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 it’s prone to drying out while being cooked. This can be changed by first soaking the turkey in a brine. When you soak it in brine it absorbs some of the moisture and flavor and if you do think you have overcooked your 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 tenderize 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 flavor 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 kind of item to put into the brine it adds a nice hint of sweetness and you can use any type of apple you have on hand.
- For 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.
Additional Flavorings to Try Out
- Slices of citrus like oranges or lemons
- Slices of apples
- White or red onions
How to Brine a Turkey
- In a large pot, combine the salt, sugar, herbs, celery, onions, and apple slices. You may use water or chicken or turkey stock. Over 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.
- 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 them.
- 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 brining 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 the 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 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 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.
- 1 brine bag
- 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
- 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.