November 29, 2023

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Lunchbreak: Turkey Brine and Step by Step Prep Guide

4 min read
Erin Clarke, Founder of popular recipe site Well Plated and bestselling author of The Well...

Erin Clarke, Founder of popular recipe site Well Plated and bestselling author of The Well Plated Cookbook

Recipe & Tips:

Everything you need to know to cook the moist turkey of your dreams: dry brine, wet brine, carving, how much to serve, and more.

Turkey Brine:

Dry Brine Turkey

Dry brine turkey is the easiest way to cook juicy, moist turkey that won’t dry out! Rosemary, lemon zest, and kosher salt are all you need.

PREP:20 mins COOK:0 mins TOTAL:3 d

SERVINGS: 10 (to 12 servings); 1 14-pound turkey with dry brine


  • 1 14- to 16-pound turkey* thawed (see step 1 for guidance)
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt** I use Morton’s
  • 1 ½ tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
  • Zest of 2 small or 1 large lemon Reserve the zested lemons for stuffing the turkey if desired


  • 4 to 6 Days Before Cooking (depending upon weight) – Thaw Your Turkey (if needed): Place the turkey in the refrigerator for 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey (that’s 3 days thawing for a 15-pound bird). For faster thawing, place the turkey in a cold water bath and change the water every 30 minutes. This will take about 8 hours for a 15-pound turkey.
  • 1 to 2 Days Before Cooking – Brine the Turkey: In a small bowl, combine the salt, rosemary, and lemon zest. Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey and discard or keep for gravy. With paper towels, pat very dry (you do not need to rinse the turkey; this has a greater chance of spreading bacteria than removing it). Transfer the turkey to a rimmed baking sheet or shallow baking pan. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the salt mixture inside the cavity.
  • Rub the rest all over the outside of the turkey, including under the wings and the legs, and concentrating especially on the breast (no need to salt the very backside of the bird that is touching the pan).
  • Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours, until either the day before or morning of cooking the turkey (the length will depend upon how early you started.)
  • 1 Day Before or the Morning of Cooking – Let the Skin Dry Out: Uncover the turkey, then return it to the refrigerator. Refrigerate uncovered for 24 hours, or until 1 hour before cooking. This step dries the skin, which is important in order for it to crisp. The skin will turn somewhat translucent.
  • 1 Hour Before Cooking – Let Come to Room Temperature: Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature (do not brush off the brine). If you haven’t removed the plastic “carrier” attached to the legs, do so now. Cook as desired. (Methods for roasted turkey and spatchcock turkey coming soon!).


  • IF YOUR TURKEY IS FROZEN: Flash-thaw the turkey in an ice-water bath. Submerge the turkey in water, ensuring the water always stays between 33 degrees F and 38 degrees F. This process will still take about 8 hours for a 15-pound turkey.
  • *MAKE SURE YOUR TURKEY IS NOT PRE-SALTED: Kosher turkeys (which are already salted) and pre-brined or pre-salted turkeys will be far too salty if dry-brined. Look for a natural or heritage turkey; if you aren’t sure, check the ingredient list—you should not see added salt.
  • **USE KOSHER SALT: I used Morton’s kosher salt, which is coarser than table salt and has a much cleaner flavor. Do not use table salt, as it tastes metallic. If using Diamond Crystal, use an additional 1 ½ teaspoons, as it is coarser than Morton’s. If you use a fine salt, use ¾ of the amount called for.
  • SCALING THE BRINE FOR A LARGER OR SMALLER TURKEY: If your bird is smaller than 14 pounds or larger than 16 pounds, follow these guidelines: For every 5 pounds of turkey, use 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 ½ to 2- teaspoons fresh herbs, the zest of ½ a small lemon, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
  • FRESH VS. DRIED HERBS: I absolutely recommend using fresh herbs for turkey brine and roasting. They have far superior flavor and will make a big difference in your results; plus you need the sprigs for the cavity anyway. If you must substitute dried, use one-third the amount.
  • Nutrition information was calculated for a 14-pound turkey.
  • The total time for this recipe can vary based on the size of your turkey and whether or not it was fully thawed. 
  • I like to fill the turkey cavity and roasting pan: carrots, apples, garlic, lemon, and onion.
  • My turkey secret: add a whole bottle of white wine to the roasting pan! It perfumes and flavors the turkey and makes for fantastic drippings you can use for the best-ever Turkey Gravy.
  • Roasting instructions: cook at 450 degrees for 45 minutes to crisp the skin, then reduce to 325 and keep cooking.
  • For juicy turkey DO NOT OVER COOK! You need an instant read thermometer. They are inexpensive and well worth it.
  • The right temperature is for the breast to be at least 155 F and the thigh 160 degrees F (the thigh can go over, as dark meat is more forgiving) — from there, let it rest and the carry over cooking will bring it to a safe temperature.
  • No need to baste, but do tent the breast with foil about 1 hour in.


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