Dry-Brined Turkey Recipe (2024)

By Kim Severson

Updated Nov. 7, 2023

Dry-Brined Turkey Recipe (1)

Total Time
3½ hours, plus 2 days’ brining
Read community notes

This fantastic turkey recipe borrows a technique perfected by Judy Rodgers, the chef from the Zuni Café in San Francisco, who had exceptional results salting chickens long before roasting them (also called dry-brining). No more fussy liquid brine that alters the texture of the meat — just crisp, golden skin and tender, moist meat. This turkey will be the talk of the table. Allow two days for the bird to season before roasting.

Featured in: After the Bird, Everything Else Is Secondary

Learn: How to Cook a Turkey

Learn: How to Make Gravy

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Yield:12 to 14 servings

  • 112- to 16-pound turkey, preferably a heritage or pasture raised bird
  • Kosher salt
  • 1tablespoon black pepper
  • 10sprigs fresh thyme
  • ½bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • 2small onions, halved
  • 2small apples, cored and halved
  • ½cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2cups white wine (see tip)

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (14 servings)

569 calories; 25 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 8 grams monounsaturated fat; 5 grams polyunsaturated fat; 6 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram dietary fiber; 3 grams sugars; 70 grams protein; 1236 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Dry-Brined Turkey Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Two days before serving, rinse turkey and pat dry. Rub all over with kosher salt, slipping salt under skin where possible and rubbing some into cavities. Use about 1 tablespoon per 4 pounds of bird.

  2. Step


    Wrap bird in a large plastic bag and place in refrigerator. On second night, turn turkey over. A couple of hours before cooking, remove turkey from bag and pat dry. (There is no need to rinse it first.) Place in roasting pan and allow to come to room temperature.

  3. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Sprinkle half the pepper into main cavity of turkey; add thyme, parsley, half the onions and half the apples. Truss legs with kitchen twine. Put remaining apples and onions in neck opening and tuck neck skin under bird.

  4. Step


    Rub butter under breast skin and onto thigh meat. Sprinkle bird with remaining pepper.

  5. Step


    Roast for 30 minutes. Remove turkey from oven, reduce heat to 350 degrees and cover breast of bird and wing tips with foil. Add 1½ cups white wine (or use water) to bottom of roasting pan and roast bird for another two hours, depending on size; figure 12 minutes a pound for an unstuffed bird. Remove foil in last half-hour so breast browns.

  6. Step


    When turkey has roasted for 2 hours, begin to test for doneness by inserting a meat thermometer (digital is best) into two places in thigh, making sure not to touch bone. It should be at about 160 degrees.

  7. Step


    When roasting is done, tip turkey so interior juices run back into pan. Remove turkey to a separate baking sheet or serving platter, cover with foil and then a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.

  8. Step


    Pour fat and drippings from pan into a measuring cup. Deglaze pan with ½ cup white wine (or use broth) and pour that into same measuring cup. Fat and drippings can then be used to make gravy.


  • If you'd prefer not to use wine, you may substitute water in Step 5 (in the roasting pan), and broth in Step 8 (to deglaze the pan).



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Cooking Notes


Just wondering why bird needs to be wrapped in plastic while in the fridge--aren't we hoping to dry out the skin, and if so, wouldn't the plastic just prevent that?

Ann Luce

I was planning on brining beginning Tuesday night and turning over Wednesday night for cooking on Thanksgiving Day.
I am just reading about "air drying " in the fridge. So should I air dry on Wednesday night-second day of brining, or should I brine Monday, Tuesday and then air dry Wednsday night? Or does it even matter?


Can I do this even if I don't have a full 48 hours?

Barbara Colker

Can I put stuffing inside the turkey using this method of dry brining? If so, how long should it cook per pound? (Recipe says 12 minutes per pound for un-stuffed turkey.)


This was the best turkey I have ever made! I did see all the notes below which cleared up some confusion. I did use 1/2 cup salt and it was fine. I started with the bird breast side down and turned it with one hour to go. So no need to put foil on it and it browned very nicely. I took it out when thermometer showed 160 degrees and let it sit for 45 minutes and it was the juciest, moistest, bestest turkey ever! I did put 1 1/2 cups wine in the pan and deglazed with another 1/2 cup wine.


After 2 days in the refrigerator there will be no salt to wipe off; it will have dissolved and penetrated the meat. Just blot any surface moisture away with paper towels so the skin will air dry before roasting. A dry skin is essential for a crisp delectable result.
The resulting drippings will not be too salty for gravy, although it is not likely that the gravy will need any additional seasoning. This is a great recipe!


I tried this with an 18 lb turkey from an organic farm. I put the salt on but did not use the plastic bag, just let it sit in the roasting pan breast down the first day and right side up the second, and the skin air dried. At the end of the 2.5 hours cooking time it was cooked perfectly, crispy bronzed skin with savory juicy meat. This was the tastiest turkey I have ever cooked, I will definitely use this recipe again.


