A Spicy Perspective

Best Turkey Brine Recipe

The Best Turkey Brine Recipe – A simple blend of salt, sugar, and spices to create the most moist and flavorful turkey you’ve ever made. Give our easy brine and roasting recipes a try for your Thanksgiving turkey!

Best Turkey Brine Recipe #ASpicyPerspective

It’s Time to Brine

Every year around this time I get questions about turkey brining. You ask…

  • Should I brine my Thanksgiving turkey?
  • Does brining really make that much of a difference? What does it do to the turkey?
  • How do you make a turkey brine?
  • How long should I brine a turkey before cooking?
  • What’s the easiest and cleanest way to brine a turkey?
  • Does the turkey need any seasoning after brining?
  • Can I take the turkey straight out of the brine and put it in the oven?
  • What happens if you brine a turkey too long?

As you can see, it’s high time I wrote a post about turkey brine.

Today I will try to answer all these questions as thoroughly as I can and offer simple roasting steps, so this year you can serve the plumpest, most flavorful turkey you’ve ever roasted. Perfect for Thanksgiving or any holiday gathering!

Cranberry Jalapeno Honey Baked Turkey

Should I Brine My Thanksgiving Turkey?

In short, YES you should always brine your turkey. It makes a huge difference in taste and texture.

I have heard many arguments over the years that brining isn’t worth the time and effort. Or that is doesn’t really enhance the flavor of the bird. But after roasting well over 50 turkeys in my lifetime, I can firmly state, brining makes all the difference.

In fact, every time I try a difference method of prepping my turkey, I’m always disappointed. Always.

In my opinion, a simple brined turkey, without any extra seasoning, stuffing, or glamor is always the ultimate winner at any holiday gathering.

Tender Cranberry Jalapeno Honey Baked Turkey Recipe

What Does Brining Do To Turkey?

Soaking poultry in brine does three things that improve the overall dining experience. Brining:

  1. Seasons the meat all the way through, not just on the surface, for the best possible flavor.
  2. It locks in moisture, plumps the poultry, and lightens the color of the meat, for the most tender juicy bite.
  3. The salt alters the skin quality, so it bakes to a crispy golden brown.

Pretty good results, don’t you think?

How Do You Make A Turkey Brine?

Brine in its simplest form is just water and salt. However, our Best Turkey Brine Recipe offers a little more flavor from sugar,  herbs and spices.

You simply mix the salt with warm water so it dissolves into the water. Then add in any additional ingredients.

The Best Turkey Brine Recipe

What’s The Easiest And Cleanest Way To Brine A Turkey?

Honestly, I find turkey brining to be a life-saver several days before Thanksgiving or Christmas. After all, refrigerator space is limited, so I want to move the turkey out for other items.

Therefore I always brine turkey in a cooler. I wash the cooler. Mix the brine in it. Then submerge the turkey in the brine and cover it with ice. It can stay in the cooler for several days, leaving more room in the fridge for pies and side dishes.

You can even dry the turkey in the cooler, resting on ice.

When I’m done with the cooler, I simply dump the brine in the garden, spray it with kitchen cleaner, and spray the cooler out with the hose. Simple.

Best Turkey Brine Recipe

How Long Should I Brine A Turkey Before Cooking?

This depends on the size of turkey, and how much salt you add to the brine.

The general rule is 1 cup of salt for each gallon of water. Then brine the turkey overnight.

However, I find if you add a bit more water you can brine the turkey longer for a better overall bird. I like to brine a large turkey for 3 days.

What Happens If You Brine A Turkey Too Long?

If a turkey is left is brine too long it will absorb too much salt. Therefore I usually make sure I add more water than traditionally recommended.

The Best Turkey Brine Recipe - A simple blend of salt, sugar, and spices to create the most moist and flavorful turkey you've ever made!

Does The Turkey Need Any Seasoning After Brining?

No additional seasoning is needed after brining! It’s perfectly seasoned from the skin down to the bone.

Can I Take The Turkey Straight Out Of The Brine And Put It In The Oven?

Technically, yes. However, for the best golden-brown crispy skin, you should allow the turkey to dry thoroughly before placing it in the oven.

Then butter or oil the skin to improve the texture even more.

Best Turkey Brine

How To Make The Best Turkey Brine Recipe Ever

  • Mix – Pour a gallon of warm water in a clean cooler. Add the brown sugar, salt, shallots, garlic, herbs and spices. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.
  • Dunk – Lower the turkey in the brine. Add additional water to make sure the brine covers the turkey entirely, so you don’t have to flip in.
  • Soak – Determined brine-time based on the size of your turkey. For a turkey 15 pounds or under, brine for just 24 to 36 hours. For a turkey larger than 15 pounds, brine for up to 3 days.
  • Dry – Before you roast the turkey, take it out of the brine water and place on a rack to dry. Use paper towels to pat the turkey dry if needed. You can place the roasting pan in the refrigerator (or back in the cooler) if you want to give the bird a longer time to dry. For the best results, allow the turkey to dry overnight.
  • Roast – Rub the turkey skin all over with butter. This helps create that perfect golden exterior. Roast the turkey at a low temperature for 15 minutes per pound.

