Dry-Brined Roast Turkey with Tarragon Butter

, from Issue #75. November, 2017
Photography by Manja Wachsmuth.
Dry-Brined Roast Turkey with Tarragon Butter

This recipe needs to be started one day ahead of cooking if using the dry-brined technique. Both white meat and dark meat lovers are catered for with the meat from a juicy, lightly brined turkey.

Serves: 8–10


3–4-kilogram turkey, butterflied (see Cook’s Notes)
2 tablespoons sea salt
whole heads of garlic, tops sliced off
Cranberry and Balsamic Relish, see recipe opposite
Tarragon butter
100 grams butter, very soft but not melted
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon ground fennel
sea salt and ground pepper100 grams butter, very soft but not melted 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard

Cranberry and Balsamic Relish
375-gram bag frozen cranberries
1 apple, peeled and grated
½ cup port or marsala
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon sea salt
zest and juice 1 orange
2 tablespoons balsamic glaze


Turkey: Pat the turkey dry with kitchen towels. Place on a large tray and sprinkle both sides with the salt. Have it skin-side up and very loosely cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Tarragon butter: Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and leave in a cool place, but not in the fridge, until ready to use.

Brined turkey: Preheat oven to 170°C fan bake. 

Pat the brined turkey dry with kitchen towels but don’t rinse. Using your fingers, loosen the skin from the breast and drumsticks, taking care not to break the skin. Push ¾ of the butter under the skin, smoothing it to an even layer.

Melt the remaining butter and brush all over the skin side of the turkey. Place on a large, lipped baking tray.

Add the garlic to the tray and drizzle the heads with olive oil, then season. Add ½ a cup of water and roast for about 2½ hours, basting regularly or until the juices run clear from the thigh when pierced with a skewer. Cooking time will depend on the size of the turkey.

Leave to rest, lightly covered, for 20 minutes. Take the garlic out of the pan when cooked and keep warm.

To serve: Transfer the turkey and garlic to a serving platter. Serve with the Cranberry and Balsamic Relish and decorate with bundles of fresh herbs, if desired.

Cranberry and Balsamic Relish

Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring often, for 20 minutes until reduced and glossy.

Taste and, if needed, stir in a little extra sugar to sweeten. Makes 2 cups

Cook's Notes: Dry brining a turkey helps it to retain its natural moisture as the salt dissolves muscle protein and will give you well-seasoned, juicier meat.

To butterfly a turkey, sit the turkey breast-side down on the bench. Using kitchen scissors, cut down either side of the back-bone and discard. Turn the turkey over and press firmly on the breast with the palm of your hand until it cracks and flattens.