This dry brine turkey recipe is THE BOMB. Dry brining is so much easier than a wet brine and the herb butter under the skin takes this over the top!
What is Dry Brining?
Dry brining is like wet brining without the water. It’s more like a seasoning rub that you leave on the bird for a few days before cooking — at least 3 days and up to 4-5 days.
I used Kosher salt, black pepper, and coconut sugar, keeping it simple since I was planning to use an herb butter under the skin later.
How do you make herb butter?
Speaking of butter, I highly recommend using grass-fed butter for this. It has a richer flavor and is cleaner than traditional butter.
You can also use ghee. Ghee is butter with the milk solids removed and it’s super easy (and cheaper) to make Homemade Ghee at home!
In this particular herb butter I used shallots, garlic, orange & lemon zest, sea salt, and lots of fresh rosemary and thyme.
Side note: Using herb butter in your Thanksgiving turkey makes THE BEST GRAVY EVER.
Here’s the secret to herb butter in turkey: Don’t use your hands and try to smear it all over the bird because it’ll just stick to your hands.
Make Herb Butter Coins
Once you get the butter and herbs/seasonings all mixed together, dump it out onto a piece of parchment paper.
Then roll it up like a giant piece of candy. (That’s what my 5-year-old called it.)
Put it in the fridge until it hardens. You can do this several days ahead of time if you need to.
Prepping your turkey for the oven
When the turkey is brined and you’re ready to prep it from the oven, you’ll need to gather a few things
- Sharp knife
- Kitchen twine
- Roasting pan
- Heavy pair of tongs to help move the turkey around
- The stuff you plan on putting inside the turkey.
I’ve learned it’s much easier to assemble everything you need ahead of time so you don’t end up washing your hands 37426 times because you forgot to grab something out of a cabinet or a drawer.
(You also end up washing your hands that many times when you’re trying to photograph turkey prep. There’s not really any way around that, unfortunately.)
Prepping a turkey is like prepping a really big chicken. There’s not that much difference, really.
I wiped off the extra brine because I didn’t want the skin too peppery. Don’t wash it off completely though, because you’ll need that extra flavor.
I also loosened the skin from the flesh using my fingers and the end of a plastic mixing spoon to get into hard-to-reach areas.
After I cut the herb butter into coins, I inserted them under the skin. (See how much easier this is!?)
I also made small incisions in the skin between the leg and thigh so I could get butter coins in those places, too.
Don’t worry if the skin rips a little. Try to be careful, but sometime it happens. Like that leg on the left up there. Oops.
Stuff some citrus and herbs into the body cavity, tuck the wings behind the body and tie the legs together. And drizzle the whole thing with avocado oil.
I put some celery, carrots, onion, fresh herbs, and orange halves in the bottom of the roasting pan with about 2 cups of water, too.
Roast the turkey breast side down at first
Now…. flip the whole thing over.
Yep. Do it.
Starting off the cooking process upside down lets the juices flow to the breast meat, which is where it needs to be. It’s the area of the bird that usually dries out the most.
After an hour or so, flip it back over to finish cooking and make sure to baste it occasionally.
Ta-da! Check out that beautiful bird!
Making a dry brine turkey is so much easier than a wet brine. The recipe may look long and daunting, but it’s really not hard! There’s just a lot of explaining.
The gravy turned out FANTASTIC. Herb butters make the best gravy, I swear.
How to Smoke a Turkey
If you’re into smoking, you can use the dry brining and herb butter techniques from this recipe and smoke your turkey instead of roasting it!
Follow the instructions in the recipe exactly up until you’re ready to cook it, then preheat your smoker to 220F at high smoke.
If you have room in your smoker and two different grates, you can put the turkey directly on the top grate and a roasting pan on the bottom to catch any drippings. I recommend putting a quart of chicken broth in there, too, so the drippings don’t burn.
Add a meat probe into the thickest part of the breast and let it roast until the internal temperature reaches 165F. Plan on roughly 30-40 minutes per pound.
Making Homemade Turkey Broth
Also, SAVE YOUR BONES!!
I got 2 gallons of turkey stock out of this lovely lady. You can use my Instant Pot Chicken Bone Broth recipe and make 2 batches of bones in a 6 qt Instant Pot.
Thanksgiving Side Dishes
We ate our turkey with some Instant Pot Cauliflower Puree with Garlic & Rosemary (But Instant Pot Garlic Mashed Potatoes would be delightful, too!), Roasted Shredded Brussels Sprouts, and Wassailed Cranberry Sauce.
Here is a collection of our Favorite Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes!