Get The Full Best Turkey Brine Recipe & VIDEO Below

Best Ever Turkey Brine Recipe #ASpicyPerspective

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The Best Turkey Brine Recipe - A simple blend of salt, sugar, and spices to create the most moist and flavorful turkey you've ever made!
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Best Turkey Brine Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Resting: 12 hours
Total Time: 12 hours 10 minutes
The Best Turkey Brine Recipe - A simple blend of salt, sugar, and spices to create the most moist and flavorful turkey you've ever made! 
Servings: 20

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Place a gallon of warm water in a clean bucket or cooler. Add the brown sugar, salt, shallots, garlic, herbs and spices. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. 
  • Carefully submerge the turkey in the brine. Add an additional 1/2 gallon of water to make sure the brine covers the turkey entirely. (Or more water!)
  • If using a bucket, cover the bucket with plastic and place in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 days. If using a cooler, filled it with ice to keep the turkey cold for up to 3 days. 
  • The brine time should be determined based on the size of turkey. For a turkey 15 pounds or under, brine for just 24 to 36 hours. For a turkey larger than 15 pounds, brine for up to 3 days. *If you want to brine a smaller turkey for a longer period of time, reduce the salt to 1/2-3/4 cup, so it is not overly seasoned.
  • Before roasting, take the turkey out of the brine water and place on a rack for at least a couple hours. Allow the turkey skin to dry thoroughly. Use paper towels to pat it dry if needed. You can place the roasting pan in the refrigerator (or back in the cooler over ice) if you want to give the bird longer to dry. (The dryer the skin, the better it browns. Drying it overnight is best.)  
  • Once dry, rub the turkey skin thoroughly with butter. Sometimes I stuff the turkey with herbs, but this is not necessary.
  • Roast the turkey at 325° F for 15 minutes per pound. Roast uncovered for the first couple hours, then tent with foil the last hour to make sure the breast meat doesn’t overcook. When using a meet thermometer, the breast meat should be 165° F.
  • Allow the turkey for rest for at least 25 minutes before serving to allow the juices to redistribute.

Video

Notes

If you plan to brine a large turkey for more than 24-48 hours, use 2-3 gallons of water per 1 cup salt, to make sure the turkey doesn't over-season.

Nutrition

Calories: 95kcal, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: 0g, Fat: 0g, Saturated Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 5675mg, Potassium: 62mg, Fiber: 0g, Sugar: 21g, Vitamin A: 30IU, Vitamin C: 1.2mg, Calcium: 39mg, Iron: 0.5mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Author: Sommer Collier

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49 comments on “Best Turkey Brine Recipe”

  1. I’m just now roasting a turkey that I bought during Thanksgiving. I’ve brined it for three days, but don’t know if I cover it in the fridge. I don’t have a true roasting pan, with a lid, so I’m not sure what I should do.

  2. My family stated, “This is the best turkey we’ve ever tasted! Perfectly flavored, tender, juicy, wonderful!” I stuffed me with apple and orange bits before roasting, which enhanced its flavor! Thanks!

  3. I’m using this brine, for the first time, to make my Christmas turkey this year. I’m wondering if I still add water, to the bottom of the roaster, when I cook the bird? I normally add a little bit of water to the bottom of the roaster.

  4. Easy recipe, makes flavorable turkey stock from bones and skin later. I used dried and freeze dried spices, and doubled the water. Also made great gravy. It might be too strong if spices are used full strength, but we prefer subtle flavors.

  5. This brine made my turkey so good everyone raved about the flavor. I will definitely use this recipe from now on. So good!!

  6. Made this for our 16 pound turkey this week and just brined it in a big stockpot in my fridge for 24 hours. I was worried to leave it in too long and be too salty, but it was amazing! So juicy and tasty! Thank you for the great recipe and making me look like I know what I’m doing. ;) Will definitely be saving this recipe and using it again!

  7. I just took my bird out of the brine and gonna let it dry. Do you let the turkey come to room temperature before rosting or take it out of the fridge and into the oven? Thanks in advance

    • Hi Alina,

      You can take it straight out of the fridge (or cooler) and place it in the oven, because you are relying on internal temperature to determine when it’s done. Just make sure it’s VERY dry, so the skin gets crispy. :)

  8. Should you brine a turkey that you be deep frying?

  9. Can you brine a turkey in less than 25 hours?

  10. Trying this tonight!!! So exited!!😁😁

  11. I am doing turkey pieces this year, 4 wings, 2 thighs and 1 breast all bone in all from Whole Foods.
    Should I change anything as to amount of salt?

  12. Hi, I have 8 gallons of water in the cooler. Should I double up on the brine ingredients or just the salt? Is it 1 cup of salt per gallon for 24 hour brines? 

