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 amazingly talented food stylist Rebecca Jurkevich, who is styling my new cookbook. As you can imagine, as a food stylist, Rebecca has made a lot of turkeys, and she told me that this is one of the best she’s made. I’m a “keep it simple” gal when it comes to turkey (read my thoughts on Thanksgiving turkey here), and this recipe fits the bill.

Unlike a wet brine, which is a messy undertaking, a dry-brine 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, which makes for a flavorful and juicy bird throughout. It also dries out the skin, which results in 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.

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:

Reviews & Comments

  • Jenn … I cant say enough about this recipe. I had a 24lb turkey, doubled the brine mix, rubbed it outside, inside as well as under the skin. In frig uncovered for 48 hrs. Followed your instructions for dusting off the brine but mixed lemon zest to the butter. Rubbed that under the skin as well as all over outside. Used electric roaster and started at 450 degrees for 1st hour then reduced to 275 degrees until it reached 160 degrees at 3 1/2 hrs. Did not add any liquid to the roaster pan. This was wonderful because it freed up the oven for the sides. In the roaster it browned nicely from wings/legs down, the top didnt really brown. I have hosted Thanksgiving for abut 20 family/friends for yrs and have usually wet brined turkey. This is the first time that I did the dry brine. There was about 2 cups of turkey drippings. We had very scaled down Thanksgiving this year, only 4 but EVERYONE said over and over that this was the best turkey and gravy ever. Thank you Jenn!

    • — Janice on November 27, 2020
    • Reply
  • Everyone loved this Turkey recipe! We had someone for dinner who can’t have dairy. After cleaning off the rub, I rubbed olive oil all over and then rubbed a bit of Dairy free butter on top. Amazing!

    • — DW on November 27, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. Just wanted to thank you for this delicious recipe. I used it on a 7lb. turkey breast that I purchased frozen. The label said it had been “pre-brined”, but I did it anyway. The results were great! My daughter took a bite and said “this is great turkey!” She later said it was the best turkey that she had ever had. All of my family loved it. I’m not usually a fan of turkey and I even ate seconds. For reference, I followed your brining directions exactly. I brined the turkey breast for 48 hours, cooked it at 325 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes, then increased the temperature to 350 degrees for another 30 minutes. I used a thermometer and took the turkey out when it reached 170 degrees (this took about 5 more minutes). Before I put the turkey in the oven I also added two cups of chicken broth to the roaster to use to make gravy once the turkey was done. Thank you again for this wonderful recipe!

    • — Janet K. on November 27, 2020
    • Reply
  • This was the best turkey I’ve ever made. There was extra butter so I put it under the skin. I stuffed it as well. I used a turkey bag for easy clean-up. I roasted it in my convection oven according to the oven’s recommendations temperature. This will be my go-to from now on!

    • — Susan on November 27, 2020
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  • HELP! delivered a 19.5 pound turkey- can we still cook at 375 degrees, and for how long?
    most other recipes call for lower temp but assume this higher is to keep skin crisp-

    • — Susan L Crockin on November 26, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Susan, For 19 to 20-lb bird, I’d roast at 325°F for 3.5 to 4 hours. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on November 26, 2020
      • Reply
    • We made this with an injected bird (mainly what we can find around here!) and we let it brine for almost two days. The osmosis really helped pull the liquid out. We cooked if for about two hours, and were amazed with how juicy it was. Crispy skin. Delicious. Wonderful first ever turkey for us to make!

      • — Hannah on November 27, 2020
      • Reply
  • I am making this recipe with a 10 pound turkey. Do you think it would be done at more like 1 1/2 hours? Or should I check it before that? Thank you!

    • — Amy on November 25, 2020
    • Reply
    • Yes that sounds about right, Amy. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 25, 2020
      • Reply
  • hello Chef Jenn,
    I am trying this turkey recipe this Thanksgiving and our turkey is in the fridge with the dry brine…
    just wanted to know if I rub off all dry brine from both inside and outside or just the outer skin? How clean do we wipe ALL the dry brine?
    thank you!

    • — JooJoo on November 25, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi JooJoo, Just rub the brine off of the outer skin, and don’t make yourself crazy trying to get every last bit — a few swipes with a wad of paper towels should do it. Hope it turns out well!

      • — Jenn on November 25, 2020
      • Reply
  • HI Jen,
    My 12 lb frozen turkey says it “contains up to 6% retained water. Contains no artificial ingredients and is minimally processed”.
    Does this mean it’s already salted? Would this recipe work for my turkey?
    Thanks!

    • — Terri on November 25, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Terri, That does mean it’s already salted. I have made this with that kind of turkey and while I did find it to be a bit salty, it was still delicious.

      • — Jenn on November 25, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen,
    Reading ideas what other have done to save refrigerator room with wet brining, I saw someone emptied and cleaned their bottom vegetable crisper. Do you think this would be acceptable for dry brining my turkey as well? Thank you!

    • — Anne on November 25, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, Anne – as long as you can fit it in there.

      • — Jenn on November 25, 2020
      • Reply
  • Is there any reason I can’t put the rub under the skin on the turkey?

