Dry Brined Roast Turkey Breast

Whether hosting a smaller gathering or when extra is needed, a turkey breast is a great choice. And this Dry Brined Roast Turkey Breast guarantees great flavor with juicy, moist results. Use the leftover for Turkey Tortellini Soup.

white platter of sliced roast turkey breast with the skin on it and some sage and parsley

If your Thanksgiving table looks anything like mine, there’s usually one platter of turkey and lots and lots of sides. Carving the turkey is sometimes a bigger draw than actually eating it. And turkey, especially the white meat, can be dry and well—let’s face it…boring. This smaller portioned, Dry Brined Roast Turkey Breast will satisfy all the white meat lovers with its big flavor and juicy texture.

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Why brine a turkey?

Two reasons:

  • Moisture. Say buy-bye now to dry white meat and hello to the most popular dish on your Thanksgiving table. A brine is the deep dark secret to keeping this juicy roast turkey breast.
  • Flavor. A brine includes herbs and spices and sometimes even citrus adding tremendous flavor and seasoning.

And of course with brining you have choices: wet or dry. For this turkey breast brine, we are going to use a dry brine.

The difference between a dry and wet brine

close up of roasted turkey breast halves with some potatoes and sage

Other than the fact that a dry brine doesn’t have water, there are some advantages to making a dry brine turkey breast:

Juicy meat with big flavor. A wet brine adds more water to the turkey breast potentially leading to waterlogging, which is the main problem with traditional brining. Dry brining brings all the moisture and also makes a really crispy skin.

Time. Making a dry brine is as simple as stirring some herbs and spices together in a bowl. No boiling and cooling of a brining solution. Time saved!

Ease of preparation. The biggest advantage of a dry brine is you only need a bag big enough to hold your protein and a pan to put it in. A wet brine is a little more complicated. You’ll mix water and the seasonings together and then immerse the whole bird, breast, or cut of meat into the brine in a container large enough to hold the whole lot (a cooler, for example). And then you’ll have to find somewhere cold enough to store it. Blech.

How long to brine

white bowl of spices with a wooden bowl of salt and a teaspoon of baking powder near a whole turkey

Brine time for a whole, bone-in turkey breast is anywhere from 8 hours to overnight.

[Side note: don’t use a boneless, rolled turkey breast for this recipe. It’s essentially parts of turkey pressed together which isn’t what you want here].

Tips for crisp golden turkey skin

High heat blast. You’ll crank the oven temperature for the first 15 minutes and then lower it down after that to brown that bird beautifully.

Secret ingredient. I borrowed a brining technique from Chef Kenji Lopéz-Alt that gives a crispy, golden skin to the turkey breast. Adding a bit of baking powder to the dry brine creates a beautiful crackling skin that your guests will fight over.

Magic stuff!

How to make dry brine

white bowl of spices and a measuring spoon and cup

Mix together the following:

Kosher salt. The best type of salt for a dry brine is kosher salt. [Note: I have successfully used sea salt before even though it’s not been hailed as the best choice because its texture doesn’t allow the dry brine to be evenly spread over the bird.} See note below about using different types of salt.

Seasoning. Brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder and thyme

Baking powder. Per the crispy skin benefits highlighted above.

Rub the dry brine all over the outside of the turkey breast and sprinkle in the inside cavities.

Place the turkey in an extra large ziploc, brining bag or lightly cover with plastic wrap and set the whole thing on a sheet pan to refrigerate overnight.

I have used Jacobsen Italian Sea Salt, Morton Kosher and Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt all with great results. However, they are different by weight. Jacobsen and Morton are the same by weight and Diamond is lighter with bigger flakes.

1 cup of Morton Kosher Salt = 1 1/3 cup of Diamond (1.34 conversion)
1 cup of Diamond Crystal = 3/4 cup of Morton (.75 conversion)

Roasting rack alternative

sheet pan of sliced sweet and russet potatoes on a piece of burlap

If you don’t have a meat rack to hold your turkey breast, thickly sliced potatoes (or onions) work fabulously for keeping the bird lifted off the sheet pan. This is what I did here and the potatoes under the bird were so flavorful and the ones outside were almost potato chip crispy. They are on the saltier side but still really good!

Tips for brining success

cooked whole turkey breast on a sheet pan with roasted potatoes
  • Don’t rinse the turkey! Rinsing a brined turkey adds water which affects browning and washes off all that great seasoning you’ve just added to the turkey. Your turkey will not be too salty. I promise!
  • Don’t brine a turkey breast longer than overnight or the meat will get spongy.
  • You can use this recipe to bring a whole bird. Start with this recipe for up to a 10-12 pound turkey and adjust accordingly. See the recipe for more information on brining a whole turkey.

Cooking and Storing Tips

white platter of sliced roast turkey breast with the skin on it and some sage and parsley

How long to cook a bone in turkey breast. The golden rule for cooking a turkey breast is 20 minutes per pound but use a meat thermometer to ensure the bird is cooked to 165°.

Storing leftover turkey. Refrigerate for or up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Leftover turkey breast recipes

Most anywhere you add chicken to a recipe, you can substitute roast turkey breast.

Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Caprese Sandwiches

Farro and Orange Salad

Made this recipe?

I’d love it if you’d share your review and leave a star rating and comment!


cooked whole turkey breast on a sheet pan with roasted potatoes.
4.50 from 10 votes

Brined Roast Turkey Breast

Prep Time:15 minutes
Cook Time:2 hours
Brine time:12 hours
Servings 8

Equipment

  • roasting rack
  • large ziploc bag or plastic wrap

Ingredients
 

  • 5-6 lb bone-in turkey breast, rinsed and dried, giblet bag removed; can use for a whole bird up to 10-12 lbs*

Dry Brine

Garnish option

  • 6 whole fresh sage leaves

Instructions

  • Fully pat turkey dry with paper towels.

To dry brine

  • Mix brine ingredients in medium mixing bowl until fully blended.
    ½ cup kosher salt, 2 Tablespoons baking powder, 2 Tablespoons brown sugar, 1 ½ teaspoon paprika, 1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder, 1 ½ teaspoon thyme
  • Coat the inside and outside of the bird with the dry brine. Use all of it.
  • Place inside large ziploc and set on a sheet pan in the fridge.
  • Refrigerate overnight until ready to roast. DO NOT RINSE THE TURKEY (see below).

Cook turkey

  • Preheat oven to 450°.
  • Set the turkey in a roasting rack (or see alternative in notes below) and place on a sheet pan.
    5-6 lb bone-in turkey breast
  • Roast for 15 minutes and then lower oven to 350° until meat thermometer reaches 165° (cooking time is approximately 20 minutes per pound).
  • Cover with foil and let rest for 10 – 15 minutes before removing breast from bone and carving into slices.
  • Garnish option: before roasting, slide whole sage leaves under skin for a pretty presentation.
    6 whole fresh sage leaves

Notes

*This recipe makes a lot of dry brine. You might have some left over and could use it up to a 10-12 lb whole bird. See note below for brining time.
Salt note: I used Jacobsen Italian sea salt very successfully here. Jacobsen and Morton are equivalent in terms of weight per cup. Adjust the recipe based on the salt you choose to use.
For Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt: (has bigger flakes and is lighter in weight)
1 cup of Diamond salt  = 3/4 cup Morton’s salt. The conversion from Diamond’s to Morton is .75.
For Morton Kosher Salt: (heavier with a coarser texture that’s harder to dissolve):
1 cup of Morton= 1 1/3 cup of Diamond Crystal so the conversion from Morton to Diamond is 1.34.
Roasting rack alternative. Use thickly sliced potatoes or onions as the base for the turkey in the sheet pan. The Spruce has more ideas for roasting rack options.
Resist all temptation to rinse the dry brine off the turkey. Trust me, it won’t be too salty and you will be adding water that will not create the desired crispy skin. For more info, read this Serious Eats article.
To cover or not to cover? You might read that covering the bird while dry brining isn’t necessary. I choose to do so as I have other things in the fridge and want to keep all the “smells” contained. The addition of the baking powder helps the skin be crispy. If you are brining a whole bird for longer than 24 hours, be sure to cover it. 
For a whole bird up to 10-12 lbs: This recipe makes a lot of brine. If you don’t use it all, that’s ok. It should be enough to cover a bird up to 10 lbs. A whole turkey should brine for at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours. 
.
Course: holidays, Main Course, Meat, Thanksgiving
Cuisine: American
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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25 Comments

  1. We tried this for the first time this year. We separated the turkey and used
    a roaster. When the individual sections reached the proper temperature
    we removed them. The smell,color and flavor were fantastic !
    We are doing another turkey today( Dec. 7th same routine) for our family coming
    home from Florida.
    Thank you Lori !
    Tim & Beth5 stars

    1. Tim and Beth – what a great idea for prepping your turkey – love it! And thank you so much for taking the time to comment and I’m thrilled you loved the brine recipe. Enjoy your next celebration with your family!

