This foolproof dry-brine turkey recipe produces a Thanksgiving centerpiece that is excellent in every way other whole turkeys often fall short: It’s full of flavor and juicy as heck (that’s the dry brine). And two: Cooking the turkey on a rimmed baking sheet, not in a deep roasting pan, is great for all-over browning. (Just be extra careful as you remove it from the oven so the drippings don’t slosh over the sides.)
You’ll start by administering that turkey brine, a simple mix of kosher salt and brown sugar, at least 12 hours before you plan to cook the turkey. If you can manage it, a full 2 days uncovered in the fridge will make this year’s turkey the best turkey ever (trust us). We swear by the dry-brining process, which ensures a well-seasoned, tender, succulent turkey. The wet brine method, on the other hand, can be messy, waterlogging the bird and creating a logistical nightmare (where do you store it?!). Pay attention to the type and amount of salt you use. We’ve given measurements for Diamond Crystal and Morton kosher (the two most prominent brands in America), but you can check outif you’re using something else—or simply measure by weight. Word of warning: Avoid table salt, which has additives that prevent clumping and can cause an unpleasant bitterness.
After the turkey goes into the oven, you’ll whip together a quick glaze with vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, honey, and a few aromatics. The recipe calls for fresh rosemary, but if you have another hearty fresh herb, like sage or thyme, on your menu, feel free to use it instead. Brushing with a glaze, rather than basting with the juices, will help ensure every inch of the bird gets an even lacquer. Translation: more crispy skin to go around.
This roast turkey recipe demands patience, so plan accordingly. Once the bird hits the optimal internal temperature (’tis the season for a meat thermometer if you don’t own one), it must rest at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour to give the juices time to settle. Don’t cover the turkey in aluminum foil or anything else—doing so will cause all that hard-earned crackling skin to go limp. (We promise the cooked turkey will not go cold.) Use the time to put the finishing touches on your mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, and all the other side dishes for your Thanksgiving dinner (or to consider what you’ll do with all that leftover turkey in the days to come).
Want to change up the flavor? Choose a different dry brine recipe like garlic and herb, citrusy peppercorn, or maple and fennel. And if you’re still not convinced that this is the perfect Thanksgiving turkey, try your hand at our garlicky spatchcock turkey, roast your turkey in parts for white and dark meat cooked to their particular optimal doneness, or head outside to make smoked turkey.