Everyone thinks smoking or deep frying a turkey will guarantee juicy and flavorful meat. That couldn't be further from the truth. The key is to brine the turkey, and to cook the turkey to the correct temperature. I started brining my turkey 4 years ago -- wish I did it sooner.
Now there are too types of brining -- wet and dry. With wet brining, you need to completely submerge the turkey in a container filled with salt solution. Then you need to find enough room in the fridge for that container. With dry brining, all you need to do is rub salt all over the turkey, and throw it in the fridge for a few days.
So is brining really that essential? YES. It's the difference between dry and moist turkey. With dry brining, the salt draws out the meat juices via osmosis. The salt dissolves into the juices, and is then reabsorbed into the meat and breaks down the the muscle proteins. The result is tender, succulent, seasoned turkey meat.
Here is what I do to dry brine turkey in three easy steps:
1. Pick a turkey that is not frozen, and not kosher -- which is already pre-salted. Take the turkey out of the package, remove all giblets and neck inside the cavity. Pat dry with paper towels. Set aside about a tablespoon of kosher salt per 5 pounds of turkey.
2. Carefully separate the skin on top of the turkey breast (don't be shy!) with your hands and liberally rub some of the salt underneath there. Then rub the rest of the salt all over the turkey, especially on the skin of the breast. You could even add some dry herbs or finely chopped fresh herbs to the salt mixture.
3. Put the turkey at the bottom of your fridge, with plenty of space and away from other food in the fridge. If you're uncomfortable with raw poultry sitting in your fridge, then you can cover with plastic wrap. I like to leave the turkey uncovered anywhere from 1-3 days, depending on how much time I have. That's it! The rest is up to you on cooking the turkey.
TIP 1: If you plan on adding a dry rub or butter on top of the turkey, remember that you don't need any more salt (unless you like salty poultry).
TIP 2: Whatever method you choose to cook your turkey, just don't overcook it. 150 degrees F at the breast, and 165 degrees F at the thigh. Rest for about 15-30 minutes before cutting to let the juices redistribute.
Cheers to an awesome Thanksgiving dinner, and to never eating dry turkey meat again.