Turkey 101: How To Brine A Turkey

Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and if you’re thinking of brining a turkey this year, follow these tips for a moist, flavorful bird!

Brining a turkey is extremely easy, it has a basic ratio of water to salt and sugar that you can add your own, flavors to.  This year, I cheated and used a brining blend from Williams-Sonoma.  All I had to do is dump it in a bag with some water, and my bird.  So simple!

turkey breast

Done correctly, a brined turkey can lead to a juicer blend.  Just make sure that you NEVER brine a kosher turkey as they already come pre-salted.  A long soak in a seasoned saltwater brine ensures the turkey will be juicy and extremely delicious. The salt penetrates deep into the meat, drawing in moisture while adding layers of flavor.


Plan Ahead

If you’re buying a frozen turkey, thaw it completely before brining.  Thawing a turkey takes about 3 days in the fridge to fully thaw.

Use The Right Salt

Any salt will work, but kosher salt works best.  Most brine recipes, like this one below are written for kosher salt.

Brine Basics

1 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 gallon water

Use this basic recipe to brine your turkey.  It takes about 3 gallons of water to completely emerge the turkey in its salty bath.

Season It

There are so many ways to season your turkey brine.  Consider adding; rosemary, garlic, sage, thyme, onion, orange peels, parsley and lots of black (or rainbow) peppercorns (whole).  Avoid acidic add ins like lemon juice or vinegar as it leads to a mushy turkey.

Let It Soak

Place turkey in a brining bag, and add brine over the top.  I put my brining bag in my biggest, tallest stock pot that I have, and put that in the fridge.  Let your turkey soak in its seasoned saltwater bath for 24-36 hours.  Let a larger bird soak a little longer, and soak a breast a little less.

Rinse It Off

Be sure to give your turkey a good rinse under cold running water after removing from the brining bag.  Pat dry with paper towels.


Time To Cook

When it’s time to cook the turkey, the first step is to get your oven nice and hot.  By preheating the oven to a higher temperature, allows the skin to get nice and crispy, and it holds in all of the moisture.  Truss turkey with twine.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and position the rack to the middle of the oven.

Place turkey breast side up in a roasting dish in the oven.

Roast turkey for 20 minutes.  Lower heat to 325, and continue roasting until a thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165 degrees.  For a 16-18 lb bird, this should take around 3 to 3 1/2 hours.  A turkey breast will take around 2 hours to reach 165 degrees.

Remove from heat and tent with foil.  Let rest for 20 minutes before carving.


Leave a Reply: