Once again, the holidays are approaching and it’s time to figure out how to cook a delicious big ‘ol turkey. Ideally, this turkey should end up moist and flavorful, with shatteringly crisp skin and won’t need to be camouflaged with copious amounts of mashed potatoes and gravy. We’ve all had dry boring turkeys, but it doesn’t have to be that way! This one easy prep step will help transform your turkey woes into turkey WHOA’S!
All you’ve gotta do is brine your bird. Traditionally, this means that you need to find some huge container, clear out your fridge, rearrange the shelves, and heft around a big heavy container of raw salty turkey water. While yes, this method of wet brining is effective, we say no way! Dry brining is firmly the way to go. Dry brining your turkey takes up less of your valuable fridge space and it does not present you with the food safety debacle of gallons of salty raw meat juice.
The method of brining, whether wet or dry, is the act of letting the power of salt and time do the work for you. Allowing a high concentration of salt to hang out on your bird for a couple days gently breaks down some of the protein fibers in the meat, while also tenderizing and improving the flavor of the turkey. With this method, the salt begins to draw some of the turkey’s natural moisture to the surface, creating a concentrated liquid brine that will then begin to reabsorb back into the meat, bringing all the flavor with it because of osmosis. It’s science and it’s cool.
Creating a dry brine is easy and you likely have everything you need on hand. It is a salt-heavy rub and can also have other herbs, spices, sugar, or citrus peels to zhuzh it up. The length of time you let your salty rub sit on the turkey is important here (due to aforementioned science). Simply salting the turkey right before cooking it is called “seasoning” and will not yield the same delicious results as a properly dry brined bird.
Here’s our favorite easy method.
A few days before you plan to cook the turkey (we recommend using your grill or smoker for this), pat any excess liquid off the turkey and find something big enough to hold the turkey that has sides so it can catch any liquid that drains out while your turkey is brining. Get your rub ready, and some butter too.
For every three pounds of turkey, we recommend using about 1 Tablespoon of Kosher Salt. We like to also add a mix of finely chopped fresh sage, thyme, and orange zest as well.
Gently loosen the skin over the turkey breasts and smush some butter up in there. Then, generously rub the bird all over with your salty rub and allow to sit, uncovered in your fridge for 24-48 hours. When ready to cook, you can brush off any excess salt if you’d like (no need to rinse, you’ll sacrifice that dried out skin prime for crisping!), and cook or grill as you normally would.