Young and Hungry

L.A. Times Revisits the ‘Judy Bird’

Los Angeles Times food writer Russ Parsons resurrects, possibly, the only recipe for roast turkey that could make me gush over the overrated Thanksgiving Day staple. This three-day salt-brining recipe, based on a chicken-cooking technique by Judy Rodgers, chef and owner at San Francisco's Zuni Cafe, first turned heads two years ago when the Times debuted it.

Writes Parson:

I wish everyone who had ever told me that "turkey is turkey" could have been there for the judging. These were remarkably different birds, and the clear winner was the dry-salted Judy Bird.

Our readers clearly agreed. The first week the recipe ran, I received more than 200 e-mails about it, many of them saying it was the best bird they'd ever cooked. Already this holiday season, I've gotten more than 30 e-mails from readers who saw the recipe at This turkey technique has legs too: Several major food magazines have since done their own versions.

In this recipe reprise, Parson tackles some of the questions that have arisen since 2006, including the obvious one: Isn't the bird too salty to eat? The answer:

No, the turkey is not salty. In the first place, you season it only lightly, about a tablespoon of salt for every 5 pounds of turkey — that's only a little more than if you were seasoning it normally. Then the saltiness is further reduced because the seasoning is absorbed through the meat rather than remaining on the surface as it normally would. This is also why you don't need to rinse or brush the salt from the skin before roasting — there shouldn't be any there.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Photo Mojo.

  • barbara levine

    I actually have the article, which does not give the
    recipe. It is 3 days in refrig salted and l/2 day
    dry - out of bag. What does "out of bag" mean???

  • barbara levine

    Upon investigation I realize Russ Parsons did, indeed,
    NOT give Judy Rodgers recipe and therefore I will
    not be able to follow it on my turkey.......get it?
    Turkey !

  • Tim Carman


    The recipe is buried a bit on the LA Times site. Here it is, with bag explanation and everything:,1,3587406.story

  • Judy Bird

    Too funny! I have been called many things but never a "salty bird"! I love it. Oh its a recipe?
    Judy Bird

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