Make a turkey that looks and tastes great with these easy recipes for brining and roasting your turkey to perfection. Whether you prefer a wet or dry brine, follow these instructions and you’ll have a delicious turkey dinner that’ll have people asking you to host Thanksgiving every year. Running short on time? Learn how to spatchcock your turkey to get it done faster.
Here are our steps for perfect Thanksgiving turkey, every time.
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 Days Before Thanksgiving: Brine Your Bird!
Brining is a process that helps meat absorb and retain moisture while it cooks to prevent dryness. Salt is the key ingredient for both wet and dry brine. The benefit to wet brine tender, juicer meat, while dry brine results in juicy, tender turkey PLUS extra-crispy skin since you don’t add any extra moisture with the water.
Wet Brine Recipe
Make the wet brine solution by dissolving salt in boiling water. Brine for 24 hours, rinse and dry the turkey and place in the refrigerator uncovered for another 24 hours to dry the skin out. The drier the skin, the crispier it gets.
2 quarts of water to start, plus 6 quarts heavily iced water
2-2.5 cups kosher salt
1. In a pot large enough to hold 8 quarts, boil 2 quarts of water.
2. Add salt to boiling water and stir until dissolved.
3. Turn off heat and add 6 quarts of heavily iced water to the brine mixture and stir together. Using an instant-read thermometer, check that temp is 40º F or less before continuing.
4. Remove giblets from turkey and place the turkey in the brine bag. Slowly add the cooled brine mixture to the bag. Seal bag and place on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. (If you do not have sufficient refrigerator space, place the sealed brine bag with turkey inside a heavy duty garbage bag and store in an ice-packed cooler.)
5. After 12-18* hours, remove the turkey from brine bath and rinse thoroughly inside and out. Pat the skin and cavity dry with paper towels. Allow turkey to reach room temperature–at least 30 minutes–before roasting. *Ideally 12-18 hours, no longer than 24.
Dry Brine Recipe
Dry brine is a mixture of salt and baking powder rubbed on a dry piece of meat. It works by drawing out the residual moisture from the bird for the ultimate crispy skin. Another dry brine bonus? There’s no need to salt your turkey before roasting (since you’ve already salted it here)!
1/2 cup kosher salt
2 Tbsp baking powder
1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine 1/2 cup of kosher salt with 2 tablespoons of baking powder.
2. Pat your turkey dry with paper towels.
3. Generously shower the dry brine all over the turkey so it’s well-coated but not completely encrusted. Important: Depending on the size of your bird, you may not have to use all of the dry brine to coat your turkey.
4. Put the turkey into your fridge uncovered for up to 24 hours. Do not rinse before roasting.
Thanksgiving Day: How to Roast Your Turkey
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Dry the turkey using paper towels. This step isn’t necessary if you’re using dry brine.
3. Remove the wishbone by cutting all around it with a sharp knife. Using paper towels so it doesn’t slip, pull the wishbone out of the turkey. You can also ask a friendly butcher to do it for you.
4. Transfer the turkey to a rimmed or low-walled sheet pan (like our Jelly Roll Pan) with a baking or roasting rack placed inside of it.
Tip: Use the low-walled pan instead of a traditional roasting pan because it allows for better air circulation helping the turkey cook evenly. The pan leaves the thighs and legs exposed to the oven’s heat so they can reach a higher temperature than the breasts at the same time.
5. Use your pastry brush to brush turkey with melted unsalted clarified butter.
Tip: Clarified butter is regular butter that’s been cooked down to remove water and milk solids, leaving just pure golden goods. Using clarified butter makes turkey skin extra crispy because it can withstand higher heat without the risk of burning. You can microwave the unsalted butter right in your glass food storage container and paint it on the skin.
6. Generously salt and pepper the turkey, including inside the cavity. Add any dried or fresh herbs you like—we used dried thyme and oregano, but you can also use sage and marjoram.
7. Tuck, don’t truss: fold the wings under the back and make a cut in the skin near the back of the bird, just under the cavity. Tuck the legs the hole—it acts like built-in pocket to maintain the right shape while roasting.
8. Insert a leave-in thermometer in the thickest section between the thigh and leg, making sure not to hit the bone. We recommend cooking to temperature and not time to truly know when your turkey is done.
9. Place in oven, grab a glass of wine.
10. After two hours, check the thermometer. You want the leg and thighs to be between 160°-165°F.
11. Once the legs and thighs are done, remove the turkey and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Turkey already roasted and ready to carve? Discover the easiest way to carve your turkey. Plus, don’t toss that fat! Find out how to use a fat separator to make delicious gravy to go with your bird.