    • — Betsy on November 24, 2020
    • Reply
    • I would not rub this particular dry rub underneath the skin, as it will be difficult to remove (and the sugar may cause the skin to burn). For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s necessary to rub under the skin; the seasoning will permeate through. For the most flavor, let it rest in the fridge for the maximum amount of time.

      • — Jenn on November 24, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen,
    I made your high heat turkey last year (highly recommend) so wanted to try this method this year. Can you please tell me how to adjust the ingredients for a 20lb turkey? Also approximate cooking time so I can plan accordingly? I did order the thermometer you recommended.

    • — Pam on November 24, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Pam, I worry a large bird may burn at 375°F, so I’d cook it 325°F for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

      • — Jenn on November 24, 2020
      • Reply
      • Does the turkey need to be a room temperature prior to cooking?

        • — Patrick on November 25, 2020
        • Reply
        • Nope – hope you enjoy!

          • — Jenn on November 25, 2020
          • Reply
      • Oh no. I already have it in the fridge brining since yesterday. Any tricks you can recommend to prevent it from burning?

        • — Pam on November 25, 2020
        • Reply
        • Hi Pam, I’m sorry I wasn’t clear! This recipe will be perfectly fine with your larger bird as long as you cook it at a lower temperature.

          • — Jenn on November 25, 2020
          • Reply
  • Hi Jen. Would this dry brining recipe be advisable to use with a turkey breast?Any updates on your upcoming cookbook?

    • — Kathy M. on November 24, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, I think it’s fine to use this on a turkey breast. And thanks for inquiring about my cookbook! It will be available for purchase next October. 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 24, 2020
      • Reply
  • Can you stuff the dry brined turkey? If not, how best tasting can I cook stuffing outside the bird?

    • — Corrine on November 23, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Corrine, You can stuff the turkey, but personally, I prefer stuffing that’s baked separately. I’d encourage you to take a peek at this cornbread stuffing, sausage and herb stuffing, or this challah, wild mushroom, and herb stuffing. Hope you enjoy whatever you try!

      • — Jenn on November 23, 2020
      • Reply
      • Thanks Jenn! I’m going to try your sausage and herb stuffing separate from the bird. I am very confident that it will be great. Happy Thanksgiving!

        • — Corrine on November 24, 2020
        • Reply
  • Hi Jen,
    Love your recipes.
    My bone-in 7 lb. frozen turkey breast is “basted with broth, salt, sugar”. Not injected. Can I use the dry brine on top of this?
    Thanks,
    Cathy

    • — Cathh on November 21, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Cathy, I believe it’s basically the same thing as being injected, so I worry it would end up too salty. I’d use the high-heat method instead.

      • — Jenn on November 22, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    I just wanted to start off by saying me and my daughter have admired you and your recipes for while! We absolutely love your cookbook and all your recipes! Thank you so much your hard work, very much appreciated!
    We would like to know if we would need to thaw the turkey before putting it in the oven. Due to my last experiences with putting meat into the oven, we would need to thaw the meat. Should the turkey be at a specific temperature?
    Thanks!

    -Eymy and my Daughter

    • — Eymy Telleria on November 20, 2020
    • Reply
    • So glad you both like the recipes! Yes, you do need to thaw the turkey. Here’s some guidance on how to do it. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 20, 2020
      • Reply
  • I am a huge fan of you and your recipes in general. If dry brining, it’s important that ppl put the brine under the skin for it to penetrate throughout the meat. That’s simply the science of it.

    Otherwise it’s like putting deoderant on over your shirt and hoping enough soaks through to your body 😉

    • — Brian on November 19, 2020
    • Reply
  • My daughter is not a fan of sage. Is there another dried herb you’d recommend?
    Thank you! I love your recipes and have recommended your website and cookbooks to friends and family who rave about my yummy awesome cooking/baking!

    • — Joanne on November 18, 2020
    • Reply
    • So glad you like the recipes. You can just omit the sage, use more thyme, or use fresh rosemary instead. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 20, 2020
      • Reply
  • This sounds delicious! Would you use the same temp if you were using the brine on turkey thighs (instead of the whole bird)? And do you know how long they would take to cook? Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!

    • — Wendy on November 13, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Wendy, I’d keep the oven temperature the same and the timing really depends on the size of the thighs but I’d start checking them at about 45 minutes. (An instant read thermometer will take out any guesswork, so I’d suggest that.) Hope that helps and happy Thanksgiving!

      • — Jenn on November 16, 2020
      • Reply
      • Thanks, Jenn! We ended up going with a full turkey, and we used the leave-in probe thermometer, and it came out perfectly. This was such a wonderful recipe – amazing flavor, and super juicy! Thank you for sharing!

        • — Wendy on November 27, 2020
        • Reply
  • I am only able to find turkeys that are injected with the salt solution. Could the salt be reduced? Or maybe eliminated in order for it to not be too salty. Appreciate your thoughts!

