How to Keep Turkey Moist

Dry brines work magic just like wet brines, with less fuss.

Carved Turkey

Photo: Randy Mayor

  • Kenji Lopez-Alt

    Help Me, Kenji

    Kenji Lopez-Alt is the chief creative officer of Serious Eats, where he writes The Food Lab, unraveling the science of home cooking.

  • Separate Skin Carefully

    Step 1: Separate Skin Carefully

    Slide fingers between skin and meat—try not to tear the skin.

  • Apply Salt Rub

    Step 2: Rub the Meat Evenly with Kosher Salt

    Spread it all over, under the skin: breast, legs, and cavity.

  • Loosely Cover Turkey

    Step 3: Loosely Cover the Turkey, and Refrigerate

    Chill at least 1 night and up to 4: the longer it chills, the more the salt will penetrate the meat.

  • Carve It Up

    Step 4: Carve It Up

    Take off the legs, and then slice the white meat. Cutting the breast meat crosswise (against the grain) helps it stay moist and tender.

Q: How do I keep my turkey moist?

A: There are only two things at the Thanksgiving table that should be dry: the wine and the humor. For moist meat without the hassle of clearing fridge space to soak the bird in a vat of brining liquid, try a dry brine. Salting a turkey and letting it rest before roasting seasons it deeply and helps it retain moisture.

Here's how it works: Salt on the surface of the meat will draw out some moisture via osmosis. The salt then dissolves in this liquid, creating a very concentrated brine, which eventually will be drawn back inside the meat. When you roast that turkey, it will retain more moisture, making for juicier, tastier meat.

To dry brine a turkey, gently separate the skin from the breast meat, and rub kosher salt into the cavity in between, as well as all over the legs and back. (Nutrition guidelines limit us to 1 tablespoon kosher salt for a 12-pound bird—use your discretion if sodium isn't a concern for you.) Place the turkey on a large plate, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest in the refrigerator at least one night and up to four before roasting.

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