Dry Brine Turkey with Orange-Rosemary Herb Butter
Disclosure: Diestel Family Turkey Ranch provided me with a turkey for the purpose of this post, as well as compensation for my time. As always, all opinions expressed in this post are mine.
It’s Thanksgiving Week here at Perry’s Plate! I’ve got a new recipe to share with you every day until Saturday — things that are paleo-friendly and so tasty that no one in your non-paleo extended family would know the difference. Honest. First, let’s talk about this dry brine turkey. And turkey in general.
Have you ever heard of Diestel Family Turkey Ranch? It’s a fourth-generation, family-owned turkey ranch in California that offers high quality, thoughtfully-raised turkeys. I’ve been buying Diestel turkeys from Whole Foods for Thanksgiving for the past few years, and I was thrilled at the opportunity to work with them and tell you more about them!
Diestel’s holiday turkeys can be purchased through the Diestel Online Store and at select independent, natural, upscale, and conventional food stores across the country. Visit the Diestel Store Locator for more info. (PSST — there’s also an online discount code at the bottom of my post you can use!)
Diestel mills and mixes their own grains on the ranch to feed their birds a 100% vegetarian diet enhanced with vitamins and minerals — which never contains antibiotics, growth enhancers or stimulants, hormones, gluten, animal by-products and DDG’s (dried distillers grains). They also let the turkeys slow grow naturally to maturity, and Diestel was the first turkey producer in the USA to receive a GAP rating of 5 for their pasture-raised turkeys. GAP is Global Animal Partnership — a nonprofit with a mission to improve the lives of farm animals and help consumers make thoughtful purchases when choosing animal products.
This particular turkey that I’m using is a 12 pound Diestel Pasture-Raised Turkey. These Non-GMO Project Verified birds are raised entirely on green, irrigated pastures (compliments of Diestel compost and reclaimed water) and are a part of the family’s holistic multi-species rotational grazing program. This bird came to my doorstep packed in an insulated box with dry ice, and it was still frozen when it got here!
Let’s make a dry brine turkey, guys.
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.
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!
Did you see that post I did a few years ago about making Herb Butter Coins for roast chickens? It’s such a brilliant hack, really. If you’ve ever tried to rub butter on meat, you know that most of it ends up on your hands. Making coins is so much better and it’s also really easy. I’ll show you in a sec.
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 makes THE BEST GRAVY EVER.
Once you get it 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.
When the turkey is brined and you’re ready to prep it from the oven, you’ll need to gather a few things — a sharp knife, kitchen twine, scissors, your roasting pan, and a heavy pair of tongs to help move the turkey around. Also, 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 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.
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 an immersion 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.
We ate our turkey with some Garlic-Rosemary Cauliflower Mash (Fast and easy — in my Instant Pot! Recipe for that coming this week, too!), Roasted Shredded Brussels Sprouts, and Wassailed Cranberry Sauce.
Also, SAVE YOUR BONES!! I got 2 gallons of turkey stock out of this lovely lady. You can use the Homemade Chicken Stock recipe and use the biggest stock pot you have.
I was so happy with this turkey, and I’m such a fan of Diestel’s products and mission. They also make year-round turkey products including Non-GMO Project Verified and organic deli slices, chorizo, and turkey sausage. I’ve tried all of these over the past few years, and they’re super tasty.
AND, the lovely folks at Diestel are giving Perry’s Plate readers $20 off any whole turkey and cook-in-bag breast roast, no limit per customer, maximum discount $40 per order, valid through Nov. 17th 11:59PM PST, online at Diestel Store only. Just use the code PERRY20 when you check out!
All right my friends. Go forth and make your dry brine turkey. And be sure to check in often this week because I’m going to have FOUR paleo-friendly side dishes and a dessert recipe for you! (Hint: Apples + Spiralizer = Mind Blown.)
Did you catch the other recipes posted during Thanksgiving Week?
For the Turkey & Dry Brine:
For the Herb Butter:
For the Roasting Pan & Gravy:
1. Use Kosher salt instead of fine sea salt or other finely ground salt. Using fine salt may make the turkey overly salty.
2. You can make the herb butter several days in advance.