Dry-Brined Turkey with Apples, Onions and Sage

Seasoning a turkey with a dry brine of spices leads to a moist, tender bird with knockout, concentrated flavor. (For a deeper dive on dry brining, check out this post.) The following recipe combines two of my favorite Fire & Smoke Society blends with fall’s best flavors (tart apples, sweet onions and sage). Whether you use the following spice blend or customize your own, as a general rule you’ll want to use 1 tablespoon seasoning per 4 pounds of bird.

Dry-Brined Turkey with Apples, Onions and Sage

Makes 12 to 14 Servings

Time: About 3 ½ hours + 2 days brining time

  • One 15- to 20-pound turkey
  • 3 tablespoons The Usual seasoning, plus more for finishing
  • 2 tablespoons Holy Garlic seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 small onions, quartered
  • 2 medium apples (such as honeycrisp or northern spy), cored and quartered
  • 4-6 fresh bay leaves
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh sage
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups dry, unoaked white wine

As a general rule, use 1 tablespoon of seasoning per 4 pounds of bird.

Two days before serving, rinse turkey and pat dry. Combine The Usual, Holy Garlic, and kosher salt in a small bowl, then rub the spices all over the bird, slipping the seasonings under the skin and into cavities where possible.

Place the bird in a large, sealable plastic bag and place in the refrigerator. On the second night, flip the turkey over. A couple of hours before cooking, remove the turkey from the bag and pat dry (do not rinse), then place the bird in a large aluminum roasting pan.

Prepare the grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire. Tuck the onions, apples, sage, and bay leaves inside the main cavity of the turkey. Truss legs with kitchen twine. Put remaining apples and onions in the neck opening and tuck the neck skin under the bird.

Rub the butter under the breast skin and on the turkey thighs. Sprinkle the top of the bird with some of The Usual.

Clean and oil the grill grates. When the coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, place the turkey over indirect heat. Roast for 30 minutes, rotate the pan 180 degrees, and pour the white wine in the bottom of the roasting pan. Roast for another two hours (depending on the size of the bird), rotating the pan every 30 minutes, adding additional charcoal as needed and maintaining a temp of 325℉ - 350℉, until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh is about 160℉.

When the turkey is cooked, tent with foil, and allow it to rest at least 30 minutes before carving. Before transferring to a serving platter, tip the turkey and allow interior juices to run into the pan for gravy.

Grill-side banter provided by food writer, cookbook author and grilling enthusiast, Paula Disbrowe.

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