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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.
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.
Plan Your Holiday Menu
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.
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.
Step 2: The night before you plan to roast the turkey, remove the plastic wrap and pat dry. Refrigerate overnight, uncovered.
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.
Dry Brine Turkey Recipe Video
Dry Brine Turkey
- 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
- 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.
- If your turkey is larger than 12 pounds, use an extra ½ teaspoon kosher salt per pound. If your turkey is smaller, reduce the salt by the same ratio.
C. John Thompson says
I have to try this 🙂
BTW ... I love your kitchen (from what I see your pix/vido).
Thank you so much!
This is the recipe I use, too!! No more messy bags and coolers! It's a winner!
I've tried this with chicken and can attest to its deliciousness! SO GOOD! 🙂 ~Valentina
Amazing how much flavor it adds!
David @ Spiced says
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!
Thank you, David! I'm looking forward to those things too!
We actually rarely brine our turkey (It turns delicious anyway). But recently I've watched a video where both dry and wet brining methods were tested, and it was decided the dry one had helped to develop the better flavour and texture profile. We're giving it a try this year. The bird in your photos look perfect, gorgeous colour!
That's great to hear, Ben. Thank you!
I don't often cook a whole turkey, but the dry brining method seems to be the way to go! Thanks for the helpful video and tips! I'll have to give this a try over the holidays!
I hope you do, Leanne! It works well on individual turkey pieces as well and it takes about half the time to brine them. 🙂
That's one mighty looking turkey. So golden and crispy looking. I love this way of roasting it. Thanks for the video and easy to follow steps too!
Thanks so much, Neil!
Kelly | Foodtasia says
Marissa, what a brilliant way of roasting turkey! I've loved my Zuni Café Cookbook for years. I'm going to have to give this a try. Great idea using it on turkey!
I'm so excited for you to try it, Kelly!
Dawn - Girl Heart Food says
I definitely have to give this a go next time we have turkey! It looks golden brown, crispy and straight up delish! I would even love to have this for breakfast right now...not kidding! Happy Friday lovely!
aww...thanks so much, Dawn! xo
I can't wait to try it! The bird came out so beautifully golden and tempting!
Thank you, Angie!
Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen says
I actually love to dry brine our turkey Marissa! It's so easy and makes for such a tasty, moist turkey. Love the video! Pinned!
Thank you, my friend!
Katherine | Love In My Oven says
I've never heard of dry brining! I love a juicy, roasted bird, and dry brine would be way less messy than a wet version! I need to try this asap! PS - roasted poultry is Hattie's absolute favorite thing to eat, so I definitely need to make this!
aww...sweet Hattie! I bet she's getting so big! I'm excited for you to try this, Katherine! So good and so easy!
Cheyanne @ No Spoon Necessary says
I absolutely love dry brining my turkey! It's so much easier and less messy than a wet brine, and I think it's actually way more flavorful, right? Needless to say, I can't WAIT to try this recipe! Your turkey is a SHOWSTOPPER!!!! Seriously, I don't think I've ever seen a more perfect looking roasted turkey in my life! Gorgeous work! Pinned!!
So sweet, Cheyanne! Thank you!
Wow! You definitely out did your self with this turkey recipe and such easy to follow steps! Looks absolutely delicious and perfectly roasted!
Thank you, Kevin!