A dry-brined turkey (or, “dry-cured” turkey) is an alternative to a traditionally brined turkey, which involves soaking the turkey in a liquid solution. Some cooks say that dry-brining is a less messy technique which results in a better texture. You simply put salt, herbs, and spices directly onto the skin of the bird, then wrap it in plastic and let it sit.
Everyone has a different technique. Chefs who like to “dry cure” say that traditional brining is not only messy but also can make the meat a bit spongy (better than dried-out meat, but not quite perfect). The downside to dry curing? It takes more time. While you can fully wet-brine a turkey in 12 to 24 hours, the dry method often takes about three days in the refrigerator. However, it’s well worth it!
Note: The amount of salt you use depends on the size of your turkey. Use 2-½ tablespoons if your bird is 13 pounds; 3 tablespoons if it’s in the 14- to 15-pound range.
A dry-cured or dry-brined turkey with apples, rosemary, cranberry, and sweet chestnuts.Bochkarev Photography/Shutterstock
Three days before you plan to roast the turkey, put salt, rosemary, thyme, sage, mustard seeds, and pepper in a spice grinder and pulse together until they form a fine powder.
Rinse turkey and pat dry. Sprinkle outside of turkey all over with two-thirds of spice mixture, concentrating on breast and thighs. Toss remaining spices into cavity. Cover turkey with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator 3 days. For extra-crisp skin, remove plastic wrap the night before roasting.
To roast, preheat oven to 425°F. Set a V-shaped roasting rack into a large roasting pan and set aside. Gently separate skin from breast meat on both sides so that you can get your hand all the way in, being careful not to tear the skin. Rub 3 tablespoons butter onto breast meat on both sides. Brush skin all over with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Put apple and onion pieces in turkey cavity. Set turkey, breast side down, onto roasting rack. Pour broth and cider into bottom of pan and put in oven. Roast 45 minutes, basting occasionally. Flip bird over; then roast, basting occasionally, until thickest part of breast to the bone reaches 160° on an instant-read thermometer, another 1-¼ to 1-¾ hours, depending on size of bird.
Tip turkey to drain cavity juices, and transfer to a cutting board or serving platter. Tent with foil and let sit 30 minutes while you make gravy. Garnish turkey with apples and lemon leaves if you like; then carve and serve.