Why You Should Dry Brine Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Do you brine your turkey before you roast it? You should. This is the easiest thing you will do in preparation for this holiday meal and yet it might have the most flavor impact.

First, what is brining? It is a process for salting meat before cooking. It allows time and a simple ingredient to transform a basic meat into something more delicious.

There are two common methods of brining wet and dry.

Don’t do the wet method. Just don’t. It is messy and unwieldy (how do you submerge and soak a 14 pound turkey and not make a mess?) and the liquid-soaking will alter the texture of the meat (and not in a good way).

I recommend dry brining your turkey. This method is essentially salting the bird and giving it some time to work it’s magic.

A quick aside about salt. I recently watched the documentary Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix and I highly recommend it. The author and subject of the short series has this to say about salt:

Salt enhances flavor, and it has a greater impact on flavor than any other ingredient. Learn to use it well, and your food will taste good. Though salt also affects texture and helps modify other flavors, nearly every decision you’ll make about salt will involve amplifying and deepening flavor. Add it in the right amount, at the right time, in the right form, and your food will be delicious.
— Samin Nosrat

Dry brining is some sort of culinary alchemy, taking flavors deep into the meat in a most mysterious manner. A dry brine, also called pre-salting involves rubbing the salt directly onto the meat and skin, and then letting the meat rest in the refrigerator for a period of time before cooking.

First, the salt pulls moisture out of the meat! Yes, out.

This may seem like a bad thing at first, but a certain point, the meat then begins to pull this moisture back in, along with the salt. The natural brine is then reabsorbed into the meat and starts breaking down the tough muscle proteins and adding gobs of flavor.

The result is a tender, moist and flavorful turkey. Well worth the small effort that this process entails. Below is a super simple brining technique that you should start 2 days before you will be cooking your turkey.

Dry Brining A Turkey

First, rinse the turkey and dry it completely.

Next, salt liberally with Kosher salt (Diamond Crystal is a recommended brand). Figure 1 Tablespoon per 4 pounds. Don’t worry about over-salting.

Finally, place the salted bird in the refrigerator for about 48 hours. No need to cover the bird - just let the salting process work it’s magic.

When you are ready to cook your turkey take it out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Then proceed with your favorite method of cooking your turkey.

recipesMichael Liss