Introducing Dry Brining, an Easier Way to Season Thanksgiving Turkey at Home
Chef Billy Allin of Cakes & Ale in Decatur, Georgia is a believer in brining - dry brining, that is. His foolproof method for seasoning a turkey (or pork loin or lamb shank or chicken…) requires neither a massive, leakproof cooler nor the fridge space for an enormous bucket. That's because it's essentially "like a barbecue brine, a dry rub," he says. All you need is a handful of spices and a healthy dose of salt for a bird that's well seasoned and juicy. Here he shares his Thanksiving turkey method.
1. Plan ahead—at least a day early. Allin salts his Thanksgiving turkey on Tuesday, but even 24 hours will do. "If you salt the outside of a piece of meat right before you cook it," he explains, "it will taste salty, but if you season it ahead of time, the salt has time to penetrate the meat and season it all the way through."
2. Toast and grind whole spices. Allin uses a mixture of coriander, fennel, cumin, celery seed, bay leaf and black pepper, but you can adjust the spices (and their amounts) to taste. Pulverize the toasted spices in a coffee grinder and mix with salt in a 4:1 ratio (four parts spices to one part salt).
3. Season liberally and evenly. Cover the turkey with the salt blend, coating the dark meat areas more heavily so that the salt is absorbed through the fat and muscle. Allin uses about one tablespoon of mixture per pound of meat.
4. Let it breathe. By leaving the bird uncovered in the refrigerator for 24 hours, the outside of the bird dries out, yielding a golden, crispy skin when cooked.