Among the bounty of Thanksgiving recipes here at zenbelly.com, there’s been one glaring omission: The TURKEY! I feel like every year, I research the best way to cook a turkey and just can’t ever really decide on what’s best (I’m sometimes indecisive to a fault). So I’ve held off posting a recipe, in the interest of waiting until I had the best possible one for you.
Fresh Herb Dry Brined Turkey & Gravy
Well… good news, times 2!
- I finally have a turkey recipe for you.
- This turkey recipe is easy, cooks quickly, and is quite possibly foolproof. (brined meat = juicy meat that doesn’t dry out when slightly overcooked. I’m sure we’ve all experienced at least one drrrrrry Thanksgiving turkey, right? Never again, my friends.)
Oh and even more good news: “dry brine” is really just a fancy way of saying “salt that ish”. It’s not complicated. In fact, it’s way easier and less messy than wet brine, and you don’t need a bathtub sized container to do it.
There are four components to this recipe – the turkey itself, the herb salt that you’ll brine it with, turkey stock to make gravy, and of course, the gravy. You can choose your own adventure depending on your needs; for example: if you have a bunch of broth / stock on hand, you’re one step ahead and don’t need to make it. But make sure to freeze that backbone for next time!
Want more Thanksgiving recipes? Here are some of my favorites:
Best Ever Paleo Stuffing
Gluten-free Sourdough & Mushroom Stuffing
Sweet Potato Puree with Apples & Sage
Roasted Brussels with Pancetta & Cranberries
Rainy Day Biscuits
And check out my Everything Dough mini ebook for spectacular Pull Apart Rolls and more!
PIN THIS RECIPE!
Fresh Herb Dry Brined Turkey & Gravy
- Prep Time: 30 minutes + 3 days
- Cook Time: 70-90 minutes
- Total Time: 15 minute
- Yield: varies
- Category: thanksgiving
- Method: roast
- Cuisine: American
Everything you need to make the ultimate holiday bird; complete with gravy.
You’ll need a large roasting pan and an instant read meat thermometer for this recipe.
For the Turkey:
1 turkey – a good rule of thumb is 1.5 pounds per person (you’ll still have leftovers)
fresh herb salt – 1 teaspoon for every pound of turkey (recipe below)
4 large carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
4–5 sprigs thyme
1 tablespoon ghee, melted, or olive oil
For the Fresh Herb Salt:
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
1/2 cup loosely packed thyme, rosemary and sage (roughly 2 parts thyme, 1 part rosemary .5 part sage)
For the Gravy:
(makes about 4 cups; a good rule of thumb is 1/3 cup per person)
1/4 cup butter or ghee
1/4 cup cassava flour (I like Otto’s)
1 cup white wine
3 cups turkey stock (recipe below)
a couple sprigs of fresh thyme
drippings from the turkey*
For the Turkey Stock:
turkey back & neck
2 stalks celery
6 cloves garlic, unpeeled and whole
10 whole peppercorns
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
8 cups water
Make sure to prep the turkey on Monday so it’s ready to roast on Thursday!
- Monday: Spatchock* the turkey, saving the backbone and neck for stock to make gravy.
- Measure out your salt; you’ll need 1 teaspoon for every pound of turkey (or 1 tablespoon for every 3 pounds: a 15 pound turkey needs 5 tablespoons of salt for example)
- Gently loosen the skin on the breast and thighs and get some of the salt under there. Evenly coat the rest of the turkey with the remainder of the salt, making sure to get it on all surfaces.
- Place the turkey skin-side up in a large pan and cover with plastic wrap.
- Tuesday: Flip the turkey so it’s skin-side down and cover again with plastic wrap.
- Wednesday: Flip again so it’s skin-side up, and leave uncovered overnight. (this will allow the excess moisture to evaporate a bit which means crispy skin- yay!)
- Take the turkey out of the fridge one hour before you roast it to allow it to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 450ºF. (Ideally, with your oven rack just below center)
- Place the carrots, celery, garlic and thyme in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Place the turkey on top, skin side up, with the wings tucked behind the breast. Brush the skin all over with the ghee.
