Thanksgiving Turkey Brine – Dry brine is a no mess, no fuss technique that makes the turkey flesh so juicy and moist, as it breaks up the bird protein. When compared to brine solution, dry brine is a much safer alternative and takes half the time either to prepare or to apply on the turkey.
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Now back to DRY BRINE. It is my go-to technique for the holiday bird, and practically with every bird type, including regular chicken.
Thanksgiving Turkey Brine: Wet Brine VS. Dry Brine
Brine could either be wet or dry. The wet brine is a saltine solution where the turkey is soaked for 24-72 hours to break up the protein, and strips the gamey flavor of the bird.
The wet brine is made of water, salt, and sugar as main ingredients plus some extra flavorings and aromatics of your choice, such as spices, fresh or dry herbs. Find my recipe of wet brine here.
All the Thanksgiving turkey brine ingredients go into a large pot that simmers on medium-low heat, until the salt is dissolved and all the flavors meld together.
While the wet brine is powerful to infuse the bird and remove its gamey taste, it is pretty handful and risky. The container that takes the brine solution and the turkey soaked in it, has to be pretty sizable and uses up a huge space in the fridge. Second, the brine solution that contains the raw turkey represents a health hazard in case it spills, splatters or splashes.
Dry brine is mainly a mixture of coarse kosher salt (not table salt) plus coarsely ground pepper. However, some flavorings and aromatics, such as citrus zest and chopped herbs could be added to the mix.
Once you mix your ingredients, start massaging the turkey with the dry brine over the skin, under the skin and inside the turkey’s cavity. After you apply the dry brine, cover the turkey with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge for 24-48 hours.
No need to rinse off the dry brine, as it serves as seasoning as well, so it is better to leave it on.
Another good reason to keep the dry brine on, is to avoid any splashing that occurs during the turkey rinse, which would unnecessarily contaminate your sink as well as your cooking area.
After the turkey sits in the dry brine for 24-48 hours, wipe the turkey with paper kitchen towels to remove a moisture or excess of salt before you apply your marinade or rub, if applying any.
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Dry Brine recipe
This quantity of dry brine is enough for a 14-16 pound turkey/6-7 kilos
- 3 tablespoons of salt
- 1 teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper
- zest of one lemon and/or orange
- Mix all the ingredients in a small ball. Loosen the turkey skin and and massage the turkey, over and under the skin and inside the turkey s’ cavity
- Cover the turkey and keep it in the fridge in a sizable no-reactive dish.
- After 24-48 hours, wipe out with paper kitchen towel the excess moisture and salt before you apply your rub or compound butter.
- Make sure not to add any more salt to your rub or marinade or the turkey will get too salty.