The lost art of brining was defined and deconstructed in our blog post What Is Turkey Brining, And Why Should I Care?. Long story short, brining ensures that your turkey will indeed make for an epic Thanksgiving feast.
Brining uses the properties of salt and time to keep your bird moist during the cooking process, which is especially important when roasting a pasture raised turkey.
So now that we’ve established the importance of brining, it’s time to get this show on the road and actually brine that turkey bird. We’re here to help with instructions for brining in just three easy steps: Rub, Refrigerate, & Roast. But first things first – you will need to make a few decisions prior to the big brining event.
First Things First
Pour yourself an extra splash of wine and give yourself a big pat on the back… for if you are reading this, you may have done something deliciously awesome – purchased a pasture raised turkey for Thanksgiving. If you haven’t purchased a turkey yet, you should really consider one that was raised on pasture. The amazing flavor and texture of pasture raised turkey will awe your guests.
For Realsy, First Things First
The first decision you need to make is what type of brining process to use, dry or wet. We here at Farmer Girl Meats prefer dry brining, and here’s why: It’s less messy, it’s less work, and it’s a match made in heaven for pasture raised turkey. Boom, done and done. With dry brining there are no 5-gallon buckets of saline solution to lug around, and no worries about keeping said bucket below 40 degrees during the 24 to 48 hour wet brining process. All one needs to execute a stellar dry brine is a pasture raised turkey, a sumptious dry brine mix, plastic wrap, and a refrigerator. Which brings us to the next decision…
Choose A Delicious Dry Brine Mix
Now that we are all on board with dry brining our bird this Thanksgiving, we need to choose, or make, a dry brine mix. A dry brine mix is the schtuff you actually rub all over the bird, to, well, brine it. The primary ingredient is salt, just as in a wet brine. However unlike a wet brine, the salt from our dry brine mix will be applied directly to the turkey meat. We are such big fans of dry brining we whipped up our own, Pasture Raised Turkey Dry Brine. Created with the aim of complimenting the delicate but deep flavor of our pasture raised poutlry, our hand-mixed brine includes cracked rosemary leaves, Tellicherry Peppercorns, whole sage and thyme leaf, and a hint of lime. Enough shameless plugs- you get the idea – we think our Farmer Girl Meats dry brine is kinda amazing, and it’s just perfect for a home-grown and locally raised pasture raised turkey. But, just in case you want to take a stab at concocting your own dry brine, we’ve provided a simple mix recipe below.
Schedule 24 to 48 Hours Brining Time
The last step in planning to brine a turkey is to schedule 24 to 48 hours of actual brining time, before roasting ensues. In order for salt to achieve the goal of moistening and flavoring food, it must be given copious time to work. As in 24 to 48 hours for a turkey, depending on its size. In general, the more salt used in the brine mix, the less brining time needed. Using either our Pasture Raised Turkey Dry Brine or the recipe provided, we suggest planning on approximately 36 hours of brine time. For birds over twenty pounds, consider extending the brine time to between 36 and 48 hours. Keep in mind the brining process needs to be complete approximately four hours prior to serving, depending on the size of the turkey. Here’s an example of prep time needed for a Thanksgiving meal being served at noon on Thursday:
Brining Schedule for Serving Thanksgiving Dinner at Noon:
- Tuesday, Noon: Apply dry brine.
- Tuesday (Noon) to Thursday morning: Brine turkey in refrigerator.
- Thursday morning: Rest at room temperature, roast, and serve.
How much time should you allot for roasting a dry brined bird? While the rule of thumb is approximately 13 minutes per pound of bone-in whole turkey, we recommend alloting 10 minutes per pound for a pasture raised bird. Here’s why: First, brining makes meat cook more quickly, thereby decreasing total roasting time needed. Second, a pasture raised turkey will be well-cooked and moist at an internal temperature of approximately 165 degrees Fahrenheit. You may have read that 180 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal finished temperature for turkey, but we disagree. Roasting a pasture raised turkey beyond 165 degrees will result in dry meat with little flavor. An internal temperature of approximately 165 degrees is the ideal temperature for a pasture raised turkey, as it ensures any bacteria are killed but allows the bird to remain moist. A 180 degree finish is appropriate for a mass-produced turkey purchased from the supermarket, but not a pasture raised turkey from a trusted source. You can learn more about the different turkey cooking temperatures of pasture raised versus mass-produced turkeys in our “How Long Do I Cook A Turkey For?” post.
Now that all the tough decisions have been made, it’s time to actually brine that bird.
How To Brine A Pasture Raised Turkey In Three Easy Steps
- 1 pasture raised turkey
- Pasture Raised Turkey Dry Brine mix, approximately 1/2 tablespoon per 1 pound of turkey.
- 1 large roasting pan or cookie sheet
- Plastic wrap
- To Make Your Own Dry Brine: Mix 6 tablespoons kosher salt, 3 Ttablespoons dried herb, and 1/2 tablespoon of whole or cracked peppercorns. Note: Table salt is not substitutable for kosher salt.
Remove moisture from surface of a pasture raised turkey by patting dry with paper towels. Next, determine how much dry brine mix is needed, using 1/2 tablespoon of dry brine per 1 pound of turkey. For example, a 20 pound turkey requires 5 tablespoons of dry brine. Measure out the dry brine needed into a small bowl. Next, loosen the turkey skin from the turkey meat with the handle of a wooden spoon. Gently insert the handle between the skin and the meat, loosening the skin on all parts of the bird including the breast, leg, thigh, and back. Rub the dry brine mix under the loosened skin, directly onto the meat of the breast, back, thighs, legs, and even the wing if possible. Season inside turkey cavity with an additional 1 tablepoon of dry brine mix.
Wrap the turkey with plastic wrap and place in roasting pan or on a baking sheet. Refrigerate turkey for 24 to 48 hours to complete the brining process, depending upon the size of the turkey.
Remove turkey from refrigerator. Remove plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to one hour. Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, add additional seasoning to the skin of the turkey if desired. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 – 350 degrees, and place turkey inside.
Roast, using 10 minutes of roasting time per pound of turkey as a rough guide. Approximately half-way thru the total alloted roasting time, take the internal temperature of the turkey. Continue to check the internal temperature periodically, remembering that the rate of cooking increases as internal temperature of meat rises. In other words, the time it takes the internal temperature to rise from 140 to 150 degrees is much faster than the time it takes the internal temperature to rise from 90 to 100 degrees. So as the turkey approaches a final temperature of 160 to 165 degrees, it will cook more quickly.
Once the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165 degrees, remove the turkey from the oven. Let rest for 30 minutes to redistribute juices.
Carve and serve.