There are a lot of arguments out there on ways to brine a turkey and we knew we wanted to try one this Friendsgiving. The question then became dry brine or wet brine? I’ve done the research for you and if you are space challenged like our Tiny Kitchen is, dry brining is definitely the way to go!
Without getting into the technicalities that I wouldn’t even begin to explain properly, the main reason we chose a dry brine was for ease and space. Doing a wet brine requires the turkey to be completely submerged and kept cool for a long period of time. Being that I don’t have an extra refrigerator, 5 gallon bucket, or an ice maker, the choice was simple. The other perk from the many, many articles and tutorials I researched is that dry brining gives a juicier, more meaty consistency than wet brining.
The biggest perk about this recipe is that it was very hands-off and produced a beautifully golden juicy turkey. The no-cook orange cranberry relish was also a cinch and a perfect accompaniment to the Friendsgiving table!
Dry Brined Turkey:
1 turkey, thawed (ours was about 10 lbs)
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 tbsp fresh cracked pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 tbsp baking powder (for crispy skin)
2 tbsp butter at room temperature
minced herbs and spices (we used thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, salt & pepper)
No-Cook Orange Cranberry Relish:
1 12 oz bag cranberries
1 medium size orange
splash of liqueur (I used Amaro but cognac or even some red wine would work)
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
For the dry brine turkey, combine all dry brine ingredients in a small bowl. Pat turkey dry inside and out and place on a baking sheet. Truss your turkey before brining. Generously sprinkle brine mixture all over outside and inside of turkey. Place in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours, uncovered. If the thought of an uncovered raw bird sitting in your fridge is gross, loosely cover it with some plastic wrap.
For the herb butter, mix all dry ingredients into room temperature butter. Cover and set aside until the day of cooking.
For the no-cook cranberry relish, zest the entire orange and then segment and remove seeds. This is surprisingly easier than it seems. Just make sure there is no white pith as that will make the relish bitter. Add cranberries, orange segments and zest, sugar, salt, and splash of liqueur to food processor. Process until desired consistency and refrigerate until the day of to let the flavors mix together.Above is what our turkey looked like after 1.5 days of dry brining. There was a slightly pink tint to the meat which happens when you cure meat. On the day of cooking, remove the turkey and herb butter at least 1 hour prior to cooking to get to room temperature. Set the oven to 350° and remove top rack. The turkey should be on the bottom rack and should be the only thing cooking so the heat will be consistent throughout.
Rinse the outside and inside of the turkey and pat dry. Once the turkey is about room temperature, begin working the skin of the breast away from the meat using your fingers. Do this gently so the skin does not tear. Rub about 1/3 of the herb butter under the skin of the breast meat and the rest of the butter all over the turkey, including the legs, thighs and wings.
Time to cook your bird! The estimated time that we used was 15 minutes per pound. At 10 lbs, our turkey cooked for 2.5 hours and we used a meat thermometer to make sure the temperature at the thigh reached 165°.
An important note about dry brining: it produces less drippings and there is no need for basting! This means that any drippings will likely burn on your sheet pan if there is not some other liquid in the pan. What we did was put about 1.5 cups of water in the sheet pan to absorb the drippings. Also, some of this water will evaporate so it’s best to check on it periodically and add water as needed.