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Having cold feet on dry-brined turkey

cathyeats Nov 25, 2013 09:29 PM

I started dry-brining my turkey but am suddenly questioning this decision. First, I'm worried about the pan juices being too salty to use for gravy (I used 1/4 cup kosher salt for a 17 pound bird.) Should I rinse and dry it before the last step of leaving it uncovered in the fridge for 24 hours? Second, I read that dry-brined turkeys produce very little in the way of pan juices, because salt draws out the moisture. Is this true? This will be a big problem for me. Any advice appreciated!

  1. fldhkybnva Nov 26, 2013 02:49 PM

    Do the dry briners salt above and under skin?

    6 Replies
    1. re: fldhkybnva
      rainey Nov 26, 2013 02:54 PM

      Doesn't make much sense to do in *on* the skin. The skin's function is to protect the flesh from foreign objects. Gotta get stuff *under* the skin for them to penetrate.

      1. re: fldhkybnva
        mike0989 Nov 26, 2013 02:56 PM

        I just sprinkle it right on the skin. It's not an overnight process with something as big as a turkey. It will take 2 - 3 days to absorb into the bird.

        1. re: mike0989
          fldhkybnva Nov 26, 2013 03:03 PM

          Rainey might disagree :)

          1. re: fldhkybnva
            rainey Nov 26, 2013 03:13 PM

            Not about the 2 or 3 days part.

        2. re: fldhkybnva
          TorontoJo Nov 26, 2013 03:24 PM

          I've always salted on the skin and have had no problem having the moisture draw out, then get reabsorbed. I've never actually seen a dry brine recipe that calls for under the skin (with the exception of rainey, of course).

          1. re: fldhkybnva
            Sushiqueen36 Nov 26, 2013 03:28 PM

            I did a little under the skin this time because I couldn't resist but I've just done on top before - plus in the cavity.

          2. l
            LorenzoGA Nov 26, 2013 11:06 AM

            Just like wet brining, dry brining (formerly known simply as salting!) keeps turkey moist by inhibiting the muscle fibers from exuding liquid during cooking. A wet-brined turkey will be, well, wetter than a dry-brined turkey because it absorbs the liquid brine, but both should turn out juicy. Some people prefer a dry-brined turkey over a wet-brined turkey because they believe a wet-brined turkey will be so wet that it dilutes the turkey meat flavor. It is a matter of personal taste as to which is preferable.

            1. LaureltQ Nov 26, 2013 08:33 AM

              I have dry brined and wet brined and will not go back to a wet brine. Messy and wasteful. The flesh on a dry brined bird is less spongey.

              I have experienced saltier pan drippings, but that is easily overcome by using totally unsalted turkey stock to make the gravy.

              2 Replies
              1. re: LaureltQ
                mike0989 Nov 26, 2013 02:11 PM

                I've never experienced salty gravy using the ratio I gave above. For a 17 lb bird, that would be roughly 3 1/2 tbs, plus a anoth 1/2 to go in the cavity. The OP should be fine.

                1. re: mike0989
                  rainey Nov 26, 2013 02:53 PM

                  Right! The trick is you don't season the gravy until the end. If it needs less salt, it needs less salt but you're not going to be unhappy with the result if you season to taste.

              2. w
                Westminstress Nov 26, 2013 07:26 AM

                Agreed, you should stick with the dry brine. Do not rinse the bird! However, I have noticed that with the dry brined bird there are fewer drippings and they are saltier. Since you have a 17 pound bird you should be fine. But if your family goes through a lot of gravy, you might want to make some gravy in advance and keep it a bit underseasoned. Then on T Day you can mix the pre-made gravy with the gravy made from your turkey drippings and be absolutely guaranteed that you will end up with an ample amount of properly seasoned gravy. This is what I have done for the last few years, and it has always worked for me.

                1. m
                  mike0989 Nov 26, 2013 06:34 AM

                  Rule of thumb is 1 tbs salt per 5 lbs of bird. I dry brine in a large freezer bag or or a brining bag. The bird initally gives of a bit of moisutre, but then reabsorbs it.

                  1. c
                    cathyeats Nov 26, 2013 05:59 AM

                    Thanks, everybody! Getting my confidence back....

                    1. s
                      Sushiqueen36 Nov 25, 2013 10:36 PM

                      Keep with the dry brine. You're fine. The salt draws out the moisture but it is reabsorbed into the meat.

                      Read this, you'll feel better:


                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Sushiqueen36
                        BigE Nov 26, 2013 07:11 AM

                        Agreed. I've done dry brine for the last few years, and I'll never mess with a wet brine again.

                        1. re: Sushiqueen36
                          LorenzoGA Nov 26, 2013 03:31 PM

                          I doubt much of the liquid that gets drawn out by the salt gets reabsorbed--sounds like myth to me. It seems reasonable to believe that most of the liquid that's drawn out evaporates into the air. The primary mechanism by which dry-brining keeps a turkey moist is simply inhibiting the muscle fibers from exuding as much moisture during cooking as they otherwise would if not subjected to salt.

                          1. re: LorenzoGA
                            Sushiqueen36 Nov 26, 2013 07:18 PM


                            explanation of reabsorption.

                        2. Cherylptw Nov 25, 2013 09:37 PM

                          IMO, that's too much salt to stay on the bird for more than a day. I'd rinse it off. Salt does draw moisture out of meat. If you want to keep moisture in, you might want to wet brine it but I would do it no more than a day ahead. Then, you'll have more juices.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Cherylptw
                            rainey Nov 25, 2013 11:06 PM

                            It's only marginally generous. I used 1/4 cup for my 18.5lb bird. The rule is a tbs per 5lb of meat.

                            I've been doing dry brining for 4 years now (this will be my fourth). I haven't had any difficulty making gravy nor has my gravy been salty.

                            You're doing fine, cathyeats. Carry on.

                            1. re: rainey
                              Cherylptw Nov 25, 2013 11:19 PM

                              So, you don't think having this much salt on the bird for three days will cause it to be too salty in the end?

                              For the OP: Good luck with that; hope you don't regret it.

                              1. re: Cherylptw
                                TorontoJo Nov 26, 2013 03:10 AM

                                Absolutely not. 3 days is fine and it won't be too salty in the end. Also, as stated below, the salt draws out the moisture early on, but that moisture is then reabsorbed into the meat over the course of days 2 and 3. The result is an incredibly flavorful, juicy bird that doesn't have that weird texture that poorly wet brined birds have.

                                So, to cathyeats, don't rinse now OR later. Keep going! Your drippings won't be too salty for gravy. Just mop up any salt or juices that may be sitting in the bottom of your roasting pan prior to roasting.

                                1. re: Cherylptw
                                  rainey Nov 26, 2013 08:01 AM

                                  You don't sound like you've tried dry brining yet.

                                  Sometime after T-day give it a try! You can do a chicken.

                                  1. re: Cherylptw
                                    fldhkybnva Nov 26, 2013 01:22 PM

                                    I routinely salt a chicken for 3 days and roast it Zuni style and it's never salty. I don't rinse after brining either. I imagine the salt on a turkey would penetrate even less.

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