Dry-Brined Roasted Turkey

What do you cook for Christmas Day? Do you have a leisurely day of cranberry nut bread and eggnog, like we do? Do you whip up a full breakfast of eggs, bacon and pancakes? Or do you go all out with a traditional dinner, roasted turkey or goose, plum pudding and the works? Just in case roasted turkey is on your Christmas dinner agenda, I thought I would share my Thanksgiving turkey recipe with you: a simple dry-brine with sage, bay and orange zest that perfumed the meat delicately without the hassle (and reported spongy texture) of a wet brine.

The method for this dry brine couldn’t be easier: simply blend together dry spices, salt and orange zest and slather over turkey. Place in a bag and refrigerate for 3 days (or 2 days, if you, like me, didn’t start this quite soon enough). Then roast according to your favorite method. I took my turkey out of the bag and let it air-dry in the fridge overnight prior to roasting, which I believe contributed to the fabulous, crispy, golden skin on this bird. It was truly delicious.  I use the high-heat to low-heat roasting method: starting the turkey at a high heat initiates browning and crisping of the skin, while subsequently lowering the heat allows the inner regions and the dark meat to cook through without drying out the breast meat. In this go-round, the breast meat was the teeniest bit drier than I would have liked (the temperature of the breast was 180 degrees F by the time the thickest part of the bird, under the thigh, was 160 degrees F; ideally, I like the breast at 170 to 175 degrees); I should have kept the inital high-heat roast to 20 minutes for this small bird. Despite this, the turkey was quite delicious and I will experiment with this method more in the future.


Dry-Brined Roasted Turkey


  • 1 turkey (mine was 11 pounds, from Hemlock Hill)
  • 2 tbsp + 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp crumbled dried sage
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • zest from half an orange (about 1 heaping teaspoon)
  • half orange (for stuffing cavity)
  • fresh sage (for stuffing cavity)


  1. Rinse turkey inside & out in cool, running water (remove giblets and organs first; reserve for turkey gravy if you like). Pat skin dry. Sprinkle a little salt & pepper into the cavity.
  2. Blend dry spice mixture and orange zest well. Rub all over turkey skin. Bag and refrigerate for 3 days (I only had 2 days), turning bird over once a day or so. If you can, remove the bird from the bag, without patting dry, and air-dry in fridge (on a platter or large bowl) for about half a day; bring to room temperature for at least 1 hour prior to cooking.
  3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (425 F convection). Stuff turkey cavity with half an orange and a small bunch of fresh sage. Truss the legs and roast turkey at high heat for 20 – 30 minutes to initiate browning; then reduce oven temp to 325 degrees F (300 degrees F convection) and roast until an instant thermometer inserted in the meatiest section of the thigh, or under the wing, reads at least 160 degrees F.
  4. Remove turkey from oven and let rest, tented with foil, for a minimum 20 minutes. Strain pan drippings for serving alongside the bird, or for making turkey gravy.

Serves 8 – 10.


  1. The options are nearless endless for a dry-spice brine: salt is the one must-have (the salt both draws the liquid out of the turkey meat and encourages re-absorption, along with the spices, of the brine) but any combination of herbs, spices and aromatics can be used.


We had this roasted turkey in the fridge for more than a week.


Fall and winter.


  1. Pingback: Happy Thanksgiving! | Have Fork, Will Eat

  2. Pingback: 10 Great Ways To Cook Your Thanksgiving Turkey | Magic 106.3 FM

  3. frank

    One way to get a moister breats is to roast upside down for 2/3rds of the time, then flip to finish. The dark meat is exposed to higher heat and cooks evenly, and the juices flow down to the breast. You need to cover the roasting grate with foil preserves the skin.

  4. Pingback: 19 Great Ways To Cook Your Thanksgiving Turkey | Web for People

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