Garlic, Lemon, and Herb Dry Brine Turkey

Dry brine is the way to go when it comes to cooking a turkey. A dry brine will result in a crispy skin and tender meat. Dry brine is a simpler, less messy, less stressful way to cook a turkey. It also results in a juicier, evenly cooked and well-seasoned bird with wonderfully crispy skin.

full roasted turkey on a platter with herbs, berries and oranges

What is a dry brine?

A dry brine is a salt mixture. In this case, we mix the salt with minced garlic, lemon zest, sugar, sage, rosemary and thyme.

This herbaceous blend is an important part of cooking the perfect turkey as it helps with the following:

  • Dry out the skin– This results in a crispy skin.
  • Season the meat– To ensure your turkey is flavorful and delicious.
  • Tenderize the meat– The salt helps break down the tougher meat resulting in juicy turkey meat.
  • Space in the fridge– Unlike a wet brine ,which requires the turkey to be submerged in a pot of salted water, a dry brine does not require you to maneuver a heavy large pot of water.
  • Time management– Rubbing the turkey with the dry brine mixture is the most involved part of cooking the turkey and needs to set for at least 8 hours. Therefore dry brine can occur a day or two prior to the desired day.

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TURKEY 101

How big of a turkey do I need?

1 to 1/2 pounds of turkey per guest is the recommended amount.

How long does it take to defrost a turkey?

Give yourself 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. If you have a 10-pound turkey, you will need 2 full days. Your turkey needs to be fully thawed before you can brine your turkey. I recommend unwrapping your turkey and placing it on a wire rack and baking sheet as it will release water as it thaws in the fridge. Be sure to check your turkey halfway, if your fridge is too cold you may need to leave it out for a few hours.

NOTE: There is a plastic tie or truss that comes with the bird, keep that on when defrosting the turkey. Remove it when cleaning the turkey but put it back on after applying the dry brine. Otherwise, the skin may rip as the skin dries out.

How do you clean a turkey?

Never wash the turkey. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels and clean out the cavity. Generally speaking, there is a bag inside the turkey with the Gilberts (gizzard, heart etc.). You can throw out the bag or use it for your gravy. Be sure to wipe down the cavity with paper towels. Drying the skin is an important part of getting crispy skin on a turkey. 

side view of full turkey on platter with red gingham napkin

How do you apply dry brine mixture?

You take the dry brine mixture and rub it all over the turkey. Carefully take your hand and get underneath the skin of the turkey to loosen the skin. Use your fingers to gently separate the membrane that attaches the skin to the meat. Be sure to spread the salt mixture under the skin and over the breasts and legs of the turkey. Additionally, sprinkle some salt mixture inside the turkey. This will help ensure your turkey is fully and evenly seasoned.

What do I do after my turkey is brined?

When you are ready to cook your turkey, remove it from the fridge and wipe off the excess dry brine salt from the outside of the turkey with a paper towel and then butter the turkey.

How long should I brine the turkey?

You can brine it for a minimum of 8 hours as that will allow the meat to season. However, I recommend about 24 hours. I have brined my turkey for 36 hours are it was delicious.

What dish should you use to cook the turkey?

It is best to cook a turkey in a roasting pan. If you do not have a roasting pan, place cut potatoes and carrots on the bottom of a baking pan and place the turkey on the scattered root vegetables. The heat needs to get under the turkey

How to butter the turkey?

Take 3 tablespoons unsalted softened butter, and similar to the salt mixture, spread it under the skin of the turkey. Spread the butter all the way to the ends of the breast and around the thighs and legs. Take the rest of the softened butter cover the entire exterior of the turkey. This creates a crispy skin and juicy, tender turkey.

Should I stuff the turkey?

I do not put stuffing inside my turkey as it takes longer and may not be cooked to a safe temperature or result in a dry overcooked turkey. For that reason, I have never stuffed a turkey and cooked it. Instead, I fill the cavity with garlic and lemons and herbs to ensure the turkey is well seasoned and flavorful. 

Do I need to tie or truss the turkey legs?

There are differing opinions as to whether trussing the turkey is the best method for even cooking. Ultimately, it is something I do because it makes the turkey look good (and let’s be honest this is the showpiece to the meal) and it helps keep the juices together while resting. Use simple kitchen twine for this process. 

What temperature should I cook my turkey?

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and lower it to 350 degrees when you put the turkey in.

How long should I cook my turkey?

The rule of thumb is 15 minutes for every pound of turkey. Therefore, a 10-pound turkey will be cooked for a minimum of 2.5 hours. Your turkey will need to rest for about 30 minutes after it comes out of the oven.

Do I need to baste my turkey if I have a dry brine?

No! That is the beauty of a dry brine. There is no basting, which will just make the skin soggy and rubbery. also opening the oven door will result in uneven cooking of the bird.

How do I make sure I don’t burn the turkey skin?

When you have an hour left, peak at your turkey (preferably with the oven light). If the color is to the desired color, place foil on top to prevent the skin from getting darker.

How do I know when the turkey is done?

The internal temperature of your turkey should be 165 degrees at the inner thigh.

How to store turkey meat?

When stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, the meat will last 7-10 days. For longer storage, the leftover turkey can be wrapped well and kept in the freezer.

close up of wing and leg of full turkey

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Garlic, Lemon, and Herb Dry Brine Turkey

  • Author: hungrygirlinqueens
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Total Time: 3 days
  • Yield: 1 Whole Turkey 1x
  • Category: Meat
  • Method: OVen
  • Cuisine: Turkey

Scale

Ingredients

  • 10 sprigs thyme
  • 6 sprigs sage
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1 lemon zested
  • ½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened

Instructions

  1. Defrost the turkey. Rule of thumb is 24 hours for every 5 pounds. For a 10 pound turkey, it will take at least 48 hours. Check the turkey at 36 hours to see if you need to leave out for a bit. 
  2. Clean out the inside of the turkey and dry it with paper towels. 
  3. Apply dry brine salt rub on the outside, sinde and under the skin of the turkey. 
  4. Place the plastic truss back on the turkey to ensure the skin does not rip. 
  5. Leave it loosely covered in the fridge for at least 8 hours to brine. 
  6. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  7. Place the turkey on a roasting pan and wipe off the excess salt. 
  8. Take the softened butter and spread with finger tip under the skin of the turkey and all over the outside of the turkey.
  9. Truss the turkey legs with twine. 
  10. Place the turkey into the oven and lower the temperature to 350 degrees. 
  11. Roast the turkey for 15 minutes per pound of turkey. For a 10 pound turkey it will take about 2.5 hours.  
  12. Check the turkey about 30 minutes before the expected end of time to ensure the skin does not burn (if the skin is the desired dark brown place foil on top to preven the skin from burning)
  13. Use a thermometer to ensure your turkey is cooked through to 165 degrees at the inner thigh. 
  14. When cooked, remove form oven and leave covered for 30 minutes to get juices settle before carving. 

Keywords: dry brine, turkey, thanksgiving

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