Reply
    • Correct (the paper towels should be a little damp though). So glad you like the cookbook! 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 16, 2021
      • Reply
    • I have a convection oven, I always have a hard time adjusting the cooking temperature so The turkey remains juicy and doesn’t cook too fast. Should your cooking time and/or oven temp be adjusted for a Viking convection oven? Thank you

      • — Lisa Edelson on November 18, 2021
      • Reply
      • Hi Lisa, Yes I would reduce the temp by 25°F. The cooking time should be the same.

        • — Jenn on November 19, 2021
        • Reply
  • Can I use a cooking bag with the dry brine?

    • — Shirl on November 15, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Shirl, I don’t recommend it if you want crispy skin.

      • — Jenn on November 16, 2021
      • Reply
  • I always do a wet brine, but after reading the reviews I want to give this dry brine a try. If I do the dry brine can I still bake my turkey the way I always have? I soak a cheesecloth in butter and white wine and place that on top of the turkey for a period of time. The first 30 minutes I set my oven to 450, then turn it down to 350 and baste every 30 minutes with remaining white wine. Thank you

    • — Mary Herr on November 15, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Mary, Yes you could do that but the skin will not crisp up as nicely.

      • — Jenn on November 16, 2021
      • Reply
    • Thank you, and you did say we it was okay to stuff the turkey?

      • — Mary on November 17, 2021
      • Reply
      • Yes, it’s fine to stuff the turkey. Enjoy!

        • — Jenn on November 17, 2021
        • Reply
  • Delicious, I followed this recipe as written, I brined the Turkey in the refrigerator for 48 hours and cooked the 12 1/2 lb turkey for 1hr and forty-five minutes, any longer I believe that it would have come out dry. The turkey was juicy had crisp skin and was delicious, will be have this again and again.

    • — Randini on November 15, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is the turkey we made last year and it’s the best thanksgiving turkey we’ve ever had! The skin was so crispy + the meat was so moist. Back here again to prep for thanksgiving this year! We don’t want to try another kind of turkey now 🙂

    • — Hannah on November 14, 2021
    • Reply
  • We really enjoy stuffing that’s been baked inside the turkey. I normally prepare the stuffing the day before and then bring it to room temperature before putting it in the turkey so that both the turkey and the stuffing will come to a safe temperature at about the same time.What are your thoughts for using this turkey recipe with stuffing in the bird? …especially since you recommend putting the rub inside the cavity as well.

    • — Linda on November 14, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Linda, I really prefer stuffing baked outside of the turkey as it gets a lot more crispy. That said, if you want to bake the stuffing in the turkey, it should be fine here. The rub on the inside of the turkey may slightly alter the flavor of the stuffing but it should still be good. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 17, 2021
      • Reply
      • Hi Jenn!! Just wondering if you think stuffing the bird will add significant time to cooking! We have a 15-lb bird and are going to use your recipe (bird’s already brined!) at the request of my family who loves everything of yours we make! Should we plan to cook longer at 375 if stuffing? Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!

        • — Taylor on November 24, 2021
        • Reply
        • Hi Taylor, Yes it will definitely take longer. For a stuffed 15-lb bird, I would reduce the temperature to 325 and cook for a little over 4 hours (check for doneness with a thermometer to be sure). Hope that helps and please LMK how it turns out!

          • — Jenn on November 24, 2021
          • Reply
  • Jenn, Can I still stuff the turkey using this method. We enjoy our stuffing “inside” the bird. Thanks!

    • — Connie Krueger on November 13, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Connie, that will work here.

      • — Jenn on November 15, 2021
      • Reply

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