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Dry Brined Roasted Turkey

Dry Brined Roasted Turkey

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I have only cooked a few turkeys in life.  Recently I tried a new recipe, and it failed me.  I went back to tradition and made a Dry Brined Roasted Turkey.  What is that saying?  If you have a great recipe, don’t change it.  Which was the case with this dry brined roasted turkey.

Roast Turkey

I feel, and this is a strong opinion that the type of turkey you use makes the meal.  I guess you could say I am what I eat, and I prefer to be a bit on the natural side.  I opt for an all-natural and sustainable turkey that has been fed a vegetarian diet and has not been pumped up with growth enhancers or hormones.  Can you taste the difference?  Definitely!  The bird is juicy, flavorful, and takes like the wild instead of a cardboard box.

I use what is called a dry brine when preparing my turkey.  It is a mixture of kosher salt and fresh herbs and no liquid.  I really use whatever I have on hand or what will go with the theme of the dinner;  this time around I used rosemary.  I love the taste and aroma of fresh rosemary, lemon, onions, and poultry filling the house.  Smells like comfort.   I simply give my turkey a rub-down the night before, and then let it hang out in the refrigerator overnight with no cover.  This dries out the skin a bit which in turn helps lock the moisture in.

Now, I am the queen of the best gravy in our house and have been making it since I could stand at the counter and whisk.  Over the years, it has improved and been improvised but still, it is outstanding, and everyone asks me to make it.  What is my secret?  I add lots of stock and wine to the bottom of the roasting pan along with a handful of fresh herbs.  And sometimes a little lemon zest for fun.  As the bird roasts and releases its natural juices it mingles with the stock mixture and creates heaven.

Basting … toss out that mangy basting ball that you use but once a year.  You know the one collecting dust bunnies and bacteria in the back of a kitchen drawer.  Use your basting brush and wipe those juices from the pan all over the turkey.  And do this often.  Not only will the turkey be golden brown but it will be extra moist and flavorful.

Stuffing?  I don’t stuff my birds.  Why?  It dries them out, that delicious stuffing sucks up all of the juices and dries out the bird.  Instead, I bake it in a baking dish and serve it alongside the turkey.  If you are inclined to have a stuffed turkey, go ahead.  That is a choice I will leave up to you.

There you have it.  Not fancy.  Not deep-fried or brined for days.  Just a simple, old-fashioned home-cooked turkey, that has been a crowd-pleaser for years.

Turkey Temperatures should be:

  1. 170 in the breast and 180 in the thigh
  2. Use the following guideline for cooking a turkey:
    • 10 – 12 pounds     –     2 1/2 hours to 3 hours
    • 12 – 14 pounds     –     2 2/4 hours to 3 1/4 hours
    • 14 – 16 pounds     –     3 hours to 3 3/4 hours
    • 16 – 18 pounds     –     3 1/4 hours to 4 hours
    • 18 – 20 pounds     –     3 1/2 hours to 4 1/4 hours
    • 20 + pounds          –    3 3/4 hours t0 4 1/2 hours

Recipe:  Dry Brined Roasted Turkey


  • roasting pan with rack
  • butchery twine
  • basting brush


  • 12-pound turkey
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 large lemon, cut in half, then each half quartered
  • 2 cups white wine or chicken stock
  • a handful of fresh herbs – used a mixture of thyme and rosemary

How To:

The day before cooking:

  1. Place salt and rosemary leaves in a mortar and mash until well mixed.  Or you can place it on a cutting board and use a knife.
  2. Wash the turkey inside and out well.  Pat dry.
  3. Rub half of the salt inside the turkey, and rub the remaining salt all over the turkey.  Place the turkey into a shallow glass bowl, and place (uncovered) back into the refrigerator overnight.

The day of cooking:

  1. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 60 minutes before roasting.
  2. Rinse with cold water and pat dry.  
  3. Preheat the oven to 425.
  4. Rub the turkey with olive oil.  Stuff the inside with the onion and lemons.
  5. Place the turkey breast side down in the roasting pan on top of the rack and pour the wine or chicken stock underneath the turkey.  Scatter the herbs in the liquid.
  6. Roast for 45 minutes.
  7. Lower the heat to 325.  Flip the turkey over.  Continue roasting until cooked, using a meat thermometer to test for doneness.
  8. Baste on and off using a basting brush and the dripping/wine/stock mixture in the bottom of the pan.
  9. If the turkey starts to get a bit too golden and hasn’t reached the right temperature then cover loosely with foil.
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Claudio Proboste Uribe

Saturday 13th of December 2014

Awesome recipe, this Xmas is going to be my first time roasting a whole bird ... thanks for the recipe

Nutmeg Nanny

Saturday 9th of November 2013

I love roast turkey :) thanks for sharing this recipe, will definitely have to give it a try!

Kaye Kellerstrass

Sunday 3rd of November 2013

I've tried cooking a turkey breast side down before but couldn't find a recipe that gave such good details and timetables. The first one I cooked that way was years ago and I remember it was juicy but I'm very glad to have a recipe with the complete directions. I'll be cooking a fresh turkey just like that this year! And yes, Fresh is best!

Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama

Sunday 3rd of November 2013

That is one gorgeous bird. I've had one recipe I've stuck to the last couple of years... I'm contemplating trying something different this year. This could be it!

Brian @ A Thought For Food

Saturday 2nd of November 2013

Not gonna lie...when I see a roast turkey as beautiful as this one, it makes me consider going back to eating meat. Looks darn good!