How Long Should a Turkey Dry Brine?

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Many people have different ideas about the best way to prepare a turkey for Thanksgiving. To cut right to the chase, the official Epi position is that dry-brining is the only brine method you should think about when preparing a holiday bird. Should you make a dry-brine turkey? Wet-brine? Skip brining entirely? It simply involves sprinkling salt (and possibly a few other seasonings) over the raw turkey and letting it sit in the refrigerator for a few days. It’s far simpler to execute than a wet brine, and the meat is so flavorful that your guests won’t ever complain about dry, tasteless meat again. But let’s back up:

Unlocking the Secrets of Juicy and Flavorful Turkey with Dry Brining

Dry brining is a simple yet powerful technique that transforms your Thanksgiving turkey into a masterpiece of juiciness and flavor. This guide delves into the optimal dry brining duration for turkeys of various sizes, ensuring a perfect result every time.

The Magic of Dry Brining

Dry brining involves thoroughly coating your turkey with a mixture of salt herbs and spices, then letting it rest uncovered in the refrigerator for a specific period. This process works its magic in several ways:

  • Moisture Retention: Salt draws out the turkey’s natural juices, dissolving into them and creating a brine within the meat. This brine is then reabsorbed, keeping the turkey incredibly moist and tender throughout cooking.
  • Flavor Enhancement: The salt and spices penetrate deep into the meat, infusing it with incredible flavor from the inside out. This results in a turkey that tastes as good as it looks.
  • Crispy Skin: The uncovered brining process allows the skin to dry out slightly, promoting a beautifully crisp and golden-brown finish when roasted.

Finding the Perfect Brining Time

The ideal dry brining duration depends on the size of your turkey:

  • 12-14 pounds: 12-24 hours
  • 14-18 pounds: 24-36 hours
  • 18-20 pounds: 36-48 hours
  • 20+ pounds: 48-72 hours

Beyond 24 Hours: Unlocking Even Greater Flavor and Juiciness

While a 12-24 hour dry brine yields fantastic results, extending the process beyond 24 hours unlocks even greater depths of flavor and juiciness. For brines exceeding 24 hours, loosely cover the turkey with plastic wrap or cheesecloth to prevent excessive moisture loss through evaporation.

Tips for a Perfect Dry Brine

  • Use kosher salt: Its coarser texture and cleaner flavor make it ideal for brining.
  • Pat the turkey dry: Ensure the skin is completely dry before applying the brine.
  • Refrigerate uncovered: This allows the skin to dry out for optimal crispness.
  • Let the turkey rest at room temperature before roasting: This ensures even cooking and prevents a cold center.

Dry brining is a simple yet effective technique that elevates your Thanksgiving turkey to new heights of flavor and juiciness. By following the recommended brining times based on your turkey’s size, you can achieve a perfectly cooked masterpiece that will impress your guests and leave them wanting more. So, embrace the power of dry brining and prepare to experience the ultimate Thanksgiving turkey!

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Dry brining vs. wet brining:

Your Thanksgiving turkey can be brined in one of two ways: wet or dry. To dry brine a turkey, all you have to do is coat it with a mixture of herbs and salt and refrigerate it for several hours (about an hour for each pound). A little more complicated is wet brining, which calls for soaking a turkey for several hours or overnight in a salt-water solution that may also contain herbs, spices, and aromatics. Ale or molasses are occasionally added to the water.

Why dry-brining results in the best turkey:

The wet-brining method involves some complex maneuvers. To start, you’ll need to find a large bucket or bag that the turkey can soak in. It’s a process prone to nightmarish outcomes (#throwback to when former Epi food editor Rhoda Boone ended up with a fridge flooded with turkey water). These kinds of issues are much less common when preparing a dry-brined turkey. Either way, you’ll need to clear some space in the refrigerator because that’s just how Thanksgiving turkeys are.

Dry-brining has more going for it than mere user-friendliness. It also makes the skin of the turkey extra crispy. The skin dries out while the turkey is left uncovered in the refrigerator, which makes it crisp beautifully in the oven. Furthermore, dry-brining guarantees that the seasoning permeates the entire turkey meat.

When you brine a bird without water, the salt extracts moisture from the bird, which dissolves the salt. When the salt dissolves, it mixes with the turkey juices and is reabsorbed by the meat. Muscle proteins are broken down during the process, resulting in the most delicious, juicy, and well-seasoned turkey you’ve ever tasted—no bashing or buckets needed.

How to Dry Brine a Turkey | Holiday Tips and Recipe Ideas | Whole Foods Market


Is it worth dry brining a turkey for 12 hours?

I recommend dry brining a turkey for at least 24 hours. If you have less time, do a wet brine, which works in as few as 12 hours. If you want to brine a turkey in 1 day, do a wet brine.

Do I rinse the turkey after dry brining?

And if you’re wondering, no—you don’t need to rinse the bird, whether it’s been dry-brined or wet-brined, before adding more seasoning and roasting. Again, the bird needs to be dry, and Youngman also notes “it’s not particularly sanitary to wash meat in the sink.”

Is it possible to dry brine too long?

With dry brining, results will backfire if left for too long. First, you salt both sides of your steak as mentioned above. The key is to not go too heavy or too light on the salt. Next, leave it in the fridge for around 12-20 hours.

How do you Dry Brine a Turkey?

In a small bowl, mix the sugar, salt, thyme, sage, and pepper for the dry brine. Place the turkey on the rack of a baking sheet. Rub and pat the dry brine all over the turkey, including inside the cavity. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours. Using damp paper towels, brush the dry brine off the turkey.

Can You brine a Turkey a day before cooking?

Cover the turkey with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. Uncover the turkey 1 day before cooking, allowing the skin to dry. Let the turkey come to room temperature 1 hour before cooking. ENJOY! Up to 1 day before brining the turkey, prepare the brine mixture as directed.

How do you brine a Thanksgiving turkey?

But let’s back up: There are two ways to brine your Thanksgiving turkey: a wet brine or a dry brine. Dry brining simply involves rubbing a turkey in a salt-and-herb mixture and letting it sit in the refrigerator for many hours (usually about one hour per pound).

How long do you cook a Turkey in a brine?

Slide that turkey onto a baking sheet and put it in the fridge uncovered. Twenty four hours will give you good results for smaller birds, but for the best flavor, you want the brine to work its magic for three days. Cook your turkey. Then, you’re ready to roast, fry, or smoke.

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