Garlic Herb Peppercorn Dry Brine for Turkey

This recipe for Garlic Herb Peppercorn Turkey Dry Brine is full of flavor and will make your turkey shine on Thanksgiving! Dry brining a turkey is really simple and produces juicy, seasoned turkey meat.

dry brine turkey on white platter with fresh herbs

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Easy Dry Brine Turkey Recipe

Ok, so I have heard about dry brining for a long time. And I have brined A LOT of turkeys over the years, but I have never made a dry brine turkey before this year. All of my wet brine recipes work so well, and I always had such good results.

I have heard people say that dry brining is better than wet brining. I thought WHY? There is no need to change what already works. But, I finally decided that for research purposes I should at least do some testing and report back.

We’ve tried this dry brine turkey recipe on a few different types of meat, and we’ve had turkey a few times in the last few weeks as a part of our testing. Everyone in our house agreed that it was definitely a winner!

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Wet Brine Turkey vs Dry Brine Turkey

Unlike other turkey brine recipes that I’ve posted in the past, you absolutely do not add any water or ice to the Garlic Herb Peppercorn Dry Brine for Turkey.

How Dry Brining Works

When you dry brine, you rub the salt, and any additional herbs and seasonings, directly on the meat and skin of the bird. As the turkey rests in the refrigerator before you plan to cook it, the salt draws out the juices.

The juices then dissolve the salt, and turn into a natural brine (without having to add liquid). Once the salt is dissolved in the juices, the juices — along with the salt and any extra flavors you’ve added — are reabsorbed by the turkey and the tough muscle portions begin to break down.

Why Dry Brine Turkey Instead of Wet Brine

In my testing, I found a few reasons why you should try dry brining this year.

  • It is definitely easier to dry brine.
  • Preparing a dry brine is less messy.
  • Dry brines don’t take as long — in my testing, I could aim for brining times on the lower end of the brine time guidelines.
  • You get some pretty tasty results with the benefits of the above conveniences.

In dry brining, you ARE NOT:

  • dealing with salt to water ratios or worrying about under/overdiluting the mixture.
  • bagging massive amounts of salt water, and then trying to keep it all cold.

I really only found 1 negative to dry brining and that was you can’t infuse a dry brine with flavors that come from liquids. That means, you can’t make an apple cider brine or a beer brine when you prepare a dry brine.

You need a liquid brine to be able to infuse a turkey with flavors that come from liquids.

homemade turkey dry brine in wood bowl next to spoon

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Turkey Dry Brine Ingredients

For this dry brine recipe, you’ll need the following herbs and seasonings:

  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Sage
  • Garlic cloves
  • Peppercorn
  • Kosher salt

How to Dry Brine a Turkey

To prepare the turkey dry brine itself, you simply need to pulse all the herbs and seasonings in a food processor until the mixture resembles a coarse paste. Then, stir in the kosher salt.

To brine the turkey, you’ll first need to remove the giblets and rinse the turkey inside and out. Pat the turkey dry, then sprinkle the dry brine evenly over the bird.

Cover the turkey loosely with foil or plastic wrap, then refrigerate to let the dry brine work its magic. Once the turkey has finished brining, dab any excess moisture with paper towels. You can then cook the bird however you wish.

fresh herbs meant for turkey dry brine

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Dry Brining Do’s and Don’ts

Dry brining might sound complicated and lengthy, but once you get the hang of it the process is really not difficult. There are a few rules you should know about before you attempt brining a turkey.

Use a Fresh, Unsalted Turkey

Many frozen turkeys that are available in today’s markets come pre-brined in a plain salt water solution. Additionally, a turkey labeled as “kosher” will already be salted as they’ve been farmed, slaughtered and prepared according to Jewish customs.

Brining a turkey with this dry brine recipe would result in an incredibly salty turkey, which is not ideal. You’ll want to look at the label before purchasing your turkey and avoid anything labeled as kosher, pre-salted, or salt injected. I usually have the best luck at natural food grocery stores, or ordering a “fresh” turkey from my grocery store.