- Roast for 40 minutes and then turn the heat down to 350ºF. Roast for another 30-50 (or longer if you’re cooking a giant bird), until the breast temperature is 150ºF and the thigh is 165ºF. My turkey was 15 pounds and took about 90 minutes, so about 6 minutes per pound. Allow to rest, loosely tented with foil, for 20 minutes before carving.
FRESH HERB SALT
- Combine the salt and fresh herbs in a blender or food processor and blend until the herbs are finely minced and the salt is a light green color.
- Store remaining salt in an airtight container in the fridge. (Use it to brine chickens, season beef or anything that could use a salty-herby boost!)
- In a large sauce pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the cassava flour and whisk to combine. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until it’s the color of light caramel, whisking often.
- Pour in the wine and turn the heat to medium-high. Simmer for 2 minutes or so, to cook off the alcohol.
- Add the turkey stock and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until slightly reduced and thickened. Stir in the turkey drippings. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Place all of the ingredients in a pressure cooker and lock on the lid. Cook on high pressure for 45 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally before venting and opening the lid.
- Strain the solids and reserve the liquid, skimming off the fat that comes to the surface.
- If cooking on the stove top, simmer all the ingredients for 90 minutes and then continue with step 2.
* To spatchcock the turkey, cut along both sides of the backbone with a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Flip the turkey so it’s skin-side up and press down to flatten, splaying out the legs. For more visual instruction on that, see Mark Bittman do it HERE
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I just found out I am cooking Thanksgiving and this is super helpful! I have spatchcocked and dry brined chicken before and always results in a super moist (I know, that word!) and evenly cooked bird, something I always struggled with before using that method. Gravy has always been a major hurdle…I am really excited to try this! Thank you!
haha you should have seen me writing this post trying to avoid that word. I personally don’t hate it as much as most people do, so sometimes I use it juuuuust to get to people 😉 I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!
I dry brined my turkey last year and it was the best turkey I ever made! I’m going to be trying the spatchcocking next! This is soooo much easier than trying to immerse a 14lb turkey in water! It’s like a baptismal! LOL I can’t wait to try your gravy recipe! I don’t have a pressure cooker. Would it work the same in a slow cooker? BTW: LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your new Paleo Soup and Stew Cookbook! I have a confession to make…I bought it for the bread recipes! :p Seriously…those ROLLS and BISCUITS! WOW! Now you need to write a “Paleo Dough” cookbook! 😉 🙂 :*
hahaha turkey baptism. Yes, the gravy would work in the slow cooker, you’re just making the broth for it in there, so you could do slow cooker or stovetop, whichever you’re most comfortable with. I’m so glad you like my new soup, I mean bread book! 😉 Honestly, I had a feeling that would happen. Do you have my everything dough ebook? It’s on this site! Thanks, Amy!
Yep! I purchased your “Everything Dough” ebook last year and made the BEST pull-apart rolls for Thanksgiving last year that we’ve had since changing our diet due to food allergies/intolerances! They are as close to the REAL DEAL if not better! Even my picky father-in-law remarked how good they were! 🙂 My family also LOVED the cinnamon rolls at Christmas and I’ll be making them again this year! Thank you, Simone! 🙂 :*
Hi Simone! This is the recipe I’ve been looking for! I’m really wary of spatchcocking my 12 pound turkey though…even after watching the video I am really not sure I have the knife skills. I’m thinking the brine and gravy will work, I will just need to up the cooking time if I don’t spatchcock? Also, just regular kosher salt, or can I use sea salt? (I’m sure this question is annoying, but this is literally my first turkey.) Btw I have both your cookbooks (and the everything dough recipe!) and they are FANTASTIC.
Hi Suzanne! If you’re not comfortable spatchcocking the turkey you can absolutely cook it whole. You can use sea salt, but google what the sub should be; I think you need to use slightly less. I think cooking time is usually about 20 minutes per pound for a whole turkey at 350, but double check. So glad you like the cookbooks! And good luck with the turkey! I’m sure you’ll do a great job 🙂
We had an early Thanksgiving on Sunday and I followed the turkey recipe to a T. It was AMAZING! Everyone said it was the best turkey they ever had. And the pan drippings made great gravy. Thank you!!
oh yay that’s so great to hear! Thanks, Carolyn!