All right my friends. Go forth and make your dry brine turkey.
More Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes
I have a post with TWO Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Menus if you’re looking for an entire dinner option! Or just want some ideas.
This post has my Favorite Thanksgiving Side Dishes
This post has my Low-Carb/Keto Thanksgiving Recipes
If you make this recipe, be sure to post it to social media and tag me at @perrysplate or #perrysplate so I can send you some love!
For the Turkey & Dry Brine:
- 1 12-14 pound Diestel Pasture-Raised Turkey
- 3 Tablespoons Kosher salt
- 2 Tablespoons coconut sugar (optional)
- 1 Tablespoon black pepper
For the Herb Butter:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) of softened salted butter (grass-fed, if possible)
- 2 medium naval oranges
- 1 large lemon
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary, plus an extra sprig for the turkey cavity
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, plus an extra sprig for the turkey cavity
- 1 large shallot, peeled and chopped finely
- 4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
For the Roasting Pan & Gravy:
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 2 stalks of celery, cut into large pieces
- 4 medium carrots, cut into large pieces
- Additional sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme, plus more for garnish, if desired.
- 1 quart of chicken or turkey broth
- 2 Tablespoons tapioca or arrowroot starch
- 3 Tablespoons of butter or ghee
- Sea salt, if needed
- Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey. Wipe any moisture from the turkey with a paper towel. Place the turkey on a rimmed baking sheet or something for it to sit on while brining in the fridge.
- In a small bowl, combine the Kosher salt, coconut sugar, and black pepper. Rub the mixture all over the skin of the bird. Wrap the bird in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 days. At the beginning of the 3rd day, remove the plastic wrap and let the bird dry, uncovered, in the fridge for the last day of brining. This will make the skin crisp up nicely.
- Make the herb butter by placing the soft butter in a bowl. Add the zest from both oranges and the lemon to the butter. Add the rest of the herb butter ingredients. Reserve the zested oranges and lemon for later use in the recipe. (You may want to cover them in plastic wrap, too, if it'll be more than a day before you cook the turkey.)
- Mix the herb butter well, then transfer it to one side of a large piece of parchment paper. Fold the edge of the paper over the butter, an using your hands, form it into a log shape, rolling it up in the parchment and twisting the ends to seal. Chill until ready to use.
- About an hour before you plan on roasting the turkey, remove it from the fridge. Wipe some of the excess brine from the skin with a paper towel. Do not rinse.
- Use your fingers to loosen the skin from the meat around the breast area. You may need to use the end of a mixing spoon to detach the skin around the top of the breast if it's hard to reach with your fingers. Be careful not to pull too hard and tear the skin too badly. Do the same with the leg and thigh areas, making a small incision between the leg and the thigh to access both areas.
- Insert the herb butter under the skin in the breast, leg, and thigh areas.
- Pull out the reserved oranges and lemon. Slice them in half and put two halves along with two lemon halves and a couple of herb sprigs in the cavity of the chicken. Put one orange half (reserve the last orange half for the gravy) in the bottom of the roasting pan. Add the onion, celery, carrots, herbs, and 2 cups of water. Place the roasting rack on top.
- Tuck the wings behind the body and tie the legs together. Place the turkey, BREAST-SIDE DOWN (yes, upside down) on the roasting rack.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and let the turkey sit at room temperature until the oven heats up. Roast on the bottom rack for 1 hour.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Flip the turkey over using heavy tongs and an oven mitt, so it is breast-side up. Baste, and continue to roast, basting every 20-30 minutes, until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast is 155-160 degrees. My 12.5 pound turkey was finished in about 2 hours and 15 minutes.
- Remove the turkey from the oven and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before slicing so the juices don't run out all over.
- To make the gravy, use a slotted spoon to fish out the vegetables and the orange half. Place the roasting pan (if it is stove-top safe) over medium heat. Whisk 2 cups of the broth with the tapioca starch and pour it into the gravy, whisking constantly. Cook until the gravy is bubbly and thickened slightly. Add the butter or ghee and stir until smooth. Taste, and add salt, if needed. Strain and keep warm until ready to serve.
- Use Kosher salt instead of fine sea salt or other finely ground salt. Using fine salt may make the turkey overly salty.
- You can make the herb butter several days in advance.
- You can also smoke this turkey! Prep it exactly the same and then insert a temperature probe into the thickest part of the breast meat. You can either smoke the turkey at 220 deg F to cook it entirely or smoke it at that temp for 2-3 hours and then finish it off at 350 to get it done more quickly. Cook until the temperature probe reaches 160 deg F.