Is Dry Brining Or Wet Brining Better For Thanksgiving Turkey?

If you happen to be hosting Thanksgiving this year, there's a good chance you already have various elements of the classic American meal on your mind. With turkey often serving as the main course of the late November celebration, the anxiety around cooking such a large piece of meat is palpable not just in real life but on social media sites such as Reddit. Just one search of the different brining techniques on TikTok can send anyone into a tailspin when deciding what option is best for them and their comfort level in the kitchen.

While it's important to know what brining is and why it's important, some chefs are very outspoken about the brining controversy, which can make deciding on a preparation method even more confusing for any turkey novice. J. Kenji López-Alt wrote an article for Serious Eats on "the right way to brine turkey." And according to the science-focused chef, the dry-brine method is the only way to go. In 2018, chef Alex Guarnaschelli spoke to The New York Times about the swirling opinions regarding the contentious issue, stating, "I'm so over it," in reference to wet brining. Guaraschelli has a wet brine recipe on The Food Network, too.

Is there a way to settle the debate? While there may not be one all-encompassing solution, there are specifics to each technique that can help you decide which method is best.

It's a matter of personal preference

While most people claim to know the right way to roast a turkey, brining is a separate, more complicated issue. Brining is the process of infusing cuts of meat with salt through osmosis by allowing the salt to travel through the meat's proteins and tenderize the flesh while also adding flavor (per Food Network). According to Real Simple, dry and wet methods work the same — they both use salt, which dissolves meat proteins and helps keep moisture inside your meat. With wet brining, you're submerging your turkey in a saltwater bath; with the dry method, moisture expels from the turkey to mix with salt on the exterior, which then transfers back inside the bird (per Real Simple).

Before deciding which variation is right for you, there are some factors to consider. Wet brining not only requires a large vessel to soak your turkey in, but the submerged turkey also has to remain refrigerated. Dry brining still requires a cooler temp, but you don't need to worry about a water bath. Reddit users attest that wet brining can change the texture of your meat, as it adds a significant amount of moisture. 

Most social media users seem to agree that dry-brining brings more concentrated flavor and a better makeup. But ultimately, it just depends on how you like your turkey. Simply choose the variation that ensures you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor on Thanksgiving Day.