Did you use kosher salt or just plain salt? Plain salt is twice as salty as kosher salt per unit of volume.


We now have a convection setting, which we've never used. (Why not start with a major pressure meal like Thanksgiving!!!) Does anyone have any experience with this particular turkey recipe in a convection oven? Or better to stick to traditional oven roasting? My turkey is about 13 lbs. Thank you!


I put my turkey in fridge last night. I will be turning it over today, but there are a lot of drippings in the pan now (maybe water released from rinsing) do I discard the drippings when turning the turkey over?


I've used Williams-Sonoma Dry Brine for years and it's wonderful. If one wants to supplement the above recipe he/she might add the spices mentioned in the Ingredients Label on the W-S Dry Brine. They are rosemary, thyme, lemon peel, fennel, sage, red pepper, and (a touch? of) sugar.

Bob Morgen

I've done loads of dry-brine chicken and turkey and it is great. It even works brilliantly for steaks! But I strongly recommend doing Step 4 prior to Step 3. It will be much easier to spread butter under the skin before adding the stuffing ingredients/herbs and trussing. Surely the inside stuff will just fall out when slip your hands under the skin and the truss will become undone.


In Step 2, there is no instruction to wash any of the remaining residual "1/2 cup or more of salt as needed" off of the bird before cooking. Is this correct

Granny Two Grannies

I recommend dry brine for one day dry instead of two. I have done both, same size turkey, within a month of each other, and I found the flavor of the one day was much better and two. It was however more salty on outside because less had absorbed but the flavor was much better. Also for 13-15lb birds I use 1Tbsp+ each of dried rosemary, thyme, and sage grind them together with the salt with pestle and mortar. Definitely herb butter rub before baking. Definitely no bag.

Susan Edgerley

Wet brines alter the texture of the meat. This is the way to go.

Amy Biviano

This was magic for a large gathering. I admit I was worried with the bird wrapped in plastic, and it didn't look completely dried when I put it in the oven. But, it turned out great without my needing to baby it.


This made wonderful dripping for delicious gravy. Be sure you don’t add salt until you taste. Generally must have been salty turkey as everyone was dying of thirst after! Delicious and most.

The Best TURKEY Ive Ever Had

I was hesitant. Will dry-brining actually work? Wow, the turkey was sooooo tasty and so juicy! I didn't know turkey can taste this good!


Seriously best turkey ever! Followed the recipe religiously, 16.5 lb bird, brined for 48 hours, 5 hours drying in the fridge, 3.5 hours cooking. Breast was incredibly tender…everyone raved! This is my new go to recipe. Also, the comments really helped. Merry Christmas :)

Nikki G

I agree with the commenter that it could be brined only a day before, I think i used the wrong kind of salt so it was a little salty. But other than that, so tender, worked really well.

Naomi G.

I got my days mixed up and ended up only brining it for 24 hours and it still turned out amazing! I actually used a little more salt than the recipe called for due to a slightly larger bird. The skin on it was a little salty, but not bad at all.

Patty Zaffino

I dry briined my turkey per recipe, used chicken stock rather than wine but I did not get enough drippings or juices to make gravy. The turkey itself was very juicy and good. Help!


Great recipe. I make it work in however many days I have. I always start with a fresh bird, so there’s less extra moisture to start with. I tent the entire turkey after the first blast of heat. Always moist meat.Recommend carving as per NYT video by butcher.


I do dry brine with the turkey uncovered. Makes crispy skin (also reduces the cooking time)


This method turned out the best turkey I’ve ever made. Dark and white meat both perfect. Perfect drippings. The only thing I did differently was stick a few sage leaves under the skin along with the butter. I’ve tired every method, and this is one I’d like to reproduce again and again. I combined this with and Ina Garten make-ahead gravy recipe (it’s really a hybrid, as it also uses drippings from the turkey itself) and the combination really stunned my whole family.


I did a side by side this Thanksgiving with buttermilk vs dry brine. Followed recipes as close as practical but stuffed both. Dry brined cooked faster, was tastier but drier (though not terrible) and had better pan drippings for gravy (by far). Next year I will do dry brined but start out with a seasoned buttered cloth over the top which I will remove after an hour or so.


16 lb bird almost overcooked at 2 hr mark @350. Meat was tender and tasted like turkey, but nothing special about this method/combination of additions. Would use less butter next time and maybe some thyme/rosemary in nooks and crannies between skin and flesh.


Follow the brine recipe! Easy peasy and yields the most moist and flavorful bird ever. I started using Martha Stewart’s cheesecloth butter & wine roasting recipe years ago and can’t seem to break the tradition. Beautiful and tasty. What more can you ask for? Thank you, NYT.


Erg good. Take turkey out of fridge about 2hours early. 15.5 lb Turkey took about? 3 hrs to cook


16 lb bird aprox 3 hours stuffed. 350 conv. Bake the 450 regular bake


Made this, turkey was good. Juicy and lots of flavor.

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Dry-Brined Turkey Recipe (2024)
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