Everything you need to know to brine a turkey, and get a flavorful, juicy, tender turkey!
If you want flavorful, juicy, delicious turkey on the big day, do yourself, and all of your dinner guests a HUGE favor and brine that baby.
I am telling you, after making close to 20 turkeys this year recipe testing over and over to bring you the PERFECT TURKEY (read all the details here), if there is one step in turkey making I will never skip again it is the brining. Dramatic much?
Trust me, it is a game changer.
How Do You Make Brine?
If you want to go basic with your brine, you are going to want a solution that is 1 Tbs salt to 1 cup of water. And you want enough to cover your turkey. But why be basic when you can be amazing? I love to add a little something extra to my brine, namely some herbs, some garlic, and some citrus. By doing this you get the amazing added flavor in your bird!
Typically you make your brine by combining your water and salt, and extras, bring it to a boil, that way the salt can dissolve, and then you let it cool completely.
Why Brine Your Turkey?
In the simplest of terms…brine your turkey so it ends up moist and flavorful. In a more complex way of saying it, when you brine a turkey, it absorbs extra moisture, which in turn helps it stay more moist and juicy while cooking. Of course, if that moisture is flavored with salt, and herbs, and citrus, then not only will it be juicier, but it will have a nice seasoned flavor, that comes from the inside out!
How Long Do You Brine Your Turkey?
This is one of the number one questions I get asked. And the answer is complicated, but simple.
Simple answer: Try for 24 hours. 16-24 is usually best.
Complicated answer: How big is your turkey? The larger the turkey, the longer you need to brine in order to let it absorb all the goodness. But any brining is better than no brining, so even if you only have 3-4 hours, I think it is worth it! Obviously, closer to 24 is better. But you do not want to go too long, as you don’t want your turkey to end up too salty, or the meat to break down.
Steps for Brining a Turkey:
- Make a brine solution: 4 Tbs of salt per quart of water, enough to cover the bird. Add in extras like herbs and citrus for added flavor. Bring to a boil, stir for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool completely.
- Clean out the bird, take out the neck and the giblets, and cut off excess skin around the neck cavity. Then submerge in brine. I do this by putting it in a turkey roasting bag, inside a cooler or large bowl. Then fill the bag with the brine, and tie off.
- Let brine for 24 hours. You want this to happen in the fridge, or, if you can’t fit it in the fridge, you will want to put the turkey, in the brine, in a cooler, and put ice over the top to keep it cold.
- Remove from brine, rinse turkey off. Pat try, and continue with your cooking method. If you are planning to smoke your turkey, check out the instructions found here. How to Smoke A Turkey. If you are roasting it in your oven, this post on How to Cook A Perfect Turkey is for you.
The Rest of the Thanksgiving Menu
- 4 Tbs salt
- 1 Quart 4 cups water
- 1 lemon quartered
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 spring fresh thyme
- Use the ratio above to make enough brine to cover your turkey, for a 15-20 lb turkey this usually means times 6.
- Put everything in a pot over high heat, bring to a boil. Boil 2-3 minutes until salt dissolves.
- Remove from heat, let cool completely before putting turkey in brine.
- If in a hurry, skip the boiling part, the salt will gradually dissolve in the water.
Pin to your Thanksgiving Prep board: