Salted Turkey with Citrus & Herbs

in Chicken & Turkey, Christmas, Citrus, Thanksgiving, Tips

Salted Turkey with Citrus & Herbs

So remember how I declared the Sweet Tea Brine the greatest thing to happen to poultry since deep frying? Well, let’s talk about the pretty darn close runner-up: the “dry brined” turkey.

We got the idea for the salted turkey from Bridget’s blog. Her high praise for the technique last year is what put the recipe on our radar.

Taste is very much personal, but really, though. Had we not had the two chickens side by side and only given the salted turkey a test run, we’d very happily be serving the salted turkey at Thanksgiving this year. Instead, we’re going to serve it on Christmas Eve.

On top of that, you just can’t overlook how easy that turkey is to put together the day before, nor can you overlook how good it is. You mix salt, citrus zests, and a mound of fresh herbs in a bowl and then rub it all over the outside and inside of your turkey. Wrap it up, stick it in the fridge, and then… Yeah, that’s it. No “turkey bucket” or cooler required, you simply need a roasting pan and a meat thermometer.

We stuffed the bird with standard aromatics (citrus, herbs, and onion/garlic) that were leftover from the test, rubbed with olive oil and black pepper, and then stuck it in the oven. It doesn’t get a whole lot easier than that. So if you’re new to turkey duty, new to brining, weirded out by brining, or just not that into the logistics? The salted turkey could be your best friend.

And if you’re still looking to round out your Thanksgiving menu, which you probably are because you’re way more normal, check out our greatest hits from holidays past!

Salted Turkey with Citrus and Herbs

An alternative to brining a turkey (or chicken), rubbing it with salt, citrus zest, and fresh herbs.


  • For the salt rub:
  • 6 Tbsp kosher salt (or 4 Tbsp table salt)
  • Zest of a lemon
  • Zest of an orange
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh sage
  • 1 Tbsp thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 14-16lb turkey
  • For roasting:
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 2 whole, peeled garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 small orange, quartered
  • Sprigs of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage)
  • 2 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • Olive oil or softened butter
  • Black pepper


  1. To make the salt rub, mix all ingredients in a bowl and rub half of the mixture over the outside of the turkey.
  2. Carefully work your fingers under the skin, beginning at the neck, to separate the breast meat and skin.
  3. Rub half of the remaining salt under the skin and sprinkle the reset inside the bird.
  4. Seal in a roasting bag and place in a pan. Refrigerate for 24-48 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 425.
  6. Rinse the turkey well (inside, out, and under skin) and pat dry.
  7. Stuff the turkey with the aromatics and tie the legs.
  8. Rub with softened butter or olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper.
  9. Place the turkey in a roasting pan with the broth.
  10. Roast for 45 minutes and then reduce heat to 325 and continue cooking until the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165-170F, up to 2 hours longer.
  11. Let the turkey rest, loosely tented with foil, for 30-45 minutes before carving.


Yields: 12-14 servings

Adapted from Bon Appetit and Cook's Illustrated, via The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Estimated time: 28 hours

3 comments… add one
  • This definitely sounds like a majorly delicious option!! Even if not as good as that sweet tea brine. 🙂

  • Karen

    I will try this for Christmas. It sounds perfect for us! Thanks!

  • I was just trying to decide if I should cook a turkey at some point this year (I’m not hosting Thanksgiving), and if so, what recipe I should make. The sweet tea brine popped into my head first, but I’m not sure I can convince myself to brine now that I know how easy salting is!

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