The 4-Day Dry-Brined Turkey

Why so long? The multiday dry brine (rubbing the bird with salt) gives the seasoning enough time to penetrate the meat for ultimate flavor and juiciness.
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4 day dry brined turkey

Recipe by Janet Taylor McCracken

Serve with our Make-Ahead Gravy

Start to Finish: 4 1/2 hours (plus 4 days for brining)

Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt (Diamond Crystal or Morton)
  • 1 fresh turkey or 1 thawed frozen turkey (12 to 14 lb.), giblets and neck removed
  • Optional mix-ins for the salt: 1 tbsp. ground sage and 2 tsp. onion powder; or 1 tbsp. ground coriander and 2 tsp. ground fennel seeds
  • Optional stuffings for the turkey cavity: About 10 fresh herb sprigs (a mix of flat-leaf parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and/or tarragon); 2 bay leaves; 1 orange, quartered; and 1 leek, halved lengthwise, then cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 stick butter, melted

Preparation

1. On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, measure 1 tbsp. kosher salt (if using Diamond Crystal) or 1 1/2 tsp. (if using Morton) for each 5 lb. of turkey. Add the salt mix-ins (if using). Using paper towels, pat the turkey dry; place, breast-side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle some of the salt on the back and sides of the turkey; sprinkle some in the cavity. Turn the turkey over. Sprinkle with the remaining salt, using more of the salt over the larger parts of the bird.

2. Transfer the turkey to a large turkey roasting bag; seal the bag. Wash and dry the baking sheet. Place the turkey in the bag on the sheet. Refrigerate for 2 days. On Tuesday, turn the turkey over. Refrigerate for 1 day. On Wednesday, remove the turkey from the bag. Using paper towels, pat the turkey dry. Place the turkey on the sheet, breast-side up. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 1 more day to dry out the skin.

3. On Thursday, transfer the turkey, breast-side up, to a rack set inside a roasting pan. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Pour 2 cups water in the roasting pan.

4. Arrange a rack in the bottom third of the oven; preheat to 425°. Stuff the cavity of the turkey with the herbs, orange, and leek (if using). Brush the turkey all over with some of the melted butter; season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°.

5. Roast the turkey, rotating the pan and brushing the turkey with butter every 30 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh registers 165° or the breast registers 160°, about 1 hour, 20 minutes to 1 hour, 40 minutes. (If the pan gets dry during roasting, add 1 cup water.) Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

6. Tilt the turkey so the juices from the cavity drain into the pan. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board. Place the pan on the stovetop over 2 burners. Using a large spoon, skim the fat off the juices. Add the Make-Ahead Gravy and stir over medium-high heat until bubbly. Slice the turkey; transfer to a platter. Serve with the gravy.

Get Ahead

4 Days Ahead: Salt the turkey and refrigerate.

2 Days Ahead: Turn the turkey over and refrigerate.

1 Day Ahead: Pat the turkey dry. Refrigerate the turkey, uncovered.

4 Hours Ahead: Take the turkey out of the fridge. Let it come to room temperature.