If your turkey is pre-salted, then you can prepare this recipe WITHOUT the salt, creating a garlic herb paste, to season your turkey without risking over salting it.

Keep the Proportions of the Recipe

If you need a larger or smaller amount of this Garlic Herb Peppercorn Dry Brine, you will need adjust all of the ingredient amounts in the recipe. The amount of brine you need can vary depending on the size of your bird,

For example, all of the ingredients in this Garlic Herb Peppercorn Dry Brine recipe would need to be cut in half if you needed half the amount – not just the salt.

Brine Over and Under the Skin

For the best flavor and most tender turkey meat, place this dry brine inside the turkey, on top of the skin, and under the skin. If you are only going to brine the skin, you will need to add extra time to the process, about a day for an average sized whole bird.

Store Safely & at the Proper Temperature

When dry brining a turkey, after I’ve coated my turkey with the Garlic Herb Peppercorn Dry Brine, I prefer to place it on a disposable turkey roasting pan. Then, store in the refrigerator.

turkey dry brine ingredients on white surface

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How Long Do You Brine a Turkey?

How long you will brine your meat for largely depends on how big the piece of meat is. A simple boneless, skinless chicken breast or a couple of pork chops don’t need more than an hour. In contrast, a large 18+ pound turkey will need an entire day (or even longer) to fully benefit from the process. Here is a quick run down of the timing:

Turkey Brining Time Guide

  • Whole Turkey: 12-48 hours, depending on the size of the turkey
  • Turkey Breast: 4-8 hours
  • Large Whole Chicken: 3-5 hours
  • Cornish Game Hens: 1-2 hours

Anything brining for less than 6 hours should be kept uncovered during the entire process. If you are brining longer than 6 hours, allow the meat to brine uncovered for the last 4 – 6 hours of the brine time.

Storing it uncovered for half of the brining time allows the skin to dry out. The result: a crispy, golden-brown skin on your finished turkey.

Any questions? Feel free to leave comments here and I’ll try to respond with answers.

What Do You Do If You Need to Brine Your Turkey Ahead of Time?

Brining a turkey ahead of time is totally fine! Follow the instructions and the recommended brining time. Then, after it has finished the length of time for the brining, rinse the turkey inside and out, pat dry, and let sit completely covered on a baking or roasting pan in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook the turkey.

If you left the turkey brining without rinsing it for extra days then you would risk the result of a very salty turkey. A turkey will be fine stored in the refrigerator for an extra 1 – 2 days after brining as long as you rinse it, pat it dry, cover it, and keep it stored at the proper refrigerator temperature.

dry brine turkey on white serving platter in front of green beans and roasted squash

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What Size Turkey is This Recipe Used For?

I used the full dry brine recipe on a 16-pound turkey. You want to use about 1 – 2 tablespoons of the prepared dry brine per 3 pounds of turkey, or depending on your personal salt preferences.

Can I Use Dried Herbs Instead of Fresh?

No, fresh herbs are a must in this dry brine recipe.

Tips for Making a Dry Brine Turkey

Even though no additional liquid is used in this turkey dry brine recipe, you can still infuse your turkey with other flavors besides salt, garlic, and herbs.

If you want a Citrus Brine and you want it to be a dry brine, what I would do is add a bunch of citrus zest to the salt mixture. Tangerine, orange, or lemon zest are all great choices to add to a dry brine to give the turkey citrus flavors.

You can also add other fresh, ground spices such as allspice berries or whole grated nutmeg.

More Thanksgiving Recipes:

If you’re looking for additional turkey brining inspiration for your Thanksgiving Menu this year, here are a few other favorite recipes. Be sure to check out the whole Thanksgiving Recipes Archive right here if you need help building the rest of your menu.

Fresh Herb Citrus Brined Turkey combines lots of fresh herbs with a subtle hint of citrus.

Brining your turkey with this Apple Cider Sage Brined Turkey before roasting will not only infuses the meat with the delicious flavors of fresh apple cider and sage, but it will help keep the meat moist and tender.

Brining a turkey in this Rosemary Beer Brine will tenderize the meat and infuse it with a TON of flavor for Turkey Day.

