Many people will recommend brining the turkey, to help retain moisture, particularly in the breast meat. Wet brines are fine and good, but they require a lot of space in your fridge, and can leave your meat with a slightly mushy texture. Instead, we tried a dry brine, which we found here. One perk to dry brining is that you can apply the brine while your turkey is still frozen! This was a huge time saver for us, since it took about 3.5 days for our turkey to completely defrost.
First, you'll want to get your brine ready. As the recipe suggests, you want about 1 tbsp. of salt for every 5lbs. of turkey. We had a 16.6lb. turkey, so we used a little more than 3 tbsp. salt. Because we still wanted to try and get a smokey flavor, we used 2 tbsp. of applewood smoked salt, and 1 tbsp. kosher salt. In addition to the salt, we added in some smoked paprika, again for some smokiness, along with some chopped thyme, rosemary, sage, and juniper berries, which we crushed in our mortar and pestle.
Now it's time to rub it all over your turkey! Since our turkey still had to defrost, we placed him in a brining bag. That way it would collect the water, and it'd be easy to dispose once Thanksgiving day came. Before rubbing your salt mixture on the bird, be sure to pat him dry with paper towel to get rid of any excess moisture. Also make sure that any gizzards and organs have been removed from the cavity. Sprinkle a bit of your salt & spice mixture in the cavity too. Then you'll want to use about 1 tbsp on the breasts, and 1 tbsp on each leg/wing/thigh. If your turkey is defrosted already, be sure to get in all the crevices.
Once you've rubbed him down, you can seal up the bag. Try to get as much air out of the bag as possible. It can be a little tough, so it's best to have an extra set of hands to help you do this.
At least 1 hour before you're ready to cook your bird, be sure to take him out of the fridge, and let him start to warm up. We also gave him an additional dusting of my Grandpa's secret rub, the one he'd use on his smoked turkeys. As when roasting a chicken, we prepared some aromatics to put in the cavity to add a bit of flavor, and also keep the breast moist. We stuck to traditional ingredients here, roughly chopping up some carrots, onion, celery, and lemon, and making a bundle of rosemary, sage and thyme.
We stuffed what we could into the cavity, and the rest went into the bottom of the roasting pan, so we'd get some added flavor to the pan drippings, in case we wanted to make gravy later. Also make sure to tie the legs together, closing up the cavity as much as you can. This will also help prevent the meat from drying out.
Now you're ready to roast! Heat up your oven to 425 degrees, and place your bird, breast side down, on your roasting rack. I know this is atypical, but trust us, it works! We also brushed some softened butter onto the skin of the turkey to help it brown. When you're oven comes to temperature, throw your bird in for 30 minutes. This will help get the bottom nice and brown.
green bean casserole.
The dry brining method was a success! The breast stayed nice and moist, and the smoked salt we used added a subtle smokiness to the meat. It was a great alternative to actually smoking the turkey.