Do you think it would work to use a rimmed baking sheet with a wire rack over top to cook the spatchcocked turkey? I was planning to go purchase a roasting pan today for my first ever turkey (eek!), but I saw several spatchcocked turkey recipes that called for a rimmed baking sheet instead, which I already have. I’m mostly nervous about the drippings spilling over! Also, would that change the cook time at all?
You can definitely use a rimmed baking sheet. I don’t think you’ll have so much drippings that they spill over, but just keep an eye on it. Cooking time should stay the same. I know the first turkey can be scary- You got this! 🙂
THANK YOU so much for the recipe and your reply! Our turkey turned out so amazing! Juicy on the inside with perfect crispy skin 🙂 Thanks for making me look like I know what I’m doing!
Thank YOU Simone, for making me look awesome! Everyone just raved about the food I made and your instructions made it so easy and stress-proof! And my former white whale, gravy, was great, AND I was on time, which literally may have never happened before. This year I actually had a timeline and it has changed my life, lol!
Yay! This makes me so happy. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! I’m glad your Thanksgiving was a success! 🙂
I normally don’t even like turkey – my family always made a ham for me. But, this year, my husband’s work gave him a 16.7 lb turkey. I used your recipe and it came out perfectly! I may even be a turkey convert. I can’t wait to make your turkey pot pie with the leftovers.
That’s so awesome! And I’m with you- turkey can be pretty meh. Amazing what a brine can do, right? Thanks for stopping by, Amanda! 🙂
Kris DeFoer says
Wondering… I pre-ordered my turkey and it will be available for pickup on Tuesday. Is there a shortcut for the brining?
I would just brine it as soon as you get it, and it will still be great! Tues-Thurs should be enough time.
Donny B says
Oooh, I might have to do this this year. This looks fantastic.
Just a friendly heads up: the instant thermometer link actually goes to some BBQ mats.
hah! that’s so weird, sometimes amazon links go wonky. I will fix it, thanks for letting me know! I hope you love the turkey if you try it.
Donny B says
I’m planning on it! Just bought all the herbs and ghee. Question: I only saw boxes of coarse kosher salt. Is that okay or should I find “fine” or something else?
coarse is the standard for kosher, so you’re good to go!
Donna in Inwood says
So listen, this is probably a dumb question, but are you saying that if we follow your directions and spatchcock the bird, we don’t use a roasting rack?
It looks like that what’s you’re saying — ha! Just want to be sure. My roasting rack kinda curves upward and if I were to put the bird on it that would defeat the purpose of spatchcocking…yes?
Not a dumb question! You are correct, no roasting rack required.
Have you tried making this gravy ahead of time – wondering if the cassava flour would reheat well in the gravy or if it would be problematic?
I have, and you can definitely make it ahead of time! It reheats great.
I made this as my first turkey this year – SO GOOD! We had a 13 pound turkey for five people, and we *maybe* have two servings of leftovers. I couldn’t believe it.
Ours did end up taking about an hour longer than the suggested time, but I tried to use a roasting rack (turned the turkey sideways so it was a little splayed) and I’m sure that’s why. I have no idea how Mark Bittman spatchcocked his turkey in less than 15 seconds…it took me a good 15 minutes
With this recipe I will happily volunteer for the turkey every year. Thank you for this masterpiece!!
Bittman has had a lot of practice! I’m so glad it came out great and you’re now the turkey pro!
This year I forgot the ghee but fabulous nonetheless, great recipe and I’ll never make turkey another way!
Yay! I’m so glad you liked it!
Hi, really looking forward to trying this dry brine. Just wanted to confirm with you that you do not need to rinse the brine off before roasting, correct? Thanks, can’t wait to try it.
Correct! No need to rinse. I hope you love it!
Gretchen Tseng says
Excited to try this method. For the herbed salt are you using dried or fresh herbs?
