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 kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder per pound of turkey (the baking powder 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. Tuck in the wings and truss the bird, if desired.

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 tablespoon of kosher salt per quart of liquid, in a pot or container large enough to hold the liquid and the turkey. Make sure the salt (and sugar, if using) are fully dissolved.

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.