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Nov 14, 2009 10:20 AM

How long to dry brine? And when to air dry?

Last year I wet brined for 24 hours, air dried in the refrigerator for 36 (don't remember where I got the reccomendations for those particular numbers) and then grilled using the technique in Raichlen's BBQ Bible. It produced a turkey that my husband pronounced the most beautiful I had ever made (It really was gorgeous) and that was moist and delicious. (Well, as delicious as turkey ever gets. I'm really all about the sides.)

So clearly this year I need to mess with success. I want to try dry brining instead.

I've been reading here. Many people reccomend the Zuni Kitchen/LA Times method which calls for 4 days of dry brining. Several posts last year noted that part way through, the turkey looked very, very bad (blue and red IIRC) but that this turned out to be just how it went in the process of having the salt draw all the moisture out and then have it all drawn back in.

The turkey is already ordered and I will pick it up Monday morning, so I don't have 4 days with it.

I was looking at the dry brining recipe published last week in the NYT, which calls for about 2 days of brining in a plastic bag and then allowing to come to room temp before roasting.

I'm concerned about the relatively short brining time compared to the Zuni method. I also worry that I'm losing something by not air drying for a good long time.

Do you think that dry brining in the bag somehow speeds up the process so that 2 days is sufficient? I could brine in the bag for about 48 hours and then air dry for about 24.

Alternatively, I could just dry brine exposed to the air (no bag) for about 72.

Any thoughts?

I would definitely reccomend grilling the turkey. It was incredibly easy (no basting, no turning), came out really well and freed up highly limited oven space.

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  1. How big is your bird?? I'm picking up my fresh bird 12-14 lbs, on that Sunday, and washing it out, patting it dry, then rubbing about a 1/4 cup of kosher salt on it to dry brine until I take it out to roast Thursday. So, that's about 3 1/2 days. Uncovered. It is crucial, if you want brown and crispy skin, to let it air dry, and the air circulate around the bird, that is to put it on a rack. I'm not really sure what you're accomplishing by putting it in a plastic bag, maybe so it doesn't touch anything else in the fridge?? I don't know. I know cooking it in a bag produces a pretty good bird, but I don't do that either.

    I also don't baste when I roast it, and it's still really moist, juicy and beautifully browned. But I use my oven, since I have two, and I usually blast it with the convection for the last twenty minutes, unless it's already well-browned. Can't be bothered to grill it, we have a charcoal weber, and it would need A LOT of charcoal to maintain the temp. Good luck!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Phurstluv

      I'm picking up an 8-10 lb turkey on Monday morning. I could have it rubbed with kosher salt and in the refrigerator by noon, so that will give me 3 full days. I have no idea what brining in a bag is supposed to accomplish. It's just the method the NYT published.

      I think I will try dry brining exposed to the air, no bag, for 3 days and hope that does it. I'll let you all know.

    2. Just an update: I picked up my 15.63# bird yesterday and she is now dry brining in the 2nd fridge, used a whole quarter cup of kosher salt on it.

      I figured out why they tell you to put it in a bag first - the bird supposedly reabosorbs some of the moisture lost, so on the 2nd day there is moisture in the bag, and on the 3rd day it's gone. Something like that. Oh well, I bagged the bag, and am letting it air dry for the full time. Not worried about that much moisture loss, since it has come out beautifully each time I've done it this way.

      Best of luck anyway, hope you find the method as easy and forgiving as I have!!

      1. I'm trying this for the first time with a 7 lb. breast. I've done countless turkeys with wet brines and have successfully cooked them in my smoker.

        I think I may have used too much salt. I though the recipe was 1 tablespoon of salt per pound, so I used 7 tablespoons. I also used about 4 tablespoons of brown sugar. I started the dry brine last night. It didn't look like too much salt after I rubbed it in, but I'm starting to get a little worried.

        On the other hand, I used the same dry brine mixture and proportions on a couple of cornish game hens this weekend (a test run for dry brining) and they came out fine. I'm wondering if I should rinse the breast before letting it sit overnight to air dry in the fridge.

        5 Replies
        1. re: 4X4

          For myself, bought my 12lb turkey on Friday of last week and have been "dry brining" for the past four days. Is 5 days plus 1 day to dry the turkey skin to long for brining? Is it going to be to salt? I only sprinkled about 4-5 tablespoons of salt through out the turkey. Any advice?

          1. re: 4X4

            All the dry brine recipes I've seen (Cook's Illus. and LA Times) suggest a tablespoon of salt per every 5 lbs.

            1. re: Humbucker

              I know that now. When I was applying the brine I thought it was a tablespoon per pound. Should I rinse it off since I used too much?

              1. re: 4X4

                I would brush or rinse some salt off if you can. Otherwise I think you will end up with a turkey salt lick. If you do it today you should catch it before it is absorbed.

                1. re: sparkareno

                  That's what I plan to do when I get home tonight.

          2. hmmm, what would happen if I dry brine in a bag and then let it air dry for another 12-24 hours? The problem for me is that we just don't have space in the fridge for our 15 pound bird so right now its in a freezer container on the porch with ice [as its about 45 degrees out, I'm not concerned]. I can see leaving it exposed to air over night outside---it will be cold enough---but not longer than that because there is no where to put it.

            then again, maybe if we completely clear out the top shelf of the fridge and move the milk and herring to the porch with the ice and the cooler and put the turkey on the top shelf?????

            2 Replies
            1. re: jenn

              I've done this for the past two years (and am doing it again this year) and I dry brine in a bag for three days and then leave it uncovered for about a day (well, I rub in the salt on Sunday night, put it in the bag, and then uncover on Wednesday night), and it works great. The point of the bag is to let the turkey reabsorb the liquid, and also to protect everything in your fridge from the turkey (and vice versa). I know it's a lot easier to have just big plastic bag with the turkey in it in my fridge rather than a roasting pan with a turkey on it.

              1. re: JasmineG

                How does the turkey absorb the moisture from the bag though? Unless the part that released it is touching the moisture, wouldn't it just pool at the bottom? unless you can get a really really tight seal on the bag (I know I couldn't with a ziplock). I was thinking of saran wrapping the bird. That's what I do when I presalt my steaks for an hour or two.