Uncomplicated Dry-Brined Roast Turkey

It’s a rainy, frigid day, and I am more than content to stay in, make another pot of coffee and start planning my Thanksgiving menu.

October has arrived, as has harvest season here in Quebec, and the countdown is officially on for the holiday weekend. Yesterday I ordered my free-range turkey – the one that will feed twenty people on Monday – and I think I’ve decided on which flavours of pie I’ll bake.

I adore this time of year, which is why it was no trouble to fit in a little recipe testing last week in order to bring you this fantastic recipe for dry-brined roast turkey.

Uncomplicated cookbook inspiration

As per usual, inspiration came in the form of a brand new cookbook to my collection. Today my friend, and former Chatelaine food editor, Claire Tansey launches her cookbook, Uncomplicated: Taking the Stress Out of Home Cooking. If you can’t tell by the title, this is one cookbook that readers of Simple Bites will love.

Claire boldly leads the way into the kitchen and demonstrates that home cooking can be simple, approachable and rewarding. Uncomplicated is a fantastic cookbook that is as smart as it is beautiful and it hasn’t left my kitchen since it arrived in the mail.

Claire’s flawless Chocolate Chip Cookies went out in lunch boxes this week and her Lemon and Spice Grilled Chicken was a recent dinner hit, cooked up on my patio grill on a warm fall evening.

I whipped up her Scrambled Eggs for a Crowd with great success last weekend when I had 16 people over for brunch, and found comfort on a weeknight in a bowl of Tofu Noodle Soup.

And then there was this turkey: deep golden in colour, but not dry in texture and so easy to prepare.


Uncomplicated Dry-Brined Roast Turkey

I’m a big fan of delegating sides and desserts when it comes to holiday family meals, but I’ve been roasting the turkey for years now. I love having it as the centrepiece to the table, adorned with fresh garden herbs and pretty seasonal vegetables.

In the past I’ve played around with a smoked turkey, a sheet pan turkey dinner, and a delicious turkey roulade – all fun variations on this Thanksgiving essential. However, there was one method I had yet to try: the dry brine, and Claire’s cookbook had the recipe that gave me the nudge.

Claire says “Dry-brining is much less complicated than wet-brining since you don’t need a vessel in which to submerge a turkey and keep it cold. It is absolutely critical that you use kosher salt for this, preferably Diamond Crystal. Regular salt is too fine and will permeate the fibres of the turkey, ruining everything.”

I loved this method. The turkey meat was flavourful right through the breast, and it was covered with the most decadent crispy skin. The best part, though? This really is an uncomplicated recipe – as a roast turkey should be!

Serve this roast turkey with the best mashed potatoes and a tableful of your favourite sides and pies. Happy Thanksgiving!

Dry-Brined Turkey

Recipe excerpted from Uncomplicated by Claire Tansey.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Gluten-free
Essential Ingredient: Turkey
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 220kcal
Author: Claire Tansey


  • 3 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups kosher salt
  • 1 fresh turkey 13 - 15 pounds/6 to 7 kg
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme, parsley or sage or a combination
  • 3 Tablespoons canola oil


  • Combine brown sugar with kosher salt in a medium bowl. Place the turkey in a large plastic bag (I use a grocery bag, checking first that it has no holes) and place the bag in a roasting pan.
  • Pack the sugar mixture all over the breast, legs and wings of the turkey, pressing firmly so as much of the mix sticks as possible. Carefully close up the bag, just for neatness, then pop it into the fridge (or a room that is colder than 39°F/4°C but above freezing) for 24 to 36 hours.
  • About 4 hours before you want to sit down for supper, preheat the oven to 325°F. Take the turkey out of the bag and rinse it under cold running water, gently rubbing it until every last speck of the brining mixture comes off. Don’t forget to rinse out the inside, too.
  • Place the turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and dry it with paper towels. Place the thyme in the cavity and tie the legs together with twine. Bend and tuck the wing tips under the back. Brush the turkey all over with the canola oil.
  • Roast 3 to 3½ hours or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 175°F. Transfer the turkey to a carving board and tent loosely with foil. Let rest at least 30 minutes and as much as an hour before carving.


Resting meat of any size, but especially large roasts, is arguably the most important step. During its rest, the meat’s juices will redistribute themselves and make the meat juicy and flavourful. It will also be easier to carve.
Save carved carcass and use it to make Roasted Brown Chicken Stock with turkey bones.


Calories: 220kcal

Excerpted from Uncomplicated: Taking the Stress Out of Home Cooking. Copyright © 2018 by Claire Tansey. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Ask me your turkey questions in the comments!


About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. This looks amazing!!!

  2. 5 stars
    You weren’t kidding when you said this recipe was uncomplicated! I will definitely save this recipe for next year!

  3. Joanne Gauthier says

    Hi there,

    I have been following you for quite a while but had never tried your turkey recipe since I had always followed a tried and true method of mine for over 25 years. This year I bought a frozen bird that needed to be thawed quickly and reread your recipe and decided to go full throttle and follow your recipe right to the end. The turkey thawed beautifully in about 8 hours. We had it in a bucket in the garage and left the garden hose running in it so no need to constantly change the water. Then we salted it and let it air dry in the fridge for 24 hours. We cooked it today in 2 hours after the initial 20 minutes at 400. It came out moist and not overdone. After resting for 1 hour we sliced it and put it in a large casserole dish with the strained drippings and refrigerated it. Tomorrow we will slowly reheat before serving. I think this will become our new way of doing things. Thank you!

    JOANNE from Québec

  4. Can I use any type of oil to brush the outside, or does it have to be canola oil? I have avocado oil and olive oil on hand.

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