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Easy No Brine Turkey Recipe – juicy and perfectly seasoned and cooked whole turkey, that does not need to be wet or dry brined. Easy to prepare, perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas and NYE.
For over 15 years, since I made my first turkey, I’ve been either wet or dry brining every single turkey I cooked. I’ve always known, that cooking a whole turkey is no joke, so I never took the chance to skip the brine.
But as we all know, wet brining requited a large water filled container, where you store the turkey in the brine. You do need extra space in the fridge, which may become a problem, especially, if you are hosting a holiday party.
With dry brining, (see my Dry Brined Herb Roasted Turkey), you still need to refrigerate the salt covered raw turkey, which is not fun. While both situations are “doable”, this time I decided to bake a turkey without brining it. And it turned out amazing! Just make sure you follow the directions and pay attention to the extra tips I’m sharing below.
Why do we brine turkey?
We don’t brine just turkey, whole chicken, chicken or turkey breast (or any kind of meat) could be brined.
Brining turkey makes it extra juicy and tender. During brining, the turkey absorbs extra moisture from the brine. It makes it salty and seasoned, too, since the brine is usually made with salt and water.
The process of brining involves soaking the turkey in a saline solution prior to cooking it. It is a great option for home cooks and it ensures that turkey stays moist after cooking.
Turkey meat is known for being a little too dry and lacking flavor of its own.
But is it really mandatory to brine turkey, prior to cooking it? The short answer is no. You can do without the brining, but you do need to take a few extra steps.
How to cook the perfect No Brine Turkey?
The perfect Christmas Dinner – whole roasted turkey. No brining, no stuffing the turkey on the inside. Hustle free, ready in 3 hours (roasting time depends on the size of the turkey).
Defrost the turkey in the fridge overnight (it may take longer than 8 hours).
Rinse and pat dry turkey. (Rinsing raw poultry is optional, since the splashes, if remain uncleaned from the sink and kitchen surfaces, carry the risk of causing salmonella).
Prepare compound butter. This really is softened (salted or unsalted butter), that is mixed with salt, pepper, lemon juice, dry or fresh herbs, garlic and lemon juice.
You coat the turkey in compound butter. Make sure you separate the skin from the breast and add some compound butter under it. Reserve about 1/5 of the compound butter.
Fill the turkey cavity with onion, carrots, orange wedges, celery ribs, apple wedges and fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley).
Tie the legs, tuck the wings underneath.
Roast at 425 F (220 C) for 30 minutes.
Melt the reserved compound butter and soak a cheesecloth in it. Cover the turkey on top.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 F ( 177 C) and roast for 2-3 more hours, until a thermometer inserted into the turkey legs reads 165 F ( 74 C).
You may baste the turkey with the pan drippings (or chicken stock) every 30 minutes. Keep in mind, that the more you open the oven door for basting, the longer it will take for the turkey to cook.
Remove from the oven and let it cool for 20 minutes.
Check the temperature again and if it is lower than 165 F (74 C), cook for additional 30 min.
Carve the turkey, slice and serve.
Whole turkey roasting time:
For this particular recipe:
This 12 pound turkey is roasted at 425 F for 30 minutes.
Then it is covered with butter soaked cheesecloth (or aluminum foil), the oven temperature is reduced to 350 F and you bake it for another 2-3 hours, until a thermometer inserted into the legs reads 165 F.
In this case it took about 2 hours and 15 minutes. The size of the oven, type of pan also are factors, that may speed up or slow down the cooking process.
If you roast the turkey at a constant temperature of 350 F (177 C):
Roast for 13 minutes per pound at 350°F for an unstuffed turkey, or 15 minutes per pound for a stuffed turkey.
How many pounds of turkey per person?
When cooking a whole turkey, plan for 1 to 1 1/2 lb of raw (uncooked) turkey per person. This way you have plenty of meat and some leftovers.
Important tips, when baking a whole turkey in the oven:
- Make sure the turkey is extra dry, so the compound butter sticks to the outer skin and the inside of the turkey.
- Good roasting pan – either stainless steel of non stick, make sure the pan has a roasting rack. Choose the smallest roasting pan that fits the turkey—too big and the juices can burn; too small and constricted airflow won’t allow for even cooking.
- Compound Butter – mix softened butter with salt, pepper, garlic, lemon juice and fresh or dried herbs.
- Covering – this recipe calls for covering the turkey, while roasting with butter soaked two layer cheesecloth. Covering is essential, especially, if the turkey is not brined. It prevents the skin from burning and the meat from over drying. This way the final result is perfectly golden brown turkey.
