Wet-brining (a.k.a. "brining") may get the ink, but there's another technique, a seriously salty sensation, that's coming on strong these days. It's called dry-brining.

By Carl Hanson
Updated September 14, 2020

Okay, true, dry-brining is, technically speaking, a contradiction in terms since a brine is defined as a solution of water and salt. But bear with us here, folks, because we think you're going to love the results of dry-brining turkey.

You see, dry-brining is essentially intensive salting. And it does exactly what wet-brining does, only without the bother of finding a large enough container to submerge the turkey. Also, fans of dry-brining swear by the taste of a dry-brined turkey because the flavor is not diluted by water. For best results, you'll need to dry-brine for at least 12 hours, and up to 3 days. Let's get to it.

How to Dry Brine a Turkey

You'll start with a completely thawed turkey and lots of kosher salt. You'll use 1 tablespoon of kosher salt for every 5 pounds of turkey. For a 15 pound bird, that's 3 tablespoons. You can add any dry spice you like to the salt, but it's the salt that's going to work the magic here. Also, if you want to put flavored (but not salted) butter under the skin, do it now, before you salt, because dry-brining will make the skin quite firm and prone to tearing.

The Dry-Brining Technique

  1. Sprinkle the turkey inside and out with salt, concentrating most of the salt on the breast area. If you're going to truss the turkey, do it now.
  2. Cover the turkey loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  3. Uncover for the final 8 hours so the skin can air dry. This helps promote a crisper skin when you roast it.
  4. No need to rinse the bird, just pat it dry and proceed with the roast turkey recipe of your choice.

Note: A dry-brined turkey retains moisture so well that it usually doesn't yield a lot of pan drippings for gravy. To keep from burning away what drippings there are, pour unsalted or low-sodium turkey or chicken stock into the roasting pan before it goes into the oven. Taste the liquid before you make gravy to make sure it's not too salty.