How to Brine a Turkey, Two Ways

To dry brine or to wet brine? Master both techniques just in time for Thanksgiving with this easy step-by-step guide.

To Brine or Not to Brine?

That was once the question, but now it’s time to take it to the next level: to dry or wet brine? Both methods will result in moist, tender meat. A dry brine, which is rubbed on the surface of the bird, is left on longer. It penetrates the meat more slowly—which means you have less risk of it becoming mealy­—and results in a very crisp skin and moist meat. A wet brine, in which the bird is submerged, also delivers moist, succulent meat, but the skin tends to be less crisp. It does its magic more quickly than a dry brine—in just 12 – 24 hours—but requires a lot of dedicated refrigerator space. Whichever method you choose, the extra step will surely result in a more delicious bird at Thanksgiving and beyond.

 

Photography by Vittles & Verbs

Dry Brining: Step 1

After you clean the turkey, thoroughly pat it dry with paper towels. (The less moisture there is on the skin, the more crisp it will be.)

Dry Brining: Step 2

Make your seasoning blend, which should include 1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of turkey, and baking soda which helps crisp the skin. 

Dry Brining: Step 3

Season the entire bird, including the cavity. Be sure to pat seasoning on the bottom, underneath the wings and under the drumsticks.

Dry Brining: Step 4

Refrigerate, uncovered, 24 to 72 hours. 

Dry Brining: Step 5

Before roasting, brush the entire surface of the turkey with melted butter.

Dry Brining: Step 6

Roast until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh (but not touching the bone) registers 165 degrees F. Allow the bird to rest 30 minutes before carving.

Wet Brining: Step 1

Combine the brining mixture, which should include 1 tablespoons of kosher salt per quart of liquid, in a pot or container large enough to hold the liquid and the turkey.

Wet Brining: Step 2

Add the turkey and be sure it is submerged. Refrigerate 12 to 24 hours.

Wet Brining: Step 3

Remove the turkey from the brine (discard the brine). Pat the turkey dry and allow it to stand at room temperature 1 hour. Alternatively, you may place the bird on a roasting pan, uncovered, in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours after brining to increase the crisping of the skin when it roasts.

Wet Brining: Step 4

Tuck the wing tips back and under the bird.

Wet Brining: Step 5

Place seasoning inside the cavity of the bird. 

Wet Brining: Step 6

Rub the surface of the turkey with softened butter.

Wet Brining: Step 7

Truss the legs if desired.

Wet Brining: Step 8

Roast the turkey on a rack until a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh, not touching the bone, registers 165f. Allow the turkey to stand 30 minutes before carving.