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I put my 22lb turkey in the fridge to start thawing last Tuesday in the evening. I took it out today and spatchcocked it and salted it all over with an herb/salt mixture and popped it back in the fridge to brine until Thanksgiving. It has only been out of the fridge long enough for this process.

My recipe says to brine for 3-4 days.

I've since read that the USDA recommends roasting 1-2 days after thawing.

This got me concerned that I'm going to serve a bunch of people a past-its-prime Turkey.

Does the brining extend this time in the fridge or is the 1-2 days too conservative? Thinking back I'm concerned I didn't salt the bottom enough and wondering if I need to add more or if I'm just overthinking this.

Thank's for the help!

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  • Dry brining sounds like an oxymoron to me. That sounds like saltless curing
    – Neil Meyer
    2 days ago
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While the term has gained popularity, "dry brining" isn't really a thing. This is going to ruffle some feathers (pun intended), but brining happens in a wet environment. It's definition is a "cure dissolved in water." When there is not water, it is "salting." So, what you have is a salted turkey. (I know...semantics. Sorry, it's a pet peeve. I like accuracy in language.)

So, perhaps an interesting question is, does either salting or brining extend the time poultry can be stored in the refrigerator.

Brining and salting were developed as preservation techniques, as salt greatly inhibits bacterial growth. However, you need a salt content of at least 3 to 5% in order to begin to have confidence that you are realizing this benefit.

Given that you just sprinkled salt on your bird, you probably have no way of knowing how close you are to that minimum. In fact, you would need about a cup and a half of salt (in a dry situation) to achieve 3% for 22 pounds of product, according to this calculator. I bet it is safe to assume you've used far less.

While people take chances all the time, no one is going to tell you that the USDA is too conservative, especially on this site. All the advice I see is to store only 1 - 2 days after thawing. However, there is no harm in re-freezing. Perhaps a viable solution is to place your bird in the freezer for a day or two.

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  • "However, there is no harm in re-freezing. Perhaps a viable solution is to place your bird in the freezer for a day or two." Well, more freeze/thaw cycles will degrade quality too. And you'd probably be faced with roasting a partially frozen bird, which is not in itself problematic, but that might require cooking modifications and will actually end up putting the interior of the turkey in the "danger zone" longer while roasting because of the need to thaw. Overall, I'm not sure it'd actually be safer and would definitely degrade quality.
    – Athanasius
    Nov 23 at 19:38
  • Salt does not do anything on it is own to kill bacteria what it does is create the anaerobic environment that inhibits microorganisms from multiplying.
    – Neil Meyer
    2 days ago
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Well, I'm going to be the one to say the USDA is conservative here, as other experts have different recommendations. In particular, Butterball -- which notably operates a "turkey talk line" every year, partly to give people sound and safe advice for cooking turkey, fielding over 100,000 questions every year -- says the following in their defrosting instructions:

  • Allow at least 1 day of thawing for every 4 lbs of turkey
  • Use turkey within 4 days after thawing

For a 22-pound turkey, that's 5.5 days of thawing minimum. (Note the thawing guidelines tend to be off more with larger birds, as it takes even longer for the center to thaw.) Which gets you to Monday morning of this week. If you are cooking on Thursday, that's 3 more days, and within the Butterball recommended time frame.

Now, you did go against their advice, since you removed the turkey from packaging to salt it. The additional exposure to air might lead to some faster quality degradation. But that would mostly be surface level, and partially counteracted by salt on the surface.

Given that you're within the guidelines offered by the "turkey experts," I wouldn't worry too much, particularly if your fridge is at a proper temperature (40 degrees F or below) and you have kept it inside the fridge continuously. Just be sure the turkey is completely cooked at the end using a thermometer at several spots.

Or, if you're really concerned, call the Butterball helpline and get advice there.

Note: in the future, I would consider planning the "dry brining" to occur during the last couple days of the defrosting process, as the outer layer of the turkey will be thawed and will absorb the salt well without the concern about holding the turkey too long in the fridge.

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Don’t worry. Leave bird in refrigerator. Take out an hour before cooking—-Cook to 180 degrees (leg, not touching bone with thermometer) then remove from oven cover with foil and let rest 30-45 mins. Remember cooking will kill bacteria so make sure it’s done. The salt ‘brine’ draws the moisture of bird to top to mix in with salt so it actually is brining in its own juices. Your will delicious and your guest will be singing your praises.

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    A turkey cooked to 180 degrees F will be dry as dust, particularly the white meat. Even the ultra-conservative USDA doesn’t suggest a temperature that high.
    – Sneftel
    Nov 24 at 21:41
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It is quite dangerous to freeze partially cooked meat. Also, defrosting a 22-pound turkey in the fridge is going to take forever. Brining is better served at room temperature as cooling the liquid greatly retards the movement of moisture between the protein strands.

That being said even at room temperature a 22-pound turkey would take close to a week to completely brine. I also wonder why you are salting the bird? Are you doing it to finish the meat with the salt or do you actually intend to cure the meat?

Curing meat completely as a general rule of thumb takes 4 days in salt mixture per kilogram of meat. In this case, you have a 10 kg turkey which would lead to 40 days dredged in salt before that massive piece of meat is fully cured

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  • This question isn't about partially cooking or curing.
    – moscafj
    2 days ago

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