How To Brine Turkey

Brining is the secret to a juicy, flavorful turkey.

Erick's Deep Fried Rosemary Turkey

Photo by TheLogHomeKitchen

Why Brine?
Brining makes it moist. Why are brined turkeys so juicy? Salt causes the meat tissues to absorb water and flavorings. It also breaks down the proteins, resulting in a tender-seeming turkey. This means that–despite the moisture loss during roasting and the long cooking time–you end up with a juicy bird.

Citrus Turkey Brine

Photo by mis7up

How to Brine a Turkey
The real trick with brining is finding a container that’s large enough to submerge the turkey, yet small enough to fit in your refrigerator. Try a stock pot, a bucket, or a roasting pan; if you use a shallow roasting pan, you will need to turn the bird periodically so that each side rests in the brine. Place the container on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator (so spills won’t reach foods below).

The basic ratio for turkey brine is two cups of kosher salt to two gallons of water. Some recipes include sweeteners or acidic ingredients to balance the saltiness.

  • Dissolve salt (and sugar, if using) in two cups of hot water. Stir in remaining gallon plus 3 ½ quarts of cold water.
  • Remove giblets and neck from turkey.
  • Immerse turkey in brine and refrigerate for at least eight hours but no longer than 24 hours.
Grandma's Farmhouse Turkey Brine

Photo by Pam Ziegler Lutz

Cooking the Turkey
When you’re ready to roast, pour off the brine. Rinse the turkey well with cool tap water, and pat dry with paper towels.

Tuck the wing tips behind the back and place the bird, breast-side up, on a roasting rack.

Proceed with your preferred recipe, but remember that the turkey has already absorbed a significant amount of salt–any drippings that you use for gravy will already be salty, and no salt should be added to compound butters or spice rubs.

Tarragon Butter

Photo by lutzflcat

Quick Links
Get answers to the most commonly asked Thanksgiving cooking questions.
Find tried-and-true Thanksgiving turkey recipes.
Watch the video How to Brine a Turkey and learn how it’s done in just three easy steps.