Do You Rinse Turkey After Brining or Should You Let it Dry Naturally?

Wondering if you need to rinse raw turkey after it has been brined?

You would think that cooking techniques have the right way or the wrong way.

Guess again!

When it comes to brining turkey meat there is a lot of debate about rinsing the excess salt off.

Or whether you leave it to naturally dry.

So below I have outlined the arguments for and against rinsing your turkey.

The Argument Against Rinsing a Brined Turkey

Below I have highlighted the reasoning against rinsing your turkey.

Risk Contamination & Food Poisoning

Food safety awareness has come a long way in recent history.

Many old recipes call for rinsing meat after brining or before cooking.

But cold water is a vessel for bacteria and is hard to control.

Just one droplet can make you sick.

Especially raw poultry like turkey.

If you rinse off the brine there is a higher chance of contamination.

On surfaces that will have contact with cooked foods.

Note: Read further for tips by food safety experts for the brining process.

As well as how to control contamination if you choose to rinse cuts of meat.


Residual Surface Salt Rarely Impacts the Meat

A leftover brine solution will not cause the finished product to be over-seasoned.

Not to the extent of ruining the taste or meat consistency.

Residual Salt Crystals Make the Crispiest Skin

Extra salt on the skin will help develop crisp skin.

Want picture-perfect golden skin on the turkey?

You may want to leave the additional salt!

Note: Read further to understand how a sodium solution affects the meat and skin.

The Argument for Rinsing a Brined Turkey

Below I have highlighted the reasoning for rinsing a brined turkey.

Excess Salt Is Unhealthy

A healthy rule of thumb to live by is a moderate salt intake.

Excess salt in your diet can lead to high blood pressure.

Which can cause heart disease and stroke.


The Salt Concentration Can Impact Natural Flavors

The remaining salt will be minimal.

However, it can be an issue if you also add salted dry spice mix.

This will overpower the natural flavor profiles in the bird.

Note: I have included some recipe ideas for seasoning a brined turkey later!

Excess Moisture Evaporation During Cooking

There is natural water in the lean meat proteins.

Salt will impact this water through a chemical reaction called osmosis.

Moisture during cooking will evaporate and lower the temperature.

This can slow down the cooking process and lead to underdone meat.

Can You Remove the Excess Brine Without Rinsing?

If you are still on the fence about this then don’t worry.

Excess salt is a concern but so is food contamination!

You can remove the salt with a clean paper towel.

Lightly dab the surface of the meat dry.

Do not use dish towels you will use again.

Or dishcloths that have been exposed to soapy water.


The Summary for Rinsing Raw Poultry

– The biggest disadvantage of rinsing is contamination.

– The residual salt is hardly enough to worry about.

– Pat dry with a paper towel if concerned.

What Does a Brine Do Anyway?

Without going into the specific scientific details… (we have another article for that)

Below is what a salt solution will do for meat.

– ‘Looses’ tough muscle proteins. (Tenderizes)

– Enhances the natural flavor the same as seasoning with salt when cooking. (flavor)

– Concentrates and retains the natural moisture for juicy meat. (Moisture level)

The Different Types of Brines for Turkey Meat

Wet Brine

A wet brine is created by adding sodium into cold water which in turn makes a water and salt solution.

Dry Brine

A dry brine applies a concentration of kosher salt to the meat before cooking without water.

It is liberally covering every area to form a crust that is removed.


How to Safely Rinse a Turkey After Wet Brining

Follow the steps below if you still plan on rinsing a brined turkey.

– Wash and prepare any raw ingredients you are using in your recipe before rinsing.

– Completely remove your sink area of ​​any cutlery or kitchen utensils.
– Lay disposable kitchen towels around the work surfaces of your sink.
– Place a roasting rack on top of the towels near the sink.
– Remove your turkey from the brine solution and onto the rack.
– Carefully pour the wet brine mixture into the sink.
– Move the roasting rack and turkey into the sink.
– Flow cold tap water down the turkey’s neck into the cavity.
– Submerge the outside in a gallon of water or around a third of your sink.

– Transfer the rinsed turkey to another roasting rack.
– Dispose of towels and clean the whole area with hot soapy water.
– Clean the roasting rack that had contact with the raw meat.

Note: Do not rinse with warm water as it will heat the turkey.
Even heating the turkey slightly above 40 degrees can cause bacteria growth.

How to Safely Rinse a Dry-Brined Turkey

Follow the above instructions but disregard the step about draining the wet brine.
Instead, you should;

– Gently remove the layer of salt crust that has hardened.
– Make sure all the salt is put down the sink and washed away.
Continue to then wash the turkey as per above.

How to Air Dry a Brined Turkey

Air drying a turkey is easy!
– Take it out of the wet brine solution or remove the salt crust after dry brining.
– Place it in a container or oven rack and place it at the bottom of your fridge.
– Wait 60 minutes for the surface moisture to evaporate.

Safety Note: Be aware of any raw meat juices contaminating the fridge.
Do not put over fresh food and clean thoroughly afterwards.


Seasoning Tips for Your Brine & Spice Mix

Before we finish off I promised you some seasoning ideas!

Brining is a great technique for developing flavor and the juiciest turkey!

But it doesn’t mean you can’t develop your moist bird with some more aromatics!

Below is a list of common ingredients that can be added to a spice mix or brine recipe.

– Brown sugar in the spice mix will form extra crispy meat when caramelized.

– Fresh herbs like bay or zesty lemon peel in a wet brine.

– Black peppercorns or crushed cinnamon sticks in a dry brine.

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with the boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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