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How to Grill a Turkey

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Start With a Quality Turkey and Season It Well
Image of a Raw Turkey

Raw Turkey, Ready to Cook

Photo © Molly Watson

Whether you've ordered an heirloom, pastured turkey from a local grower, or picked up a fresh turkey at the grocery store, all whole turkeys need a bit of help to taste their best. There are two main ways to ensure a moist and delicious bird. The first, and perhaps most popular method, is to brine the turkey, or let it soak in a salt solution for hours or days. The second, vastly easier, less messy, and, to my mind, more effective way is to simply salt the turkey liberally several days ahead.

This second pre-salting or "dry brining" method is quite simple. Use 1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt per pound of turkey. It will seem like a lot of salt, but don't worry, the majority of it is going to fall or drip off as the turkey seasons and then cooks. Use about a quarter of the total salt to rub inside the cavity of the turkey and rest rub over the whole bird, getting some under the skin on the breast and thighs as much as you can without tearing the skin. Set the turkey in a roasting pan or large platter, cover, and chill for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days. Remove the covering for the last 12 hours to let the skin dry out a bit, which will help it crisp up nicely when you cook it.

See To Brine or Not to Brine for more on preparing your whole turkey, no matter how you plan to cook it and How to Pre-Salt a Turkey for more detailed directions.

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