Turkey Brine


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Turkey brine ensures maximum flavor and the most succulent juicy meat you’ve ever had! This recipe is tailor-made for the DIY-er in you. Packed with herbs, aromatics a hint of citrus this mélange infuses your turkey with complex flavors and succulent tenderness.

Once you learn how to brine a turkey, you’ll never want to prepare this special entrée any other way. Simply brine for 24 hours and roast your turkey per your favorite recipe. Once cooked, serve with a side of mashed potatoes, a green bean casserole, and a cranberry Waldorf salad.

Raw turkey being brined in a container.

What is Turkey Brine?

As the name suggests, turkey brine is a salt and sugar solution that can be as simple as salt, sugar and water or improved with other ingredients.

Why Brine a Turkey? Brining a turkey ensures maximum flavor and the most succulent juicy meat you’ve ever had. The secret is in the salt, which dissolves some of the proteins to produce succulent and tasty meat while allowing the other flavors to penetrate.

This easy turkey brine is a wonderful mixture that imparts zesty, savory flavors that will have everyone asking for seconds and wondering what magic you used to make turkey taste so delicious! Turkey brine does infuse the meat but it does not make the meat taste overly salty, just seasoned!

Overview of turkey brine ingredients.

Do You Need to Defrost Turkey First?

For brining to be successful, the turkey has to be thawed so it can absorb the liquid. However, depending on how big your bird is, this could take several days so be sure to allot enough time for defrosting and then brining.

A faster technique is the cold water thawing method as you brine.

  • Place the frozen turkey in a water-tight brining bag, XL zippered bag, or airtight container with the brining solution. (Take any necessary steps to seal or close up the bag tight enough so no water can get in or out.)
  • Submerge the bag in a basin of cold water, and change the water every half hour. Allow about 1 hour for every 4 – 5 pounds.
  • Once thawed, cook the brined turkey immediately.

Anytime you’re planning to brine frozen poultry, don’t use the microwave to defrost. Poultry must be cooked immediately after thawing this way, which won’t leave you anytime to brine.

Turkey brine prepared in a measuring cup.

How to Brine a Turkey

You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to turn your bird from ordinary to extraordinary with the best turkey brine you’ve ever tasted:

  1. Prepare the brining solution (see recipe below) and cool completely. (I add a bit of ice to cool it quicker).
  2. Place the turkey in a brining bag or container. Add brine and refrigerate up to 24 hours turning occasionally if needed.
  3. Discard the brine when done, and roast turkey till the juices run clear and a meat thermometer register 165°F.

Tips for Safe Brining

  • Ensure the brine is cool before adding to the turkey.
  • Store turkey in the fridge while brining (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 a safe 165°F.

How Long to Brine a Turkey

If you’re starting with a frozen turkey, then brine until thawed. 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.

Our best 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!

Two images showing the turkey in a brining bag.

Delicious Turkey Recipes

Turkey Brine

Prep Time 3 hours
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes
Servings 1 turkey brine
Author Holly Nilsson
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Packed with herbs, aromatics, and a hint of citrus, this mélange infuses your turkey with complex flavors and succulent tenderness.

Ingredients

  • 12 cups water divided
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 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

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Instructions

  1. 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.

  2. Bring to a gentle simmer while stirring to help dissolve the sugar and salt.
  3. When the sugar and salt are fully dissolved remove the pot from the heat.
  4. Pour in the remaining water (or add some ice to cool it faster). Add the cold broth and allow the mixture to fully cool.

  5. When the mixture is cooled add to a large food-grade container or zippered bag and brine turkey for up to 24 hours.

  6. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse with very cold water. Dab dry with paper towels and cook according to your favorite roast turkey recipe.

Recipe Notes

Makes enough for 12-15 pound turkey.
If using apple cider, ensure it's not apple cider vinegar.
I use this roast turkey recipe.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 528, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 117120mg, Potassium: 339mg, Carbohydrates: 135g, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 115g, Protein: 3g, Vitamin A: 2432%, Vitamin C: 12%, Calcium: 364%, Iron: 5%

(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)

Keyword turkey brine

Brine adapted from Canadian Living

Raw turkey being brined in a container.
Raw turkey being brined in a container.
Top photo - Raw turkey being brined in a container. Bottom photo - Overview of turkey brine ingredients.

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Holly

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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!

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