- Injecting – even though I use compound butter, to make the turkey juicy, flavorful and delicious, I often also inject melted butter into the turkey legs (and breast) to make sure it stays moist and to enhance the flavors.
- Checking the temperature – for best results use a probe thermometer.
- Tie the turkey legs with Baker’s twine or dental floss. We tie the legs, because
Does oven size matter, when roasting a whole turkey?
Or does whole turkey bake faster in a smaller oven?
I’m currently in Europe and my nice Miele oven (4.63 cu. ft.) is a little smaller than my GE gas oven (5.8 cu. ft.) in the United States.
I’ve noticed that whole turkey and standing rib roasts tend to cook slightly faster than in the bigger oven. This is why, you do need to keep an eye on the meat during the baking process.
Small ovens place the heating elements closer to the pan, the temperature of your food will rise more quickly than in a larger oven.
The time difference is not that significant dough.
Why we don’t stuff turkey?
Turkeys have been stuffed for years, but these days, there are some serious safety concerns, so I don’t practice stuffing the inside of the turkey.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends cooking the stuffing out side of the bird. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165 F, possibly resulting in foodborne illness.
Other reasons for not stuffing the turkey:
- If you intend to cook the stuffing properly, to 165 F, then you are risking overcooking the turkey and making it dry. It will also take a long time to cook.
- You can overstuff the turkey, making it impossible for the stuffing to cook evenly.
- A turkey baked with orange, lemon and apple wedges, herbs, carrots and onion inside the cavity is always way more flavorful than a turkey stuffed with stuffing on the inside.
What to serve this turkey with?
Serve this juicy turkey with your favorite salad, Cranberry sauce, Stuffing, Green Bean Casserole, Keto Cauliflower Casserole or Roasted (Air Fried) Vegetables.
Here are some more side dish options, perfect for the holidays:
- Oven Baked Green Beans With Parmesan Cheese
- Quick Pickled Vegetables
- Baked Brussel Sprouts With Bacon
- This Gluten-Free Gravy from Meaningful Eats is quick and easy to make and tastes delicious.
More turkey recipes:
- Easy Dry Brined Turkey
- This Herb Roasted Turkey from Healthy Seasonal Recipes is foolproof, just make sure you follow the instructions.
- The Best Smoked Turkey Recipe (Traeger/Green Mountain Grill)
- Easy Leftover Turkey Soup
No Brine Turkey
- 12 lb turkey
- 2 cups chicken broth
- Compound butter:
- 225 grams unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
- 2 tbsp chopped parsley
- 2 tsp chopped rosemary
- 1 tsp chopped sage, optional
- To stuff the turkey:
- 1 Onion
- 1-2 Carrots
- 2 Stalks Celery
- 1 apple, quartered
- 1 orange, quartered
- Fresh herbs - rosemary, parsley and thyme
- To make the compound butter:
- In a bowl, combine the softened butter, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, thyme, garlic, parsley, rosemary and sale (optional).
- Defrost turkey in the fridge.
- Remove turkey from the package. Remove the neck and bag of giblets. Rinse and pat dry.
- Optional: Salt the turkey on the inside with about 1-2 tsp of salt.
- Using a spoon, gently separate the skin from the meat around the breast .
- Use your fingers to spread some of the butter between the breast and the skin. It is important that the turkey is very dry, otherwise the butter won’t stick.
- Make sure you reserve about 3 tablespoons of the compound butter.
- Evenly spread the remaining mixture over the whole turkey.
- Stuff the turkey with the apple, onion, orange, rosemary, thyme and parsley.
- Tie the legs together so the cavity is closed, using a baker's twine or dental floss. Tuck the wings under the turkey.
- Optional: Inject the turkey legs and breast with melted butter. Preheat oven to 425 F.
- Bake turkey for 30 minutes.
- Melt the reserved compound butter. Soak a double cheesecloth with it. Open the oven and cover the turkey with the cheesecloth. This will prevent browning too quickly.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F.
- Roast for another 2-3 hours, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkey (both breast and legs) reads 165 F.
- Baste the turkey with the drippings of the pan every 30 minutes.
- You may add about 1 cup of chicken stock to the bottom of the pan, when you start cooking the turkey, this way the drippings won’t burn quickly.
- Take out of the oven and let it cool for 25-30 minutes, covered with foil. Check the temperature again, art should not be less than 165 F. If it is, cook it for 20-30 minutes longer.
- Slice and serve. Use leftovers for soup.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.