I used fresh, but if dry is easier, you can do that too. Just use about one third of the amount of dry herbs for fresh called for in the recipe, since they’re more potent. (1 tablespoon fresh herbs = 1 teaspoon dry)
By far the BEST turkey that I’ve ever made, so plan to use your recipe again this year!
1) wondering about taking a turkey and cutting it in half lengthwise and freezing half.
If I want to do this, should I dry brine the whole thing, and then cut it in half, OR should I cut in half first, freeze half for another time and then dry brine the other half?
2) I’m receiving my fresh (not frozen) organic pastured turkey direct from local rancher today (harvested yesterday). So if I want to eat it on Thursday, is it best to just keep it cold for 2 days and then proceed with your recipe on Monday, or would you dry brine it an extra day or two by starting the process today or Sunday?
If you have any thoughts on these I’d appreciate hearing them!
Hi Susan! I’m so glad you love the recipe.
1) You can definitely cut it in half and freeze half, especially since it hasn’t been frozen yet (which isn’t dangerous but can affect the texture) I would just freeze it plain and brine it when you thaw it next time. You can also cut it into parts (breast / leg quarter) for when you cook it next, depending on how large it is and how much you’ll be able to eat at a time.
2) I’m not answering this quick enough at this point, but I would have said to start brining it today. If you started early that’s fine too! That’s awesome that you got such a fresh bird!
Hi Simone, hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Turns out that my turkey was delivered frozen instead of fresh so just followed your exact recipe, rather than cutting it in half since I didn’t want to refreeze it. This is such a foolproof recipe and dare I say it was even better this year (even though I forgot the ghee again). Mine was 15 lb (all pastured from Rockside Ranch) and was ready in 90 mins on the dot, just like yours was. I think this was the best turkey that I’ve ever made. I also loved both your cranberry ginger mandarin sauce and incredible delicata pear pom salad (I had some extra mandarin juice and subbed it for some of the vinegar in the yummy maple Dijon dressing). Lastly, I’m not a gravy person and NEVER eat it, BUT I made your cassava roux gravy and used champagne as the white wine and it was exceptional! My hub is not paleo or GF but thought it was extraordinary. That wine really makes it! Hadn’t made turkey stock yet, so used Kettle & Fire chicken stock, which brings me to my question….
Turkey stock…your recipe uses the back and neck, but since my turkey is roasted now, of course I’ll add the carcass and any bones from the parts. I also collected in a jar all of the pan drippings and juices that exuded from carving because there was a huge amount of gelatin (the drippings were like jello). I put the skins in a bag. Of course, the skins will have a lot of salt from the dry brine. QUESTION: using your turkey stock recipe, would you add the jar full of gelatin/fat/juices that I collected and would you also add the skins? Of course I would skim off all of the fat after the stock solidifies in mason jars. I’m asking this from both a nutritional and flavor perspective. Naturally, I wouldn’t add any salt to the stock since they is probably a fair amount in all of the additions that I’m suggesting.
Hi Susan! I’m so glad to hear everything came out well. For the stock, I’d definitely use all of those roasted bones and gelatin, but I wouldn’t add the skins since they’re just fat you’ll need to skim off after the fact. And always a good idea to hold off on the salt with broth when your components already have it, at least until you taste at the end. I hope that answers your question.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Simone. I’ll do exactly what you’ve said. I may even try reheating the jar of liquid and see if a fat separator will help me pull the fat out of it.
DELICIOUS!!!! This turned out so good!! I couldn’t find the turkey recipe I’ve made for the past few years, so decided to try yours. It was perfect! The turkey was moist and delicious, but the best part was the gravy. OH MY GOD. The best Thanksgiving gravy I’ve ever had!!! Seriously amazing. I’m so glad I made the stock. Thank you for giving directions for that. I’ll be using this turkey and gravy recipe from here on out!
This turkey is the BEST I have ever made! Ever since I made this for my family’s Thanksgiving in 2019, that’s all they ask for when I come to visit 😀 Thank you for this f*ck up proof turkey!