It’s high time you learn How to Brine a Turkey properly for a moist and flavorful Thanksgiving turkey. Let the zingy, herby, and fresh flavors infuse your turkey to the bone while making it super juicy!
Brining Vs Marinating
Tell me if I’m wrong, but when you’re a few days away from Thanksgiving Day, a lot of you would start panicking, and one major reason is the turkey.
I know it’s the centerpiece of the whole show, but you don’t really have to worry about it much.
When you brine your turkey, you’re sure to impress the whole crowd. Nothing beats a tender, juicy, and flavorful turkey for the holidays.
Today, I’ll show you just how to make the best turkey brine that guarantees a flavorful bird.
Brining vs. Marinating
What is brining? And what makes it so different from marinating? Well, the main difference between the two is the purpose. Marinating mainly focuses on adding or infusing flavor while brining works with making your dish juicier.
A marinade is a mix of different flavors, whether it’s herbs, spices, or sauces, and a good base. The base liquid is often acidic, such as lemon juice or vinegar but can also be enzymatic like pineapples. A good marinade tenderizes the meat for that easy fall-off-the-bone experience while adding flavor to the meat.
Brining, on the other hand, uses the power of coarse salt such as kosher salt. Osmosis jazzes the whole meat up making it more tender and flavorful. On a cellular level, the water in the meat cells is drawn out, flavored, and sipped back in. This gives the meat a bit more juice so that it doesn’t dry out while cooking.
Types of Brining
Here are two types of brining that you can use to bedazzle your turkey with juiciness.
You might have heard of this method if you’ve googled “how to brine a turkey” because it’s the most popular. All you have to do is to submerge the turkey in a salt-water solution and let the magic happen. You can also add your desired flavors such as herbs, spices, and even fruit slices in the brine.
Dry brining uses little to no liquid at all. This simply covers the whole turkey with coarse salt which draws out the natural juices of the meat. The liquid becomes a natural brine solution which is soaked back in the turkey.
Don’t forget to wash off the salt before cooking! That’s one thing you shouldn’t forget.
Why Brine Your Turkey?
If you’ve ever been on a healthy diet, you might have encountered people saying you need lean meats. They would then recommend turkey breasts as it has more protein and less fat. This is exactly the reason why you should brine the turkey.
Cooking takes away a lot of the moisture in the meat. The fats help the meat to cook evenly without drying the whole thing out. Turkey breast can easily dry out because of the lack of fat and moisture.
This is where brining comes in. After soaking in the brine, the meat should’ve absorbed a good amount of liquid. Think of it as a reserve.
While cooking takes away some moisture, some stays within the meat making the whole dish juicy. Now you can enjoy your Smoked Turkey worry-free!
How to Make a Turkey Brine?
Today, we’ll be working with a wet brine. It’s way easier to control the flavor and it makes the turkey super juicy. Personally, the key to making a good turkey brine is all in the ingredients and patience. Here’s everything I used to make my turkey super juicy!
- Water, and lots of it
- Apple Cider, also lots of it – replace it with the same amount of water if you don’t have one.
- Kosher Salt – aside from adding flavor, this component allows the meat to retain its moisture during the cooking process.
- Brown Sugar – this is a great ingredient especially when adding flavor to meats, it doesn’t dry out the meat because of the presence of molasses.
- Smashed Garlic – A pungent ingredient that adds an earthy and aromatic tone to the whole dish.
- Thyme – using fresh herbs for this recipe is great but dried ones also work fine. It has a fresh herby taste that you’re gonna want in your turkey.
- Rosemary – has a strong aroma with a piney flavor and very versatile herb.
- Sage Leaves – this herb has a pungent earthy flavor that’s almost peppery with undertones of mint, and eucalyptus
- Bay Leaves – the tea-like aroma adds another layer of flavor to this dish with a hint of minty flavor.
- Cracked Peppercorns – are simply whole peppercorns that’s been slightly opened to expose the insides
- Oranges – its mild and sweet fruity flavor makes it a great addition for many dishes and drink
- Lemons – lemon slices to freshen up the whole brine. it adds acidity to help tenderize the meat.
- Red Pepper Flakes – Give your dish the perfect amount of heat and excitement. It’s a great condiment to keep around especially when you need a bit of flavor for a dish.
You can just imagine the juicy flavors that’ll go in our turkey! Generally, it takes about a quart of brine for every pound of turkey meat.
