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Nov 12, 2007 03:16 PM

Dry-Brining a turkey

Last year, in the LA Times, Russ Parsons published an article about dry-brining vs regular brining and dry-brining was declared the winner. The link to that article is not longer up, does anyone know of a good dry-brine recipe for a 12-14 lb turkey?

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  1. Here's a link to Russ Parsons Nov 17, 2006 LA Times article reprinted at a different newspaper.

    "A Thanksgiving turkey worth its salt - Russ Parsons"

    Here is a paraphrased version of the final, successful technique used by Russ Parsons to Dry Brine a Turkey:

    Dry Brined Turkey

    Buy an unprocessed or non-enhanced turkey of about 12 to 16 pounds.

    Salting works like brining, without the water. Just sprinkle the turkey with kosher salt, then store it in the fridge for 4-days for a 12- to 16-pound bird. At first, the salt pulls moisture from the meat, but as time passes, almost all of those juices are reabsorbed, bringing the salt along with them.

    Salt a 12-16 lb thawed turkey with 1-Tbs kosher salt for every 5-lbs of bird. Concentrate the distribution of salt on the thickest parts of the meat, the breast and the thigh.

    Store salted turkey in fridge in a 2-1/2-gallon sealed plastic bag.

    After three days, remove turkey from bag. There should be no salt visible on the skin surface and the skin should be moist but not wet. Place turkey, breast side up on a platter. Return to fridge and allow the turkey air-dry in the refrigerator overnight, prior to cooking.

    Preheat the oven to 425 F. Brush melted butter over all of the turkey and cook bird uncovered. Do not stuff turkey. Do not baste the turkey during cooking.

    Start the salted bird at 425 degrees, breast-side down. After 30 minutes, flip the bird right side up and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees for the remainder of the cooking.

    For doneness, you are aiming for a final temperature of 165 degrees measured in the deepest part of the thigh.

    A 15-lb turkey should take roughly 3-hours to cook.

    Let the bird sit and rest for 30 minutes after removing from oven, to finish cooking and enable the juices to redistribute evenly through the meat prior to slicing and serving.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Antilope

      A question~ I roasted a small Trader Joe's Brined turkey yesterday just in order to make my stock ahead for Thanksgiving, (and have some sandwiches!). I always deconstruct my turkey, (even on Thanksgiving, sorry Norman Rockwell) taking off the legs and removing the backbone of the breast, so that I can cook the turkey in less than 2 hours. I seasoned it with sea salt and smoked paprika, and didn't think it was salty tasting, but I did think the skin could benefit from the drying process. Do you think I can use this Parson's method with an already brined turkey, maybe cutting down on the salt in the rub slightly? Guess I'm not ready to let go of the wet brining process, but the simplicity of the dry brining intrigues me.

      1. re: donali

        When I wet brined, I always let the turkey dry out for a day (in the fridge) to get a crispier skin. It always worked well.

        This year, I'm trying the dry brine for the first time. I've made that zuni chicken for years. Can't believe I never tried it on a turkey. Although, this will be first turkey since 2006.

      2. re: Antilope

        Will coarse kosher salt work with the dry brine technique or do I need to buy some finer salt? What if I blend the coarse salt with herbs before brining?

        Wet brining is so messy! I'm looking forward to trying dry brining.


        1. re: rtms

          I use regular kosher salt and that works fine. You definitely can blend it with herbs, I've done that. I seem to recall fresh thyme and some lemon zest.

          1. re: rtms

            kosher salt is preferred (easier to sprinkle in a measured way). use a mortar and pestle to grind herbs/flavorings with the salt if you want ... thyme and lemon is good; i also like orange zest and pimenton.

        2. Dundie, today's LA Times (Wednesday, November 14, 2007) features Russ Parsons' "The Ulimate Turkey" Recipe on Page F6. Note that Russ Parson changed his cooking method from his recipe last year.

          This year's cooking method -- Bake Breastside down for 30 minutes at 325 F; Turn Turkey Breastside up for an additional 1.5 hours at 325 F. Then increase oven to 425 F and roast until temperature in the deepest part of the thigh reaches 160 F (about an additional 20-30 minutes).

          Last year's cooking method -- Bake Breastside up for 30 minutes at 425 F. Reduce oven to 325 F, turn Turkey Breastside up and roast until the temperature in the deepest part of the thigh reaches 165 F.

          1. I always cook the turkey (usually 12-15 lbs) at 400 the whole time turning it a few times: 40 minutes breast down, 15 on one side, 15 on the other side, and then breast up for 45 minutes. It's amazing that a 14 lb bird is done in under 2 hours, is crispy brown and juicy (I always brine) and perfectly cooked all the way through every time.

            1 Reply
            1. re: plafield

              Do you use a rack? If so, does the breast get rack marks from being upside down?

            2. Interesting. The Washington Post just had an article today that said wet brining was better:


              1 Reply
              1. re: chowser

                The writer from the Washington Post did it wrong, though. She rubbed the salt under the skin, which created pockets of saltiness, as opposed to rubbing it on top of the skin, which makes for a more even brine.

              2. I used this method last year after many years of brining. The turkey was just as juicy as with the brining method and had a better texture. Flavorwise it was better. It was also much less labor intensive than dealing with all the water and ice. It just requires a little more advance planning. I won't ever brine again.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Tinitime

                  Same situation with our turkey this year. It's dry brine from now on!