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Dry Brine Turkey

Behind every good turkey there is a good brine. It is important to get your brine recipe down before trying to cook a centerpiece turkey. This is a basic brine that I have been using for years. Feel free to add or take away ingredients depending on your specific tastes. 
Prep Time20 minutes
Brining Time3 days
Total Time20 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Barbecue
Servings: 8
Calories: 80kcal
Author: Charlie


  • tablespoons  kosher salt
  • 2   teaspoons  dried herbs such as thyme, sage, and rosemary
  • teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 14-to-16 pound thawed whole turkey (not kosher or pre-salted)
  • Equipment
  • Bowl
  • Cutting board
  • Large rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan


  • Mix the dry brine together: Mix the salt, pepper, and herbs together in a small bowl.
  • Take the turkey out of the packaging and place on a cutting board. Remove the giblets and neck from inside the cavity and discard or save for another use. Remove or discard any plastic or metal cages or pop-up thermometers.
  • Pat the turkey dry: Pat the outside of the turkey dry with paper towels. (If you are planning to spatchcock your turkey, do it now before you proceed with the next step.)
  • Loosen the skin: Using your hands, loosen the skin over the breast and separate it from the meat, making sure to break through the thin membrane between the skin and breast while leaving the skin itself intact. Loosen the skin over the meaty part of the legs.
  • Season the cavity: Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the salt mixture into the cavity of the turkey.
  • Season the meat: Rub another 2 teaspoons of the salt mixture into the meat of the legs (under the skin). Rub 4 teaspoons of the salt mixture into the meat of the breasts (under the skin).
  • Season the skin: Sprinkle the remaining salt mixture over all the skin of both the breasts and legs.
  • Tuck the wings back: Bend the wings back and tuck under the breast.
  • Refrigerate: Place the turkey breast-side up in a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan and refrigerate uncovered for at least 1 day but ideally 3 days


Brine proportions for a smaller turkey: Turkey sizes vary, so if you have a larger or smaller bird, go by these proportions instead: For every 5 pounds of turkey, you will need 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon dried herbs, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Fresh herbs substitution: Instead of dried herbs, you can substitute 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh herbs (or 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of turkey).