Dry Brine Turkey

Learn how to dry brine a turkey with salt and an optional seasoning mix! Dry brining a turkey for roasting or smoking is an easy way to get extra crispy skin and juicy meat that’s full of flavor.

And be sure to check out my roast turkey and turkey gravy recipes for when the turkey is ready for the oven!

A golden roast turkey on a large serving platter with fresh herbs.

Dry Brine Turkey

Do you ever wonder how you can roast a turkey that has perfectly evened browning, extra crispy skin, and stays juicy and flavorful on the inside?

The secret is to dry brine the turkey in salt for at least 24 hours. The salt extracts liquid from the turkey (through osmosis) and combines itself into that liquid, which is then reabsorbed back into the meat.

As it works its way into the meat, it not only adds flavor, but it also works to break down the tough muscle proteins in the meat, which makes it tender and juicy.

How Long Should You Dry Brine Turkey

  • 24-72 hours prior to roasting.

Do You Rinse Brine Off Turkey Before Cooking?

  • Dry brined turkey requires no rinsing or patting dry. It’s ready to roast.

Can You Brine Frozen Turkey?

Although it’s more effective to brine a thawed turkey, a partially frozen turkey can be brined as well. For a dry brine, the skin needs to be thawed however in order for you to incorporate the salt onto the surface.

Do You Brine a Turkey That Was Injected With a Salt Solution?

  • My recommendation is that you do NOT dry brine a turkey that has already been injected with a salt solution, as that is essentially the purpose of brining a turkey in the first place. You also run the risk of having an overly salted turkey.
  • That being said, there are plenty of home cooks who have brined injected turkeys for years and swear by that method. There are discussions on this Chowhound thread that are both pro and con.
  • Finally, you may choose to brine an injected turkey but can cut the amount of salt by half.

How to Know if Your Turkey Has Already Been Salted.

  • In the above scenario, it will say right on the package, (usually the front), if it has been injected with a percentage of salt solution.
  • Kosher turkey has salted added to it, so avoid that if you plan on brining.
  • When in doubt, check the label to see if salt is listed as an ingredient.
  • Fresh Turkey is less likely to have a salt solution added, and if it does, it’s usually a lower percentage. (See images below.)
  • Another con of a salt solution is that it adds weight to the turkey, which means you’ll be paying more for it.

The label of a fresh turkey showing that it was basted with 3% of salt solution.

 

The label of a frozen turkey showing that it was injected with 8% of a salt solution.

Can You Make Gravy With Brined Turkey Drippings?

  • You can absolutely make gravy with drippings from a brined turkey, those drippings are gold! I do recommend however that you taste your turkey drippings prior to making the gravy as it may be too salty, in which case you should cut it with unsalted broth. (Link below.) It’s easy to add salt to gravy, but it’s very difficult to take it away without diluting it so much that it is no longer thick.
  • Check out my easy turkey gravy recipe here!

Thick brown turkey gravy in a gravy boat topped with fresh thyme.

How To Dry Brine Turkey

2-3 days prior to roasting:

  • Measure out 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt for every pound of meat. (or 1/4 teaspoon per pound if using table salt.)
  • Remove the neck and the giblets and pat completely dry.
  • Run your fingers along the neck and loosen up the skin. Create an opening and rub some of the salt directly on the meat underneath the skin. Rub more of the salt right onto the skin, under the wings and legs, and a little inside the cavity.
  • Meatier sections of the meat like the breast and the thighs will need more salt than other areas.
  • Place it in a roasting pan breast-side-down and let it sit in the fridge uncovered for up to 72 hours. The longer, the better, especially for larger turkeys.
  • Proceed with roasting, frying, or grilling. A hand massaging salt on a turkey for dry brining.

Best Kosher Salt for Brining

  • I recommend using Diamond Kosher Salt. (A link to the product is included at the bottom of this post.) It’s less potent than Morton Coarse Kosher Salt and will ensure your turkey isn’t overly salty. (Morton is better for seasoning boiling water for potatoes, pasta, etc.)

Adding Seasoning

Adding additional seasoning is optional, this seasoning mix is from my grandmother and tastes great on turkey. Add it evenly around the turkey after you have added the salt.

  • 1 teaspoon Rosemary
  • ¾ teaspoons Oregano
  • ¾ teaspoons Thyme
  • ¾ teaspoons Sage
  • 1/8 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoons Nutmeg

A raw turkey breast down in a roasting pan.

Tools to Help With Brining

(Amazon affiliate links)

  • Kosher Salt– Table salt is much harsher than Kosher salt, and doesn’t measure equally to kosher. (Almost any recipe you find will call for using Kosher.)
  • Unsalted Chicken Broth- to add to your drippings if they taste too salty to make gravy with.
  • Roasting Pan– To hold the turkey while it brines. I use All-clad which is a little more expensive but super high quality and you’ll have it forever.
A golden roast turkey on a large serving platter with fresh herbs.

Dry Brine Turkey

Learn how to dry brine a turkey with salt and an optional seasoning mix! Dry brining a turkey for roasting or smoking is an easy way to get extra crispy skin and juicy meat that's full of flavor.

Ingredients

  • Kosher Salt: 1/2 teaspoon for every pound of meat., or 1/4 teaspoon per pound if using table salt.

Optional Additional Turkey Seasoning:

  • 1 teaspoon Rosemary
  • ¾ teaspoons Oregano
  • ¾ teaspoons Thyme
  • ¾ teaspoons Sage
  • 1/8 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoons Nutmeg

Instructions

2-3 days prior to roasting the turkey:

  • Remove the neck and the giblets and pat completely dry.
  • Run your fingers along the neck and loosen up the skin. Create an opening and rub some of the salt directly on the meat underneath the skin. Rub more of the salt right onto the skin, under the wings and legs, and a little inside the cavity. Meatier sections of the meat like the breast and the thighs will need more salt than other areas.
  • If desired, rub the seasoning mix evenly over the turkey as well.
  • Place it in a roasting pan breast-side-down and let it sit in the fridge uncovered for up to 72 hours. The longer, the better, especially for larger turkeys.
  • Proceed with roasting, frying, or grilling. No need to pat it dry.

Notes

I recommend using Diamond Kosher Salt. 2 teaspoons of Diamond Crystal salt equals about 1 teaspoon of Morton, making Morton more “salty.” To avoid oversalting the turkey, go with Diamond.