How to Cure a Turkey: Two Delicious Methods for a Flavorful Feast

Are you tired of the same old dry, bland turkey? Do you crave a juicy, flavorful bird that will impress your guests and leave them wanting more? If so, then curing your turkey is the answer! This simple technique infuses the meat with incredible flavor and keeps it moist, making it the perfect centerpiece for any special occasion

In this guide, we’ll explore two popular curing methods: dry-brining and smoke-curing. We’ll also delve into the intricacies of each method, providing you with all the information you need to achieve curing success.

Dry-Brining: A Simple and Effective Technique

Dry-brining is a fantastic option for those who want to maximize flavor without the hassle of submerging the turkey in a brine solution. This method involves rubbing a flavorful salt mixture directly onto the turkey’s skin allowing it to penetrate the meat and draw out moisture.


  • 3 tablespoons (54 g) of kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (3 g) of dried herbs, like thyme, sage, and rosemary, or a blend
  • 3/4 teaspoon (1.5 g) of freshly ground black pepper
  • 14 to 16 lb (6.4 to 7.3 kg) whole turkey, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons (36 g) of light brown sugar, optional


  1. Thaw your turkey: Begin by thawing your turkey in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days before curing. Ensure it’s completely thawed before proceeding.
  2. Remove giblets: Once thawed, remove the giblets from the turkey’s cavity and discard them or save them for another use.
  3. Pat the turkey dry: Use paper towels to thoroughly pat the turkey’s skin dry, removing any excess moisture.
  4. Loosen the skin: Gently loosen the skin on the breast and legs by inserting your fingers underneath it. This creates space for the dry brine to penetrate the meat.
  5. Mix the dry brine: Combine the kosher salt, herbs, pepper, and optional brown sugar in a small bowl.
  6. Season the turkey: Season the turkey’s cavity and the loosened skin with the dry brine mixture. Use approximately 2 teaspoons (5 g) for the cavity and 4 teaspoons (10 g) for the breast and legs.
  7. Refrigerate the turkey: Place the seasoned turkey in a roasting dish and refrigerate it for at least 1 day and up to 3 days. This allows the salt to work its magic and infuse the meat with flavor.
  8. Cook the turkey: After curing, you can cook your turkey using your preferred method, such as roasting, grilling, frying, or smoking. Ensure the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) before serving.

Smoke-Curing: A Traditional Method for a Smoky Flavor

Smoke-curing is a time-honored tradition that adds a delicious smoky flavor to the turkey. This method involves submerging the turkey in a brine solution containing salt, sugar, and cure, followed by smoking it to perfection.


  • 1 gallon (3.8 L) of cold water
  • 1.6 ounces (100 g) of saltpeter or cure that contains 6.25% sodium nitrate
  • 1 pound (450 g) of non-iodized salt
  • 2.4 ounces (68 g) of brown or white sugar
  • 14 to 16 lb (6.4 to 7.3 kg) whole turkey, thawed


  1. Thaw the turkey: Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator for 3 days before curing.
  2. Prepare the brine: In a large container, combine the cold water, saltpeter, salt, and sugar. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve completely.
  3. Submerge the turkey: Place the turkey in the brine solution, ensuring it’s completely covered.
  4. Refrigerate the turkey: Refrigerate the turkey in the brine solution for 3 to 5 days, depending on the size of the turkey.
  5. Remove the turkey: After curing, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it thoroughly under cold water.
  6. Pat the turkey dry: Pat the turkey dry with paper towels.
  7. Smoke the turkey: Smoke the turkey at 155°F (68°C) for 2 hours, then increase the temperature to 185-200°F (85-93°C) and continue smoking until the internal temperature reaches 160°F (71°C).
  8. Carve and serve: Let the turkey rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving.

Tips for Curing Success:

  • Use a meat thermometer: Always use a meat thermometer to ensure the turkey reaches a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) before serving.
  • Choose a high-quality turkey: Opt for a fresh, high-quality turkey for the best results.
  • Experiment with flavors: Feel free to experiment with different herbs and spices to create your own unique dry brine or brine solution.
  • Follow the instructions carefully: Curing involves precise measurements and timing, so be sure to follow the instructions carefully to ensure success.

Curing your turkey is a fantastic way to elevate your Thanksgiving or special occasion feast. With two delicious methods to choose from, you can achieve a flavorful, juicy turkey that will impress your guests and leave them wanting more. So, grab your turkey, choose your preferred curing method, and get ready to experience the magic of curing!


  • Before cooking a frozen turkey, allow it to thaw for at least three days and brine it for a few days. When cooking a large meal, you don’t want to feel rushed! Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
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  • Choosing a turkey that isn’t pre-salted or kosher is crucial because you will be adding salt to it during the curing process. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0 .
  • The USDA recommends against washing your turkey because it could potentially contaminate your workspace with bacteria. [17] Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0 .
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The difference between Curing, Brining, and Standard Smoking a Turkey Part 1


How long do you cure a turkey?

Cover Brine Curing Procedure Soaking time depends on the size of the bird. For example, keep a 2-pound broiler in the brine for 2-3 days. Cure larger birds for one day per pound of carcass.

Can turkey be dry cured?

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 does cured turkey last?

Poultry: Cured and smoked poultry will last up to two weeks in the refrigerator or over a year in the freezer.

How do you cook a cured turkey?

To cook the turkey, fire your smoker at 155 degrees F. Cook the turkey at this temperature for 2 hours, then raise the temperature to 185–200 and cook the turkey until the deepest part of the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees. Because the turkey is cured, we can cook it at a lower temperature than we could if it wasn’t cured.

How do you keep a Turkey submerged in brine?

Chill the brine and add the turkey, making sure to completely cover the turkey with brine. The best way to contain the brine and keep the meat submerged is using the Turkey Tom Briner Bucket. This bucket has an adjustable-height locking plate that makes it easy to hold the meat under water.

How do you remove skin from a turkey breast?

Pat the turkey with a paper towel and use your fingers to loosen the skin. Tear off a paper towel and press it over the turkey skin to get rid of moisture. Then, push your fingers under the skin on the breast and slide your hand along the meat so the skin loosens. Loosen the skin on the legs too.

Can I make my own turkey brine?

While you can just purchase a turkey brine kit, we like to make our own brine with our family recipe! Ingredients: Steps: Fill a 5 gallon bucket ⅓ of the way full with cool water. Add in all ingredients and mix. Submerge the turkey, top with additional water. Refrigerate for a minimum of 5 hours and up to 48 hours.

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