No matter how you change things up during other holidays or family occasions, on Thanksgiving there is almost a 100% chance there is a turkey on your table.
What is Dry Brining?
Brining the turkey results in meat that is moist and flavorful – all of those complaints about dry breast meat will be but a distant memory once you master this simple technique. Dry brining is great because is doesn’t require more space in the fridge than the turkey itself, and not need for constantly changing ice in a big ice bath.
The basis of dry brining is rubbing the turkey with salt and let it sit in the fridge for at least a day, and up to three, depending on the size of the bird. The salt pulls the moisture out from the turkey, and then that moisture essentially dissolves the salt, which is absorbed back into the bird. This results in a turkey that is super moist and deeply flavorful.
How to Dry Brine a Turkey
Start the brining process with a fresh, defrosted or mostly defrosted turkey. Buy the best turkey you can afford – it really makes a difference. To dry brine a turkey you must use kosher salt – regular table salt will result in a bird that is way too salty and also mushy in texture.
What Kind of Turkey to Buy
There are so many turkeys on the market – it’s hard to know which to buy. You can certainly buy frozen and defrost, but starting right before the holiday season, there are many fresh turkeys to be found. There are lots of inexpensive birds available on sale during the holidays, but if you can, spend the extra money; it’s good to find a turkey that is either pasture raised or free range, or organic. Or seek out an heirloom variety, which truly means better quality, better flavor, and better ethics. Kosher turkeys are usually more flavorful and raised more humanely as well. If you can get a turkey that’s raised locally, wow, good on you.
The stuffing on the side, in case you are wondering, is Bread Stuffing with Turkey Sausage. It’s a good one. The vegetables are Roasted Winter Vegetables Sriracha Honey Glaze and Shredded Sauteed Brussels Sprouts.
Other Thanksgiving Recipes:
- Spoonbread Corn Pudding
- Cornbread and Mushroom Stuffing
- Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Roasted Garlic
- Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo and Toasted Bread Crumbs
- Romaine, Pear, and Goat Cheese Salad
- Sauteed Kale and Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Dry Brined Holiday Turkey
- 1 12- to 16-pound turkey
- 3 tablespoons Kosher salt
- 1 1 orange cut into quarters
- 2 medium yellow onions peeled and halved
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 cup chicken broth
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- Rinse the chicken and pat it dry with a clean dishtowel or paper towels. Rub 1 tablespoon of the salt into the cavity of the turkey. Rub the skin with the remaining 2 tablespoons salt, lifting the skin from the breast as you can without tearing it, and rubbing some of the salt under the skin. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 1 to 3 days.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. Pat the bird dry, but do not rinse.
- Place the orange sections, onions halves, and rosemary and thyme sprigs into the cavity of the bird. Tuck the wings behind the back of the bird and place it in a rack in a roasting pan breast side up. Tie the legs closed (some birds have a cool little plastic gadget that you can tuck the tips of the legs into, thus closing up the cavity).
- Rub the softened butter all over the turkey, including the sides. Season generously with the pepper. Place into the oven.
- After 10 minutes, when the pan is hot, pour the wine and chicken broth into the pan around the turkey. Roast another 30 minutes (40 minutes in all at 450°F) and then reduce the heat to 350°F. Start checking after 2 hours with an internal thermometer, sticking it into the deepest part of the thigh, and making sure that it does not touch bone. The temperature should be 160°F. If as the turkey is cooking the top starts to get too browned just tent a large piece of tin foil over the top of the bird.
- When the turkey is finished cooking remove it to a cutting board with a moat, tipping any juices that have accumulated in the turkey back into the roasting pan. Let the turkey sit, tented with foil, for at least 30 minutes.
- Pour all of the liquid from the roasting pan into a large measuring cup. If the bottom of the pan is burned in any way, skip the next step, but if not place the roasting pan over two burners on medium-high heat, and add another 1/2 cup of wine, broth or water to the pan, scraping to loosen any little bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add this liquid to the measuring cup. Put it into the fridge and when the fat has risen to the top, use a spoon to scrape off most of it and discard.
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