  13. What do you do to keep your turkey from floating in the brine?

  14. Planning to use this for my Thanksgiving this year. Does turkey need to be thawed before brining?

  15. I used this brine once back in August this year on a 20lb turkey which I cooked in my smoker and it turned out amazing. It was hands down the most flavorful and juiciest turkey I ever made and the family loved it. So I’m doing the same thing for Thanksgiving on a 22lb turkey which just went into my bucket. I’m also doing another 2 turkeys Both 22 lbs for Saturday for a “Friendsgiving” get together. I will brine those turkeys Wednesday night. All turkeys will be smoked again in my pellet smoker. Thanks for sharing this recipe. Totally the best brine ever!

  16. How big of a cooler do I need for a 13 lb Turkey?  Also,  howling does it take to dry the  turkey? 

  17. I haven’t tried this yet, but am planning on putting my turkey in to brine tomorrow which is Sunday amd will take out Wednesday before Thanksgiving and drying overnight. My turkey is 22 lbs. Would it be wise to use 3 gallons of water and 3 cups of salt? Would I add more herbs and spices as a result? Also, I only h and very one oven and need it for all the other side items, so I use a roaster to cook my turkey…..any ideas to help with browning the breast?

    • Hi Margie,

      If you are leaving it in the brine for several days, I would use less salt (or more water) to make sure it’s not over-seasoned. Once it’s brined and thoroughly dried the skin should brown in the roaster. If it doesn’t, you could put it in the oven at the end to brown the top.

  18. Will this be enough brine for a 24 pound turkey 

  19. I used your brine recipe and it was delicious!! Had to hunt for juniper berries (Walmart). I will use your recipe again next year (if I’m hosting). What I did different were; used Kosher salt 1cup, 3 cups of apple cider and 2 gallons of water. Brine 2 days. Rinse. Dry 1 day. The cooler method is awesome. I used 3 iced water bottles. Had to a changed them every 12 hours to keep cooler at 40 degrees. I did it all in the basement near laundry sink except the baking part. Bake time was 3hr 20mins for 19lbs. Thank you very much!!

  20. I’ve made a very similar brine and it was tasty. However the brown sugar from the brine drips to bottom of pan and gets burnt and totally ruins my gravy. What am I doing wrong? Not allowing it to drain and dry enough? I though t perhaps because I don’t rinse it after brining it?

    Gravy is the gold from roasting a turkey!

    • Hi Karen,

      In this brine, there should not be enough brown sugar left on the turkey to cause any burning. It will mostly stay in the cooler when you lift it out. However, it is very important to let the turkey dry out, so the skin can turn brown and crispy.

  21. Hello. I am wondering if Kosher salt can easily be used in place of sea salt?

  22. Can you clarify the Notes. 2-3 Gallo s of water per cup of water??

  23. I rinsed the turkey before roasting; it was great. I see you didn’t recommend rinsing. I was sceptical that it may be too salty?

    • The main logic that you shouldn’t rinse poultry in general is purely for sanitary reasons . When you take a bird/ poultry to the sink , turning on the tap , you will be splashing the juices from the bird that can contain all sorts of potential bacteria (like SAMONELLA) all over your sink , counter and who knows where , great way to get sick ! Hope that this helps , John Clifton.

  24. Hi Sommer-

    We had an early Thanksgiving dinner with our Son’s family yesterday (traveling to daughter’s out of state for Thanksgiving on Tuesday) and I used your brine recipe to brine an 11# turkey for the dinner. I followed your recipe exactly & used a cooler to brine it in. It was the second time I have brined a turkey – ever. I am 65 yrs. old & have cooked countless turkey dinners. This was the BEST turkey we have ever had, hands down! Thank you for sharing. From now on, this is the way I am roasting a turkey. The gravy was so flavorful all I had to do was whisk in some flour and add a few cups of water and it was amazing.

  25. I just met you!! :) I really appreciate how you explain your recipes so very thoroughly. Thank you! I would appreciate receiving your recipes on email. I didn’t see a place to click to do that. Can you please help me to be able to do this?

  26. Fully Mouth-Watering Recipe I will try it soon

    Thank’s for sharing

  27. I wasn’t going to brine this year – my brined birds always seem salty. But, your recipes are so reliable (thank you!). I’m rethinking. Is the beautiful coloring on the bird in your photo enhanced in any way? I have never taken a turkey from the oven and had it looked so gorgeous. Very tempting to give it a whirl. Wish I had the ability between now and T-giving to do a practice bird, but that would be just too much turkey. I probably should make one each quarter of the year, just to get some practice in. Once a year turkey and once a year ham at Easter is not a good way to learn! Thanks for your explicit instructions.

    • Hi Linda,

      Well, I’m glad I inspired you to try it again! That is the natural brown color of the turkey skin. The key to getting it brown and crispy is to make sure the skin is VERY dry, then buttered, before going in the oven. If it goes straight from the brine to the oven, without allowing it to dry, it will not brown properly. Also, cooking it in a turkey bag inhibits the browning. Hope this helps!