I Tried Ina Garten’s Perfect Roast Turkey (and Brine)
We’re testing popular Thanksgiving recipes on Kitchn all month long, and between its five-star rating and Ina Garten’s reputation for perfection, Ina’s roast turkey is, arguably, the most popular bird on the internet.
Unlike the other turkey recipes I tried (here’s Ree Drummond’s, Martha Stewart’s, and Alton Brown’s), Ina opts for a dry brine instead of a wet one, and her turkey roasts at the same oven temperature the whole time, allowing you (the busy Thanksgiving host) to walk away to prep the rest of the meal. Would Ina’s turkey live up to all the praise? Here’s what I found out.
How to Make Ina Garten’s Perfect Roast Turkey
You’ll start by making a dry brine. The dry lemon-herb salt mixture is sprinkled directly onto the turkey (instead of dissolved in liquid in which to submerge the bird). And let me tell you: this alone won me over. Dry brines are often quicker and easier than wet brines, and they don’t require a huge heavy vessel to slosh around in. I was already a fan.
Ina says you can brine for up to two days — and I recommend that full time, as longer is often better when it comes to brines. Then the bird is unwrapped and returned to the fridge where it air dries for another 24 hours. Then the bird goes into a roasting pan and is stuffed with onion, lemon, and thyme; brushed with melted butter; and roasted at 325°F (no up-and-down temps, thankfully) until the meat reaches proper temperature. Let the whole thing rest for at least 20 minutes, then serve.
What I Thought of the Results
To sum up? This recipe delivered. The dry, taut, air-dried skin crisped up and turned golden like a dream. This was definitely a turkey to photograph and post. And despite the recipe calling for more salt before the bird goes in the oven (which was the tipping point for over-salting in other recipes), neither the skin nor meat turned out too salty and I could actually taste the lemon and herbs. It gave both the skin and meat a bit of sophistication on top of deliciousness.
If You Make Ina Garten’s Perfect Roast Turkey …
1. Dry brine for two days, then schedule a day for air-drying. Dry brining is highly effective and far easier to manage than wet brining. Two days is better than one, if you can start your turkey process earlier in the week. Scheduling an extra day in the prep schedule to let the turkey skin air-dry before it’s roasted is worth every single minute.
2. Check for the newest recipe. To stick with the rules of this review, I followed the original recipe exactly as it was written. However, I did notice that there is more than one version of this recipe available online and subsequent versions were updated and improved. The newest version of the recipe was the clearest and most detailed. Even if you are already loyal to your favorite online recipe, check for updates each year. There’s always more to learn in the quest for a perfect Thanksgiving turkey.
Overall Rating: 9/10
You’ll need a few days to prep this recipe upfront — I recommend the full two days of brining, and a day of air-drying — but it’s all worth it. You’ll end up with a beautiful, flavorful bird that’s completely centerpiece-worthy.
Have you tried Ina Garten’s perfect roast turkey? What did you think of it? Or is there another famous turkey recipe that you swear by every year? Tell us everything in the comments below!