Russ Parsons’s Dry-Brined Turkey (aka The Judy Bird)

Easy, tasty and beautifully moist: This is the only way I make my turkeys now!

When some of our amazing neighbors gifted us with five turkeys, I dry-brined every one. I never liked turkey so much or found it so easy to prepare until I learned about this method.

Click here for the link and a much better picture than mine. So sorry! As of 2023, they now charge but the side video still tells how for free.

Alternatively, click on the a free link (so far) at Epicurious

I adapt almost every recipe I use, adjusting it to guests’ individual tastes and demands. After rinsing my turkey (yes, I still rinse but am careful about contamination), I skip patting it dry and put it in a stainless steel roaster, slathering about 3T of sea salt (depending on turkey weight–see recipe directions on link above) over all the turkey like steps 1-3 but not worrying about the cavities until later because they’re usually frozen solid. I skip any other spices until after step 7.

After rinsing I fold the wings when thawed enough to do so, also removing any packaged parts or plastic from the drumsticks or elsewhere when I can, and covering without turning but refrigerating as directed (For me, it usually takes longer than 3 days). I usually forget to rub in the salt or flip and uncover the bird.

On roasting day, I go to step 6 and do it but don’t pat or baste with any butter on step 7, where I opt for placing breast down in my roaster. I used to insert big fork tines, one on each end, to flip the turkey after a half hour at 425 degrees F. It was hot and heavy work. Now I just take the roaster out of the oven and let the turkey cool while I zest 2 limes (or 1 lime, 1 lemon) and snip 2T fresh or frozen rosemary (or you can ground dried rosemary in a pestle). I halve the zested limes, then hand-squeeze the juice of one over the skin. By this time, the turkey’s usually fine to quickly flip breast-side up with my hands (but I’m kinda tough). I squeeze the rest of the lime juice over the breast-side of the turkey, topping with sprinkled rosemary and zest. Then I tuck the lime rinds into both bird cavities, loosely stuffing with quartered apples, celery chunks and salt (all of which is purely for flavor and discarded after cooking).

After flipping and seasoning, I roast at 325 degrees F as per step 8, but my oven can take 3 hours or longer. If at any point the turkey is browning too much, I simply put on my roaster lid.

I skip the foil of step 9 and try to let the turkey stand as directed before serving. Often we’re already eating it.

Since dry-brining, my turkeys taste great and and disappear fast. The kitchen smells delicious for hours! Only complaint: my daughter says it’s so good we never use leftovers to make other recipes anymore.

post-Thanksgiving 2022 note: This year, my bird was the smallest on record but I still used 2 limes and it was even better than ever. We’re planning on doing another turkey over Christmas. It’s a big one, so I may use 4 limes. Our Thanksgiving turkey was gone so fast it almost started fights….