The best turkey brine recipe and step-by-step instructions for how to brine a turkey for roasting, smoking, or deep-frying

When it comes to doing your turkey, it can be a person’s biggest fear because you don’t want your turkey to turn out dry and have no flavor. When you brine your turkey, you will prevent having a turkey that is dry, and it will have so much more flavor.

The only thing you want to be careful of is that when you purchase your turkey, it is not a kosher or self-basting turkey because if you try and brine them, your turkey will turn out overly salty, and no one wants that after all the work that goes into your turkey.

Why Brine a Turkey?

Turkey in known as a pretty lean meat which means its prone to drying out while being cooked. This can be changed by first soaking the turkey in a brine. When you soak it in a brine it absorbs some of the moisture and flavor and if you do think you have over cooked you turkey it will still turn out moist which is an extra benefit in my opinion

How long do you brine a turkey?

When you brine a turkey, you need to plan ahead a bit and brine it for a minimum of 18 hours and a maximum of 24 hours. If you go past the 24-hour mark, you risk your turkey being too salty, and you want to make sure your turkey has not previously been pre-brined or treated with salt.

Ingredients and Equipment

  • Kosher Salt This recipe requires a lot of salt to tenderise the meat; you want to make sure you use kosher salt and not iodized salt. This is key.
  • Brown Sugar I like to use brown sugar because I find it dissolves best, adds a bit of sweetness, and helps brown the skin during the roasting process.
  • Celery and onions This is a key ingredient for adding flavour to the turkey brine; it is optional, but you can add a couple of carrots if you like.
  • Apple While this sounds like a different find of item to to put into the brine it adds a nice hint of sweetness and you can use any type of apple you have on hand.
  • Spices and culinary herbs I like to use peppercorns, fresh rosemary, and garlic. You can also add thyme and dried bay leaves if you like.
  • Water You can use either water, apple juice, chicken stock, turkey stock, or vegetable stock for a budget-friendly choice. I stick with water.
  • Turkey Before you start with your turkey brine, keep in mind that a fresh turkey works best for brining. When you purchase a frozen turkey, it has already been injected with a salt solution, and because of this, it will not be able to properly absorb the brine.
  • Stock Pan You will want to use a large pot to prepare the turkey brine; if you have a pan that is large enough to fit your turkey and fit in the fridge, you won’t need the brining bag.
  • Brining Bag If you have a large turkey, it is unlikely that it will be able to fit in a pan that will fit in the fridge. That’s where the brine bag comes in. If you’re unable to find a brining bag, you can use the extra-large freezer bags that can hold your turkey.
Fresh Raw Turkey Ready to be Prepared for brine
Fresh Raw Turkey Ready to be Prepared for brine

Additional Flavorings to Try Out

  • Slices of citrus like oranges or lemons
  • Slices of apples
  • White or red onions

How to Brine a Turkey

Prepare brine
  • In a large pot, combine the salt, sugar, herbs, celery, onions, and apple slices. You may use water or chicken or turkey stock. Over a high heat, quickly bring the mixture to a boil.
  • When it boils, turn down the heat to a low setting and let it simmer for 30 minutes, or until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved.
  • After at least 30 minutes of room-temperature cooling, move the brine to the refrigerator to finish cooling.
Brine Turkey
  • Take the turkey out of the wrapper, then throw it away. Take the turkey’s gizzards, neck, and plastic pop-up timer, if any, remove.
  • Place the prepared turkey into a brining bag, a large freezer bag, or a stock pot (that will fit in the refrigerator).Place the prepared turkey into a brining bag, a large freezer bag, or a stock pot (that will fit in the refrigerator).
  • Pour the chilled brining liquid over the turkey.
  • You will need about 1 gallon of cold water to submerge the turkey completely in the brining solution
  • Seal the bringing bag or place a lid on your large stockpot.
  • Refrigerate the turkey in the brine for at least 8 hours but no longer than 18 hours.
Remove turkey from brine
  • Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse the turkey to remove the excess brine.
  • Place the brined turkey into a large roasting pan and let it pan-dry. This will help the turkey have a nice golden brown color during the cooking time.

Tips for Turkey Brine

  • You want to make sure you use kosher salt and not substitute it for any other type of salt.
  • Make sure you are placing the turkey in a cool brine. Never put a turkey into a hot or warm brine.
  • You are welcome to the change up flavors to your preference, for example herbs like thyme, parsley or sage.
  • Patting your turkey dry before you roast will ensure crispy skin.

Turkey Brine

The best turkey brine recipe and step-by-step instructions for how to brine a turkey for roasting, smoking, or deep-frying.
5 from 7 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Cooling time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 45 mins
Course marinade
Cuisine American
Servings 1 brine
Calories 43 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 brine bag

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp peppercorns
  • 2 large onions sliced
  • 1 large apple sliced
  • 6 cups water
  • 6 cup apple juice optional or just 12 cups total of water
  • 2 oranges sliced optional
  • 2 lemons sliced optional

Instructions
 

  • Place all the ingredients in a large pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes or until salt and sugar have dissolved.
  • Turn off the heat. Let the brine mixture cool
  • Place a whole turkey in the brine solution to fully submerge it, then refrigerate for 18-24 hours. 
  • When you're ready to cook your turkey, remove it from the brine and rinse with cool water; pat dry with paper towels.
  • Proceed with your normal turkey roasting method, or I've listed my favorite turkey recipes below in the notes section.
Keyword turkey brine