  2. I’m so sorry- but I am extremely disappointed- I followed the recipe instructions exactly as written and honestly, the turkey came out so extremely salty, I wanted to cry. I thought the salt measurement seemed high. I should have went with my gut. Cutting the salt in 1/2 (at least) for a 10–12 lb turkey would be a smart move. Luckily thanksgiving had many sides and the dark meat was mostly impacted.1 star

    1. Hi Valerie – thank you so much for your feedback and comment. I really appreciate it! I’m glad we were able to connect via email and troubleshoot. I’ll definitely take your feedback into consideration when I next update the recipe.

      *For readers reading the comments, Valerie’s turkey was a fresh farm turkey (assuming it was not pre-brined – something for anyone reading to consider) and it was brined for 22 hours. I did prepare and used the full recipe as written for our 12 lb turkey this year and brined it for 36 hours. Again, something to note that’s in the card is that not all the brine needs to be used.

  3. Happy friday after Thanksgiving, love the dry brine recipe, i used 1.25 recipe for 22lb. turkey. Cooked fast, but held fine, made perfect gravy. Honest i was nervous, seems like a lot of salt. But once again, you are a genius. Thank you Lori :))

    1. So glad you loved it and it worked for you with a whole bird, Crystal! I know- the salt quotient is hefty but it works its magic. We also used it with a whole bird this year. I did a 12 pounder and made just a little over the recipe. We deep fried the bird and it worked great too! Happy holidays, Crystal—thank you so much for taking the time to comment!🤗

  4. Love this recipe and will try it (thanks to the person who asked about smoking because I’ll do that with the smaller breast I picked up for a later time.

    Do you think it would work for a fried Turkey as well?

    1. Hi Steven! So appreciate the question as I’m doing it with a deep-fried turkey myself as we have an ailing oven in our new house. My plan is to dry brine as usual and pop that baby in the deep fryer. Nothing like putting your feet into the fryer so to speak😂 I anticipate a little more “bubbling” than usual (we usually inject it too) but think it should work just great. Let’s compare notes the next day! Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Hi Jeanne! While I am not a smoking expert, you can definitely brine per my recipe and then smoke your turkey at 250˚ until it reaches 165˚. My friend, Taryn, at Hot Pan Kitchen does just that with fabulous results. Here is a link to her smoked turkey recipe. Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Hi Carole – I usually don’t recommend stuffing a whole bird after having brined it because you do run the risk of the stuffing being saltier. I have just cooked the dressing in a different pan. A brined bird also makes delicious gravy! Just don’t add any more salt and plenty of turkey broth – I also add some white wine 😊. Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. I dry brined a beef tri-tip roast with kosher salt and just wiped off the brine before cooking and the beef was still way too salty. It seems like the turkey would be the same.

    1. Hi Dean! I have dry brined whole turkeys, bone-in and boneless breasts resulting in browned crispy skin and juicy meat that is loaded with flavor and not salty. It also depends on what kosher salt the recipe calls for and you’re using. For this recipe, (and I’ll add it to the post) I used Jacobsen sea salt which is closely equivalent to Morton’s Kosher salt. One suggestion would be is to use Diamond Crystal Salt. A cup of Diamond salt (which has bigger flakes and is lighter) = 3/4 cup Morton’s salt. The multiplier to convert from Morton’s to Diamond is 1.34 so for every cup of Morton’s, you’d need 1 1/3 cup of Diamond. Conversely, converting from Diamond to Morton is .75. I appreciate your comment – thank you!

  6. I have read that turkey should not be placed in plastic bag when dry brining. Is the plastic bag recommended because of the baking powder?

    1. I have actually done it both ways – with or without the bag. and didn’t see any difference in the skin or flavor. I just prefer it with the bag usually because of everything else in my fridge during the holidays ☺️ thanks for asking! Let me know how it works for you!

    1. Great question Carla! You can cook them at the same temperature side by side if it works in your oven. Time wise- I’d plan on maybe an extra 15 minutes but let the thermometer be your guide! Let me know how it works for you!

    1. You definitely can! Just adjust accordingly using this recipe as the basis for a smaller bird. I’d probably increase it 1.25 times it for more than a 12 lb bird and go from there. Let me know if you try it! Thanks for your question, Cheryl!!