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Nov 22, 2012 04:30 PM

Dry Brine Question

Today I cooked dry-brined turkey, using only whole legs and thigh pieces. The turkey turned out fantastic tasting, however, the turkey pieces took entirely too long to cook in my opinion. I used a thermometer. In fact, I used several themometers to get the thigh meat to 165 at the thickest part, as the recipe specified. The temp was perfect. The meat pulled away from the bone and all of this happened in 30 minutes. I was afraid the meat would not be cooked, and relied on the thermometers and took the pan out, allowing the pieces to rest for 1/2 hour. When it was time to eat, the turkey meat (mind you it was all dark meat) was almost red inside, very wet and spongy. I wasn't certain if this was due to the brining and it was supposed to be that way, or it was underdone. Nevertheless, being afraid to eat it that way, I had to (of all things) nuke the turkey because everything else was on the table and it was time to eat. <sigh>. While eating, I put the remaining turkey pieces back in the oven for 1/2 hour. Took it out, let it rest, cut one thigh, and had to put the pan back in the oven for yet another 1/2 hour. The pieces were never frozen, and had brined for two days and were not overly cold when I put them in the oven. I was under the impression that when brining (albeit wet), the meat would cook faster.

I realize everyone is probably tired of turkey questions, but what did I do (if anything) wrong? I cannot imagine turkey pieces taking so very long to cook. My oven temp was at 325 which was what the recipe called for.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions on such a busy family day.


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  1. Dark meat does better cooked to 170 degrees.

    1. First, you must realize everyone's idea of how any roasted meat should be is not the same. Some like fall apart tender and some prefer a little more fight and can achieve both results using different roasting temperatures.

      There are also some variables that can affect your results......, such as the pan you used and the position of the shelf in the oven. You also do not mention the size of the turkey pieces. Did they come off a 12 pound bird.....or a larger 20 pound bird......I do realize you purchased pieces...but were the pieces the same size? This and many more concerns could affect you cooking time. Recipes are a guideline....sometimes you have to make adjustment.s

      While many recipes call for higher temps to roast thighs....e.g., 450* for 60 minutes.....again all individual pieces of meat and all ovens are different.

      My suggestion to you is to consider using a lower temperature to roast your meats and the variances in taking meat temperatures will not vary. You can cook until its done, or you can use basic guidelines for time per pound at specific temperatures.

      1 Reply
      1. re: fourunder

        Well stated! We are exposed to so many opinions on how to cook turkey that perhaps we overlook an clear understanding of what we are cooking and what expectations we may bring to the effort. By their nature turkeys consist of different muscle groups that vary in density and strength/tightness which affects the time it takes for heat to penetrate them. Those differences become more highly variable the older and larger the bird. Understanding the results different "target" temperatures will achieve is a key to anticipating when the bird or bird parts will be ready as well as what to expect. For most turkeys, pulling legs or thighs at 170 degrees will result in redder meats than at 185 or 190 degrees but with appreciatively more retained moisture. The density of the muscles will result in appreciatively more chew effort at 170 than at 185. The amount of time those cooked pieces spend "resting" after being pulled from the oven aLso make a difference in color and tenderness or toughness of the cooked pieces. Finally as you can imagine the speed at which you drive your range also impacts the results as a thigh nuked to 185 in 7 minutes is going to be inherently tougher than one cooked to the same temp but via a more gradual 275 degree oven roasting process which is then rested for another 30 minutes. Taking temps along the way is important but checking multiple test points (especially as you approach the targeted temp) is critical due the internal variability of the bird's structure. Knowledge is power so keeping track of your experiences (both of what succeeded and what did not) is important to help ensure your next effort can duplicate (or improve upon) the current experience.