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Help! Did I ruin my turkey???

Having read the recipe for dry-brining a turkey last week, and thinking I remembered it in its essentials (1 T of kosher salt per lb. of turkey, which I ground with some sage, thyme and pepper), and after a hectic weekend, I cut out the backbone and spatchcocked the bird, and then rubbed the salt on, inside and out. It seemed like a lot of salt, so I didn't use all of it, but I did use most of it; and I didn't bother to go back and check the recipe. So today I did check the recipe. Doh! It's a Tablespoon of salt per 5 lb. of bird weight! Seems like I used probably 4 to 5 times as much salt as I should have! What should I do? Rush back home (not a very good excuse to leave work early - at least I don't think my boss would think so....) and rinse it off? Just rinse it off when I get home? Rinse it off tomorrow? Thinking about the process - the salt is supposed to draw liquid out of the bird, which is then reaborbed with the salt and other spices a day or so later - I'm worried that if it draws the moisture out, and then I rinse it off, the meat won't reabsorb the liquid, and I'll have a dry turkey. And of course if I leave it on, it'll be too salty.

Any ideas or solutions? Anyone else make this bonehead mistake, so you can tell me what you did, or at least help me not feel like an idiot?

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  1. OK, probably a bummer but not disastrous. On America's Test Kitchen today they made a dry-brined bird (14 pounds) using about 5 tablespoons of salt total. So you used, what, 12-15 tablespoons? Less than three times the amount. So what I'd do is, I'd go home and WIPE off as much as I could (provided it hasn't completely dissolved) and then cross my fingers and hope for the best!

    Good luck!

    1. i'd rinse it off, and then dry the bird.

      1 Reply
      1. re: alkapal

        Why do you suggest drying the turkey? I'm concerned that will cause the meat to be dry; if it's expelled moisture because of the salt, which it's supposed to be doing about this stage in the process, and I dry it, there won't be any moisture for it to reaborb.

      2. You should be fine. The suggested amount of salt that most dry brine recipes state are usually the minimum you need to dry brine the bird. Using more salt, esp. the amount you used, won't make a material difference.

        1. Don't panic....Because you used salt inside & out, I'd immerse the bird in cold water and let it sit in the water at least a few hours, because like anything else with excessive salt, it needs to be soaked out. Don't wait until tomorrow because the longer the salt sits in the meat, the saltier it will be. Then drain it and re-season with the other seasonings and if you like your meat salty, add more but I would advise against it.

          1. OK, 4 answers, 4 different suggestions. You guys aren't making this any easier! Seriously, I am grateful, and you've made me feel that maybe it won't be a total disaster, which is good.... Anyway, to provide specifics, it's a 12-lb. turkey, probably closer to 11 now that I've taken out the neck, giblets and backbone, and I probably used about 8 T of salt.

            At this point I'm thinking rinse it off - middle ground between ipsedixit's do nothing and Cheryl's soak it for several hours. Thanks!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bat Guano

              8 T of salt? Eh, I wouldn't even worry about it.

              1. bat guano, bat guano, what did you do?
                dry off the turkey and then take a chew?
                or let the salt stay, and then eat away?
                oh, bat guano, what did you do?

                1 Reply
                1. re: alkapal

                  Too salted a turkey! I cry;
                  So I rinsed it, and gave it a try.
                  Roasted it completely,
                  And then smiled sweetly:
                  For salty is better than dry!

                  To translate, I got busy/lazy and did nothing to it for a day or two, then rinsed it off on Wednesday night, air dried it in the refrigerator overnight, and cooked as usual. It was a bit saltier than I prefer, especially the breast, which seemed to absorb more salt than the dark meat, but not too bad, really quite juicy and tasty. I consider the experiment a success, and will do it again, with a bit less salt next time. Thanks for your concern!

                2. Follow-up note: I made a turkey stock and soup from the carcass and pan drippings (well, some of the pan drippings dripped directly into the stuffing, which was delicious; then I took the stuffing out to crisp up, and collected the rest of the drippings). Again, just on the verge of being too salty (for me; my GF said it was delicious, best soup I ever made, so different salt levels for different people).