    • — Beth W. on November 12, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Beth, if you can only find turkeys injected with the salt solution, I’d get one that is fresh versus frozen (as they have less of the salt solution) and then cut the salt back a bit. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it!

      • — Jenn on November 13, 2020
      • Reply
  • Could i butter under the skin , instead, after wiping off dry rub? Ive seen other techniques leaving the rub on when roasting. What are your thoughts on that?

    • — Rosemarie on November 12, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, Rosemarie, but I’d probably butter under and over the skin. Re. the rub, I worry that the skin might burn with all the brown sugar.

      • — Jenn on November 12, 2020
      • Reply
  • I am planning this year to only roasting a chicken and not a turkey. Can I use the same recipe and cut the roasting time to what?
    I use your recipes the most as they are always delicious and fool proof.
    Thank you!

    • — Inga Pugsley on November 12, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, Inga – although be sure to reduce the dry brine quantities according to the weight of the chicken. I’m guessing the chicken will take about 1.5 hrs to cook.

      • — Jenn on November 12, 2020
      • Reply
  • Jenn,

    Thanks so much for making me look like a great cook!

    Can this be adapted to a 5-6 lb chicken?
    We will be a small group this year.

    • — Kate H on November 12, 2020
    • Reply
    • Yep definitely, just cut the ingredients for the dry brine in half (I’d still use the same amount of veggies). I’d start checking for doneness around 1.5 hrs.

      • — Jenn on November 12, 2020
      • Reply
  • How is this an “adaptation”, when it is exactly the same recipe that appears on Rachel Ray’s site?

    • — Chef Steve on November 12, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Steve, Yes the ingredients are the same, however I’ve modified the instructions, so the correct way to give credit to the original author is to write “adapted from” and link to the original recipe. Hope that clarifies.

      • — Jenn on November 12, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen,

    I’m excited to leave wet-brining in the past but the thought of leaving the turkey uncovered while the family opens and closes the fridge makes me uneasy. Is it okay to tent-foil it during the dry-brine process? Thanks, haven’t’ gone wrong yet with any of your recipes!

    • — Gaby on November 12, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure, Gaby – it’s fine to tent loosely with foil.

      • — Jenn on November 12, 2020
      • Reply
  • Like Edi, I am cooking a bone-in breast. It is a 7 pounder that is frozen at the moment. Should I thaw it completely before adding the dry brine or can I thaw and brine simultaneously? Thanks!

    • — elle on November 12, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Elle, It’s fine to dry-brine and thaw simultaneously. I might just briefly rinse the breast under room temperature running water to start the thawing process.

      • — Jenn on November 12, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    This recipe looks great! I was a little nervous to try your high-heat method this year and didn’t want to continue with the traditional high-to-low heat method so this recipe seems like a happy medium. I also like that this recipe adds vegetables to the pan bottom which will add flavor to the gravy. (by the way your make-ahead gravy is so easy and delish!)

    I noticed in your high-heat turkey recipe that you remove the turkey at 160 degrees. Any reason for 165 for this recipe? Also, do the veggies tend to burn? Ive had trouble with that in the past and find myself opening the oven too often to add broth to the pan bottom.

    One more thing…I have a large All-Clad flared roaster like yours ( 16 x 13) that came with a flat rack.You recommend a V-rack for your high-heat turkey and I see one here in this recipe as well. Is a V-rack important for any reason?…( maybe it lifts the turkey higher from pan bottom??) Can I use my flat rack?

    Thank you so much for your amazing recipes!
    Lisa

    • — Lisa on November 12, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Lisa, I kept the temp from the original Rachel Ray recipe, but you can take it out anywhere between 160-165. The veggies may or may not burn depending on the size of your bird. I found with a twelve pound bird, the cook time was just under 2 hours, and the veggies were caramelized but not burnt (and very delicious!). However, with a larger bird that requires more time in the oven, they’d probably burn. You might try stirring them at some point so they brown more evenly. (I wouldn’t add broth to the pan, as it will create steam in the oven and prevent the skin from crisping up.) As for the rack, a v-rack helps the air circulate under the bird so the skin on the bottom crisps up nicely, but I don’t think it’s worth buying one; a flat rack is fine. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on November 12, 2020
      • Reply
  • Can this dry rub be used on a turkey that will be smoked?

    • — Nancy Balsbaugh on November 12, 2020
    • Reply
    • Yep!

      • — Jenn on November 12, 2020
      • Reply
    • Can this be done in a roaster instead of oven?

      • — Janice Jordan on November 12, 2020
      • Reply
      • Hi Janice, I’m not familiar with a roaster so I can’t say for sure — I’m sorry!

        • — Jenn on November 12, 2020
        • Reply
      • I meant electric roaster. I’ve been using that for several yrs to free up oven for other things

        • — Janice on November 13, 2020
        • Reply
        • Again, that’s not something I have experience with (I’m sorry!), but I suspect it would work.

          • — Jenn on November 13, 2020
          • Reply
  • I’m only doing a bone-in breast. Is this brine going under the skin, or just on?

    • — Edi on November 12, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Edi, Just on 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 12, 2020
      • Reply

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