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"Dry-Brine" Turkeys -- Experiences/Reports?

This was my first year doing a "dry-brine" style of turkey (a term that irks some, I know, who think brining is only about salty soaking). I used a 14lb fresh natural bird, no injection.

VERDICT: tasty but too salty. Saltier than when I've wet-brined.

Here are three approaches that I consulted:

1. The one I followed was Alton Brown's in a recent Food Network special called "Countdown to Thanksgiving," which spatchcocks the bird:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al...

2. Saveur:
http://www.saveur.com/article/kitchen...

3. L.A.Times:
http://articles.latimes.com/2009/nov/...

Now I note that Alton Brown's approach does indeed call for over 50% more salt than does the Saveur recipe, and more also than the LA TImes one. And those recipes specify salt by weight, so I wonder whether removing the backbone was relevant as a weight issue? Should one reduce salt in keeping with the lower weight of a spatchcocked bird?

I notice, also, that some recipes call for wrapping the bird in plastic for the first few days of the curing, while others just say to air-dry the bird the way I did. Mine sat uncovered in the fridge for almost three days (68 hours). Looked great coming out of the oven. I rubbed the bird's dry skin with peanut oil before roasting.

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  1. I spatchcocked this year's turkey......salted the cavity, under the skin and the skin 12 hours before placing in the oven, The turkey sat in the fridge overnight uncovered and brought out to warm up closer to room temperature 90 and rubbed it with olive oil.....I did not rinse the bird. I placed it in the oven @ 475* for the first 20 minutes, then reduced down to 250*. I gave the bird a hot heat blast at the end to crisp the skin.

    The turkey was not overly salty in any way, but the pan drippings used to make the gravy was, so I had to add more stock to make the gravy . Usually, I make about 2 quarts, but with the added stock, it came out to three quarts......which was fine, because now I have a quart in the freezer for a future date.

    1. I had a 17ish pound bird that I spatchcocked, so I assume the total weight after removing the backbone, wing tips and gizzards was around 15lbs. I used 1T. of kosher salt per five lbs as per the LA Times article, so 3T (plus a little, as I measured generously). I put about 1T. under the skin, the rest on the outside, about 1.5T for the skin side and .5T for the cavity. Left it to "brine" for 3 days (tightly wrapped), air-dried it for one, didn't rinse. The result? Perfectly seasoned meat and skin (which was shatteringly crisp, like turkey candy!), delicious gravy from the drippings, no extra salt required. I made my gravy with unsalted stock in addition to the drippings and didn't add any additional salt - had I used canned stock it probably would have been too salty. I will never use another method!

      1. 3 days does seem a bit excessive. This year I did the CI glazed one; fresh 14 lb bird, flattened, poke holes in fat deposits, rub bone side with kosher salt, flip, separate skin and rub with more kosher salt under skin, tie legs, pat dry, rub surface of skin with a combination of kosher salt, pepper and baking powder, refrigerate overnight uncovered. Cook 2 1/2-3 hrs, remove, rest for 30min, raise temp to 450, glaze 3 times at 7 min intervals, remove and rest for 20 min before carving.

        The bird looked awesome, tasted great and wasn't too salty at all. Skin was perfectly crispy too. We've been smoking the turkey for the last couple of years, think I like this a lot better.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Pedr0

          Actually, several recipes call for 4 days with the salt.

          1. re: Bada Bing

            You'd think the bird would get all spongy and weird after that long.

            1. re: Pedr0

              Not spongy, but maybe "cured"? I'll make a more general reply below.

              1. re: Pedr0

                Unlike a wet brine I find the dry cure doesn't result in spongy or mushy textures. Terms I sometimes in reference to brining

            2. re: Pedr0

              Sorry - baking powder? I haven't heard of that before. What's the purpose?

              1. re: Sushiqueen36

                I remember watching ATK where they did that to a chicken. I don't remember fully, but it either helps dry the skin out better than salt, or does something chemically to the pH which aids in browning.

                1. re: Sushiqueen36

                  I believe baking soda can tenderize and denature some of the protein. Baking powder has baking soda along with some acids to neutralize the baking soda. Probably the same reasons. Both tenderize the meat and to allow crisp the skin.

              2. i prefer this approach:
                http://www.epicurious.com/articlesgui...

                only one hour per pound. you end up with incredibly juicy, flavorful meat that isn't too salty, and it requires far less time & effort than other methods.

                1. Did you use kosher salt or table salt? Table salt weighs more by volume, so you should reduce the amount by a third if you use table salt. I agree, though, that 3.5T for a 13-14lb bird seems like a bit much, especially considering that once you remove backbone and giblets, you'll probably be down to 11-12 lbs.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: biondanonima

                    I used kosher salt. A peculiarity of Brown's method is that he has you pulse the salt with herbs and spices in a coffee mill first, so the salt comes out finer, but the quantity is unaffected.

                    It will be interesting to see the results if anyone else here attempted the same recipe.

                    I'll try this again, but with less salt.

                    1. re: Bada Bing

                      I ground my salt with some dried herbs in a mortar and pestle before I applied it to the turkey - I don't think it affected the saltiness level, but then again, I used the same amount of salt as you did on a larger bird.