The turkey is the center piece of the Thanksgiving meal and is arguably the trickiest part of the meal. Here are some of my Best Turkey Roasting Tips for a turkey that is full of flavor.

If you prefer to smoke your turkey, come check out my tried and true method along with my 8 pro tips for the best smoked turkey!

And don’t forget to check out my tips How to Make Gravy with No Lumps to go with your turkey.

After Thanksgiving, come figure out What To Do With Leftover Turkey so you don’t get sick of leftovers!

What’s your favorite way to cook a turkey on Thanksgiving?

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Garlic Herb Peppercorn Dry Brine for Turkey

Garlic Herb Peppercorn Dry Brine for Turkey

Yield: approximately 2/3 cup of dry brine
Brine Prep Time: 10 minutes
Brining Time: 1 days
Total Time: 1 days 10 minutes

This recipe for Garlic Herb Peppercorn Dry Brine is full of flavor and will make your turkey shine on Thanksgiving! Dry brining a turkey is really simple and produces juicy, seasoned turkey meat.

Ingredients

  • 3 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
  • 3 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • 3 Sprigs Fresh Sage
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Cracked Peppercorn
  • 4 Whole Garlic Cloves
  • 1/2 cup Coarse Kosher Salt (DO NOT substitute table salt)

Instructions

To Prepare the Brine Recipe

  1. Remove the rosemary, thyme, and sage leaves from their stems. Discard the stems.
  2. Add the herb leaves, cracked peppercorn, and whole garlic cloves to the bowl of a food processor.
  3. Pulse several times until the herbs are finely chopped and the mixture becomes a coarse paste, stopping to scrape the sides as necessary.
  4. Remove the dry brine from the food processor, transfer it to a bowl, and stir in the kosher salt.

To Brine the Turkey

  1. Remove any giblets or gravy packet that might be provided in the packaging. Discard or set aside if you plan to use them later.
  2. Rinse the turkey inside and out.
  3. Pat dry inside and out.
  4. Place the turkey on a rimmed baking sheet or a disposable roasting pan.
  5. Sprinkle the brine mixture over the turkey surface, taking care to provide even coverage. It should be coated on all sides, but NOT encrusted.
  6. Separate the skin from the breast meat and rub a small amount under the skin on top of the breast meat.
  7. Sprinkle a small amount inside the turkey cavity.
  8. You will most likely not need all of the salt unless you are using a very large bird. (Use approximately 1 - 2 tablespoons per 3 pounds of turkey, or depending on your personal salt preferences).

Storing the Turkey as it Brines

  1. Cover the turkey loosely with foil or plastic wrap.
  2. Store in the refrigerator for the appropriate length of time.
  3. When only 6 hours remain uncover the meat and return it to the refrigerator.

Cooking the Brined Turkey

  1. After brining, DO NOT RINSE the turkey.
  2. Pat any excess moisture with paper towels.
  3. Proceed with your preferred cooking method.
  4. Omitting any additional salt from the next steps.

Notes

Brining Time Guide

  • Whole Turkey: 12-48 hours, depending on the size of the turkey.
  • Turkey Breast: 4-8 hours
  • Large Whole Chicken: 3-5 hours
  • Cornish Game Hens: 1-2 hours

Dry brine can be made up to 3 days head of time and store refrigerated in an airtight container until you are ready to brine your turkey.

Other Tips

Anything bringing for less than 6 hours should be kept uncovered during the entire process. If you are brining longer than 6 hours, allow the meat to brine uncovered for the last 4 – 6 hours of the brine time.

Storing it uncovered for half of the brining time allows the skin to dry out, resulting in a crispy, golden-brown skin on your finished turkey.

If your turkey is pre-salted, then you can prepare this recipe WITHOUT the salt, creating a garlic herb paste, to season your turkey without risking over salting it.

Be sure to follow Good Life Eats on Instagram. Tag @goodlifeeats and include the hashtag #goodlifeeatsrecipes so I can see what you’re cooking up in YOUR kitchen!

Let me know if you try this recipe and what you think of it by leaving a comment below.

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