This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

We can thank Judy Rogers, the late great owner of the Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, for Dry Brine Turkey. She made this dry brining method famous with her Zuni Chicken, often referred to as the Judy Bird. I can attest first hand that the acclaim is well earned.

dry brine turkey served on an oval platter

We celebrated my dad’s 60th birthday at the Zuni cafe and, a decade later, we still talk about that magnificent dinner. The juicy, herbaceous chicken with its crackling skin and the salty sweet bread salad it perched on that caught every last drop of flavorful juice.

After that meal, I flew home and immediately ordered the Zuni Cafe Cookbook with its detailed description of making the famed chicken dish in a home kitchen. Since then, we’ve shared some of our most memorable meals with family and friends around a platter of Zuni Chicken.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to think of trying to make a dry brine turkey, but the method works beautifully. And it couldn’t be simpler, welcome during the holidays when there are countless side dishes (Mashed Red Potatoes or Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes and Turkey Gravy, Cornbread Pudding, Cornbread Dressing, Sourdough Stuffing, Brioche Rolls, Cranberry Orange Relish and Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower are a some of my favorites.) and pies (like Chocolate Rum Pie) to consider.

If you end up with leftover turkey meat, as we always do, enjoy it in Turkey Pot Pie, Turkey Pot Pie Soup, or Turkey and Rice Soup. And don’t toss that carcass! This tried and true method for making homemade broth in a slow cooker is easy.

FAQ

What is a dry brine?

A dry brine simply means that you season meat with salt and/or a mixture of salt and aromatics well ahead of roasting, hours or even days. The general rule is: the larger the cut of meat, the longer the brining time. Far less mess and hassle than a wet brine with equally delicious results.

Do I rinse the turkey after brining?

There’s no need to rinse the turkey after dry brining. Just pat it dry with a paper towel before roasting.

How to make Dry Brine Turkey

Step 1: Pat turkey dry and place on a platter or in a roasting rack. Tuck fresh herbs under the breast and thigh skin. Season all over with kosher salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 days.

preparing dry brine turkey

Step 2: The night before you plan to roast the turkey, remove the plastic wrap and pat dry. Refrigerate overnight, uncovered.

dry brine turkey ready to roast

Step 3: Remove turkey from refrigerator 1 hour before you plan to roast it. Roast turkey at 450˚F for the first 30 minutes. Reduce oven to 325˚F and continue to roast until the thigh reaches 165˚F on an instant. Remove turkey from oven and tent with foil. Allow to rest 30 minutes before carving.

roasted dry brine turkey

Dry Brine Turkey Recipe Video

Dry Brine Turkey

5 from 12 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 3 hours
Total: 3 hours 10 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Calories: 455
Servings: 12 people
The simplest way I know of to roast a turkey with succulent, flavorful meat and crispy skin.

Ingredients  

  • 12 pound turkey patted dry
  • 8 fresh sage leaves or more
  • 4 fresh rosemary sprigs or more
  • 8 fresh thyme sprigs or more
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt

Instructions 

  • Two days before you plan to roast the turkey, pat it dry and place breast side up on a roasting rack or platter.
  • Loosen skin under breast and thighs and tuck fresh herb sprigs underneath. (see video) Sprinkle turkey all over with kosher salt, lightly rubbing it into the breast and onto the legs and thighs. Cover turkey tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two days.
  • The night before you plan to roast the turkey, remove the plastic wrap and pat dry. Then refrigerate overnight, uncovered. (This will make the skin extra crispy!)
  • One hour before you're ready to roast the turkey, remove it from the refrigerator.
  • Preheat oven to 450°F.
  • Roast turkey 30 minutes.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and continue roasting until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thigh (take care to not touch the bone) reads 165˚F (approximately 12 minutes per pound).
  • Remove turkey, tent with foil and allow to rest for 30 minutes before carving.

Notes

  1. If your turkey is larger than 12 pounds, use an extra 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt per pound. If your turkey is smaller, reduce the salt by the same ratio.

Nutrition

Calories: 455kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 70g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 232mg | Sodium: 2105mg | Potassium: 725mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 222IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Leave a comment & rate the recipe below!

Related Recipes

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




28 Comments

  1. C. John Thompson says:

    I have to try this 🙂

    BTW … I love your kitchen (from what I see your pix/vido).

    1. Marissa says:

      Thank you so much!

  2. Liz says:

    5 stars
    This is the recipe I use, too!! No more messy bags and coolers! It’s a winner!

    1. Marissa says:

      Thanks, Liz!

  3. Valentina says:

    5 stars
    I’ve tried this with chicken and can attest to its deliciousness! SO GOOD! 🙂 ~Valentina

    1. Marissa says:

      Amazing how much flavor it adds!

  4. David @ Spiced says:

    5 stars
    Now that is one mighty fine looking turkey, Marissa! I’m super excited about Thanksgiving this year not only for the turkey, but also to spend time with family/friends. The lineup of herbs you used here is excellent, and I love the concept of dry-brining. Putting this one on the list for sure!

    1. Marissa says:

      Thank you, David! I’m looking forward to those things too!