We’ve cooked turkeys every which way: in a brown grocery bag (turns out to be highly unsanitary); draped with butter-drenched cheesecloth; deep-fried; even deboned and shaped into a melon (oh, la la!). We’ve wrestled with a hot twenty-five pounder, breast side down, then breast side up, and on and on. But we think we’ve found the answer to achieving the perfect Thanksgiving turkey—the easy dry salt brine.
- 14-16 pound fresh turkey
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 3-4 tablespoons softened butter
- 2 cups water
Rinse a 14–16-pound fresh turkey (not injected or pre-brined) and pat dry with paper towels. Rub or pat 3 tablespoons kosher salt onto the breasts, legs, and thighs. Tightly wrap the turkey completely in plastic wrap or slip it into a very large resealable plastic bag, pressing out the air before sealing it. Set the turkey in a pan breast side up and refrigerate it for 3 days. Turn the turkey every day, massaging the salt into the skin through the plastic.
Unwrap the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels (don’t rinse the bird). Return the turkey to the pan breast side up and refrigerate it, uncovered, for at least 8 hours or overnight. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for at least 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 325°.
If you’ve decided to serve your turkey stuffed, spoon the stuffing into the cavity of the bird. (Put any extra stuffing into a buttered baking dish, cover, and put it in the oven to bake with the turkey for the last hour.) Tie the legs together with kitchen string. Tuck the wings under the back. Rub the turkey all over with 3–4 tablespoons softened butter.
Place the turkey breast side up on a roasting rack set into a large roasting pan. Add 2 cups water to the pan. Roast the turkey until it is golden brown and a thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 165°, about 3 hours for an unstuffed bird and 3–4 hours for a stuffed one. Transfer the turkey to a platter, loosely cover it with foil, and let it rest for 20–30 minutes before carving. Serve the turkey and stuffing, if using, with gravy.