(this recipe was first published on November 13, 2013)

Everyone will tell you that brining a turkey is a must. And for good reason. A few days in a salt water bath and the turkey comes out deeply seasoned and perfectly moist. With traditional brining, you submerge the turkey in a bucket of salt and seasoned water. I only did this one year and swore NEVER again. First of all finding a bucket big enough is a challenge, and second who has room in their fridge for a huge bucket of raw turkey water! The solution? Dry-brining. You simply cover the turkey in herbed salt and let it marinate for a couple days before Thanksgiving in a bag or pan. I’ve used a simple and classic combination of citrus zest, pepper, bay leaves and thyme.

For our dinner, we used a pasture raised turkey, which has much better flavor. Marin Sun Farms provided us with a Broad Breasted Bronze turkey from their farm for the occasion. Their turkeys are raised completely out on pasture in a way that resembles the natural behavior of wild turkeys– they even roost in trees and enjoy a diet of grasses, pasture plants and insects! Marin Sun Farms has a limited supply of several types of turkeys that you can have shipped to you, so order soon.

Dry brine turkey

Photography shot with the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 digital SLR camera. Small in size, enormous in performance.

 Dry-brine ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of kosher salt (for a 13-15 pound turkey)
  • 2 tablespoons of black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon of pink peppercorns
  • 1/2 tablespoon of white peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme
  • zest of 2 large oranges
  • zest of 4 lemons
  • 5 bay leaves
  • Unsalted butter, softened

Turkey 2


Turkey 1

At least 24 hours before Thanksgiving, start by making the herbed salt brine. Toast the peppercorns and bay leaves in a skillet until they become fragrant. Keep them moving in the pan to prevent them from burning. Crush in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Dry brine turkey 3

In a bowl, mix together, thyme, salt, toasted peppercorns and bay leaves, and orange and lemon zest. Rub over entire outside of the turkey.

Dry brine turkey 4

Place in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. Flip the bird breast-side down on the last day.

Dry brine turkey 5

Remove turkey from bag and rinse all the salt off. Pat dry with paper towels and let the turkey sit out in room temperature for at least an hour to get to room temperature before roasting. Rub softened butter all over the turkey and lightly season with salt and pepper all over. Stuff in the inside cavity with stuffing or if not stuffing, quartered onions, cloves of garlic, lemon halves and bundles of herbs. Tie the legs together with string and tuck the wings under the breast.

Dry brine turkey 6

With oven preheated to 425 degrees, roast the turkey for 30 minutes.

Dry brine turkey 7

Turn down the heat to 325 and continue roasting until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh, about 2-3 hours. During this time, baste the turkey with a brush and add a little water to the roasting pan if it starts to dry out.

Dry brine turkey 8

Allow the turkey to cool for at least 30 minutes before carving.

Dry brine turkey 9

I love decorating the platter with fresh herbs and bright fruits such as pomegranates. And don’t touch those pan drippings. Stay tuned tomorrow as we make classic gravy!

Dry brine turkey

(images by HonestlyYUM)