Turkey brine adds flavor to roast turkey and makes for the most tender juicy meat you’ve ever had!
A brine is very easy to make with salt, sugar, fresh (or dried) herbs/spices, and a hint of citrus. Once you learn how to brine a turkey, you’ll never want to prepare it any other way.
What is Turkey Brine?
Brine is a liquid, usually water, that is heavily salted/seasoned. This easy turkey brine recipe is a salt and sugar mixture that a whole turkey (or even just a breast) is soaked or brined in.
The ingredients in this turkey brine are salt, brown sugar, and water but also add more flavor with herbs and a bit of citrus. You can add additional flavors like onions or a lemons (or just the peels of citrus).
Dry Brine vs. Wet Brine
There are two types of brine, wet brine and dry brine.
This recipe is for a wet brine where the salt and spices are in water or liquid.
A dry brine is a salt (and sometimes sugar) mixture with herbs/spices that is rubbed directly on the skin without water and refrigerated (usually overnight or longer). It’s sometimes called salting the turkey.
Why Brine a Turkey?
Brining a turkey adds flavor to the meat while making it incredibly tender and juicy. The secret is in the salt, which dissolves some of the proteins.
This easy turkey brine is a simple mixture that adds very subtle flavors that will have everyone wondering what magic you used to make such a perfect Thanksgiving turkey! Turkey brine does infuse the meat but it does not make the meat taste overly salty, just seasoned!
How to Make Turkey Brine
Thaw the turkey if needed and ensure you have a container large enough for your turkey. The brine below should be enough for a 12-15lb bird. If yours is larger you might like to make extra or add extra water to ensure it is completely is covered.
- Add all of the brine ingredients (per the recipe below) to a large pot and bring to a boil on the stove. Stir and simmer until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
- Cool the brine completely before using, I add a couple of handfuls of ice to cool it faster.
How to Brine a Turkey
- Remove any giblets from inside the cavity.
- Place the turkey in a brining bag, a large container, or a clean bucket. Add brine and refrigerate up to 24 hours turning occasionally if needed.
- Remove the turkey from the brine and discard any remaining brine and the herbs in the brine, it cannot be reused. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels and oven roast the turkey per your favorite recipe until the juices run clear and a meat thermometer registers 165°F.
Fresh herbs are great but dried herbs work too. If using dried herbs, you will need about 1 tablespoon of each and they should be added to the brine when it comes to a boil.
Tips for Safe Brining
- Ensure the brine is cool before adding to the turkey.
- Store turkey in the refrigerator while it brines (not at room temperature).
- Ensure turkey is sealed or covered in the fridge as to not contaminate other foods.
- Do not brine longer than 2 days (this recipe recommends up to 24 hours).
- If rinsing the turkey, remove all items such as dishes and dishcloths from around the sink area and cover the area around your sink with paper towels to avoid cross-contamination according to the USDA.
- Ensure the turkey meat (and center of the stuffing if you’re stuffing the turkey) reaches 165°F.
- The drippings from a brined turkey will have more salt than a turkey that hasn’t been brined. If making gravy, add a little bit at a time to ensure the gravy isn’t too salty. Taste before seasoning and salting the gravy. If it is too salty, add some water or no-sodium broth.
How Long to Brine a Turkey
Every brine recipe recommends a different time in the solution, depending on the amount of salt. If you leave it in too long, your poultry can get too salty and the meat can even become mushy.
This turkey brine calls for leaving the turkey in the brine for no more than 24 hours for a 12 to 15-pound bird. Follow these steps and it won’t be long before you’re enjoying the best turkey you’ve ever tasted!
Turkey Recipes We Love
- Herb Roast Turkey – perfect holiday meal
- Instant Pot Turkey Breast
- Herb Roasted Turkey Breast Recipe
- Spatchcock Turkey – easy and cooks really fast
- Air Fryer Turkey Breast
- Crock Pot Turkey Breast – perfect for a small feast
Easy Turkey Brine
- 12 cups water divided
- 1 cup kosher salt
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 5 cloves garlic halved
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 whole bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh sage
- 4 cups broth chicken, turkey, or vegetable, or apple cider
- 1-2 oranges sliced, optional
- In a soup pot, on the stove over medium-high heat, add 4 cups water, kosher salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, garlic, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and sage.
- Bring to a gentle simmer while stirring to help dissolve the sugar and salt.
- When the sugar and salt are fully dissolved remove the pot from the heat.
- Pour in the remaining water (or add some ice to cool it faster). Add the cold broth and allow the mixture to fully cool.
- When the mixture is cooled add to a large food-grade container or zippered bag and brine turkey for up to 24 hours.
- Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse with very cold water. Discard brine, do not reuse.
- Dab dry with paper towels and cook according to your favorite roast turkey recipe.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)
- Roast Turkey Breast – tender & juicy every time
- Hearty Turkey Stew (with leftover turkey)
- Turkey Tetrazzini – great for leftover turkey
- Cornbread & Leftover Turkey Casserole
- Turkey Soup – ready in 25 minutes
Brine adapted from Canadian Living