How Long to Brine a Turkey?
It actually depends, but it’s usually up to 24. Generally, the turkey should be brined for around this period so that the moisture fully seeps in the turkey. This will also ensure that your turkey is juicy in every cut.
Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT over brine your turkey! Leaving it in the solution for more than the recommended time may make it too salty and spongy.
RULE OF THUMB: Let the turkey sit in the brine for an hour per pound.
Remember to pat it dry before cooking. This makes sure that the skin or exterior of your turkey won’t be too salty because of the turkey brine.
PRO TIP: My favorite way to achieve that irresistible crispy skin is to air-dry the turkey in the fridge for at least 8 hours. I promise it’s all worth the extra wait!
How to Store Brined Turkey?
I recommend keeping your turkey brine in the fridge below 40 degrees F. This keeps the solution cool and prevents bacteria formation.
To do this, make sure that the solution is cooled. Cover it with cling wrap or tin foil and place it in the fridge. It’s important to remember that brining doesn’t necessarily preserve the turkey which is why it’s best kept chilled.
Can I Reuse Turkey Brine?
Nope, a BIG NO! Never use the same turkey brine twice. Firstly, the taste that you’re looking for will be watered down in the second batch. This is because the first turkey has already absorbed most of the flavor.
Secondly, the bacteria washed off the first batch could still be in the brine. The salt from the initial mix will have been used up before the second batch. It’s best to dispose of the turkey brine after using it.
Lastly, If you look back at the ingredients we need, it’s all hassle-free! You can easily whip up a new solution for a new batch. You can make a stock of the solution and just use the necessary amount per batch.
More Flavorful Mixes
How to Brine Turkey
Make the Brine
- Prepare the turkey – Discard any wrappings from the turkey and remove the giblets, place it in the desired brining pot. (Photo 1)
- Heat up the liquid – Heat up about 4 cups of water in the microwave or stovetop until warmed. The idea is to heat it up so it can dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from heat once it’s warmed
- Dissolve the dry ingredients – Pour in the salt and sugar. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Let the salt and sugar brine cool, then add remaining water and apple cider. Water should not be warm – you want it to be completely cold. (Photo 2)
- Add in the herbs and citrus – Pour over the turkey in the pot. Then add garlic, thyme, rosemary, sage. bay leaves, peppercorns, pepper flakes, orange, and lemon slices. Give it a stir, add some ice, if available. (Photo 3-4)
- Let it sit in the fridge – Cover the pot or container with a lid. Place in prepared place in the fridge for the turkey to brine for 12 or up to 24 hours. I completely emptied and remove one divider in my fridge to accommodate the turkey.
Watch How To Make It
How to Brine a Turkey
- 1 gallon water
- 1 gallon apple cider (or replace with water)
- 1½ cup kosher salt
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 7-8 clove garlic, smashed
- 4 sprig thyme
- 4 sprig rosemary
- 4 sage leaves
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoon cracked peppercorn
- 1-2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 2 large orange, sliced
- 2 lemon, sliced
- 1 turkey, 12-17 pounds
- Discard any wrappings from the turkey and remove the giblets, place it in the desired brining pot.
- Heat up about 4 cups of water in the microwave or stovetop until warmed. The idea is to heat it up so it can dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove and pour in the salt and sugar. Stir until salt and sugar dissolves.
- Let the salt and sugar brine cool, then add the remaining water and apple cider. The water should not be warm – you want it to be completely cold.
- Pour over the turkey in the pot. Then add garlic, thyme, rosemary, sage. bay leaves, peppercorns, pepper flakes, orange, and lemon slices. Give it a stir, add some ice, if available.
- Cover pot or container with a lid. Place in prepared place in the fridge for the turkey to brine for 12 or up to 24 hours. I completely emptied and remove one divider in my fridge to accommodate the turkey.
- Rule of Thumb: Let the turkey sit for an hour per pound.
- Remove the turkey from the brine and dry all over with paper towels Brush with oil and proceed with the desired seasoning.
Tips & Notes:
- Do not over brine your turkey! Leaving it in the solution for more than the recommended time may make it too salty and spongy.
- Rule of Thumb: Let the turkey sit for an hour per pound. Remove the turkey from the brine and dry it all over with paper towels. Brush with oil and proceed with the desired seasoning.
- Please keep in mind that the nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary significantly based on the products used in the recipe.